Page 1, 5th December 1947

5th December 1947
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" Mediator Dei " : A 20,000 Word Document On The Sacred Liturgy

The Pope has issued a new Encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy, addressed to the Bishops of the Universal Church.• The Document, which, from its opening words, will be called " Mediator Dei," runs to more than 20,000 words of Latin and takes up 20 columns of Saturday's Osservatore Romano.

The new Encyclical, the Vatican paper states, may be considered as a second chapter to " Mystici Corporis," issued in 1943. It has been issued, the same paper states, because of a new movement in the Latin Church, which has produced many excellent fruits.

" This movement, just because it has arisen as a strong reaction against those who are accused of torpor and negligence, has not always remained within proper limits, and has therefore provoked new reactions, especially on the part of those who oppose any novelty. The Document will shake up those who are lazy and fearful of any just progress, but it will hold back the imprudent."

FATHER MARTINDALE has summarised the teaching of this Encyclical for the benefit of our readers.

A few particularly interesting and apposite passages are translated for the benefit of readers, but the substance of the lengthy document will be found in the summary below.

"Mediator Dei" Summarised


The Encyclical Mediator Del deals with the " unique movement of liturgical study " proper to the end of last century and the beginning of this one, which has borne such fruits of Eucharistic piety both in East and West. The Holy See has promoted this, but must be alert to its possible misapplication.

Man is bound to pay worship to God : in this worship God and man co-operate ; Christian worship began in the person of Christ who wills that it should be continued for ever in His Church, particularly by means of all that concerns the Holy Eucharist.

This worship, then, must be both exterior and interior. individual and social, " objective " which stresses the intrinsic power and activity of the liturgical act done, and " subjective " which emphasises the qualities needed in the doer and their effect.

Thus the whole Encyclical will dwell upon the "equilibrium" found in the Mystical Bode of Christ, which neglects or overvalues neither element at the expense of the other.

The special role of the priesthood in creating and maintaining this " equilibrium" is noted, and the Pope points out that while the liturgy reveals what is believed, it does not create belief—the formula: lex orandi, lex credendi—the rules for prayer are the rules for belief— can with even greater truth be inverted; the Law laid down by Faith decides the Law of Prayer.

The Liturgy was slowly evolved, keeping pace with the development of dogma, but it is the Church which presides over both developments: individual experiments are not allowed; thus though Latin is of high service in the celebration of Mass, in " not a few " ceremonies the vernacular is of great popular value: it is for the Holy See to decide when it can be used.

Nor is the Church a mere archaeologist, venerating " antiquity" for its own sake—wishing, e.g., all altars to look like tables; black never to be used for vestments; images or "realistic" crucifixes to be eliminated.

It is for the bishops, in union with the Holy See, to guide all developments.

THE HOLY MASS The Pope then recapitulates the whole doctrine of the central Act of Christian worship. the Holy Eucharist, including the prickly office, and condemns those who regard all Christians as equally priests, and the ordained priest as the mere delegate of the Community; yet in a true sense all the Faithful co-offer Mass, and the Pope rejoices that this is so much better understood to-day. Yet again it does not follow that a Mass offered by a priest in private, even without a server, is no true sacrifice because not "communal."

None the less, the Faithful should be taught to join actively in all possible ways in the offering of Mass—by the use of Missals; by saying aloud in unison their proper parts (Missa Dialogata) or at least by singing hymns suited to the progress of Mass. Not all, however. will wish to join in the Holy Sacrifice in the same way; respect for personal preferences must be preserved; diocesan Councils might well be instituted to supervise liturgical methods in use or contemplated.

Communion is an integral part of the Sacrifice; Communion during Mass is preferable and indeed by means of hosts consecrated at that very Mass, but " outside" of Mass, or spiritual Communions may not be condemned. Proper thanksgiving after Mass is emphasised. Eucharistic " devotions"—Benediclion: the 40 Hours—are praised.


The Pope then praises the Divine Office, the observation of the Seasons of the Year, the consecration of Sunday afternoons as well as of the morning, and reprobates those who suggest that the commemoration of Christ's earthly life is no more our affair: the view that only His spiritual, glorified life should be worshipped—hence the removal of crucifixes which some desire. Devotion, too, to the Saints is recommended and above all Our Lady.

The Pope then approves of extraliturgical devotions and insists that churches should remain open all day for private worship; he recommends frequent confession; retreats, especially when made according to the method of St. Ignatius, and urges the proper adornment of church by means of an art which does not merely repeat ancient formulas, but does not seek innovation for its own sake; it should, too, attend to national or regional tradition.

He warmly recommends the Gregorian chant but also other music provided it be religious; but it should be sung by all. He finally urges the intensive study of the Liturgy; deplores the inability of many to serve Mass; rebukes yet again any tendency to Quietism, false Mysticism. humanism, or antiquarianism.

The Encyclical wlas doubtless provoked by well-known tendencies to make some sort of " national " church; or again by rash though well-intentioned efforts to make the liturgy intelligible to the uneducated masses, or finally by some manner of revival of modernist " immanentist " doctrines.

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