Page 3, 5th September 1975

5th September 1975
Page 3
Page 3, 5th September 1975 — Liturgy the quiet revolution

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Locations: Paris, Rome


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Liturgy the quiet revolution

By Canon Alfonso de Zulueta

AS THE RECTOR of a central London church which has been fairly recently adapted to the new liturgical requirements, and which aims at carrying out the liturgical changes of Vatican II faithfully and moderately, I have been asked to say something about what may be called The Quiet Revolution That it has not always been quiet has been due to misunderstandings, above all the confusion on many people's part between a Latin Mass and a "Tridentine Mass."

What Vatican II inaugurated was a reform of the liturgical rites. Thus we have, in the Constitution on the Liturgy, these words: "The Church earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at the Mystery of Faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators.

"On the contrary, through a proper appreciation of the rites and prayers they should participate knowingly, devoutly and actively. They should be instructed by God's word and he refreshed at the table of the Lord's Body: they should give thanks to God: by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves too."

And further on: "The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, can be

manifested, and thtkroirtMTEI active particiation by the faithful can be more easily ac complished. •

The Constitution goes on to say: "In Masses which are celebrated with the people a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue," and goes on to name in the first place the readings and those prayers said in common, though allowing for further development of the vernacular as the Holy See may think fit. We know that these developments have now taken place in all countries; nevertheless the Pope has recently had to remind us of the further words of the Council that "the faithful may be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them." (Lit 54).

It is in no sense the wish of the Holy Sec that the Latin should be forgotten. Though the vernacular is now permitted throughout the Mass, the Latin remains (for the'Latin Rite, not of course for the Orientals in communion with Rome) the norm on which translations are based. and the chief, though no longer the only, liturgical language. At great gatherings of the faithful, as in this Holy Year and at other times in Rome, Lourdes, etc, it can still be a great sign of unity and cohesion. The flexible attitude of the Church today, in this as in so many things. does not constitute a rigid EITHER/OR mentality, but rather a wish to allow every reasonable liberty to the faithful and to use the riches of both past and present.

In accordance with the Council's decrees. Pope Paul issued the new Roman Missal in 1969, in which he speaks of the new Missal as a revision similar to that of St Pius V (which is now known as the Tridentine Rite) but with the "lawful variations and adaptations" mentioned by Vatican 11.

It is therefore a reform of the Pius V Missal. whose past utility it recognises and at the same time supersedes, and is known

as the Missa Normativa since it is the norm or rule by which the Pope wishes all performances of the Liturgy to be governed.

There is therefore no reason on earth why the Mass may not be celebrated in Latin, according to the new rite, as indeed is done every day at the Solemn Mass in Westminster Cathedral, with only Epistle and Gospel in English. Most people attending such a Mass would hardly notice the difference, especially when Canon I is used which is the old Roman Canon, now said out loud.

I can remember the days in which it was not supposed to be said out loud, though I always knew one or two priests who did so, one of them a Canon of St Peter's under the Pope's own nose in the days of Pius XI, and nobody objected! It always seemed to me desirable. since the mysterious hush and muttering was only something which had grown up over the years, and was not really based on a well-thought-out principle. One must distinguish, when people complain that "the Mass has lost its mystery," between the real mystery, which will always be there (since the Church believes in Transubstantiation and the Real Presence), and on the other hand making things mysterious for their own sake. If the people are to take part in the Mass, then the more clearly even the celebrant's part is said the better. It really would be very odd if in Our Lord's great sacrificial meal we could not hear the very words of institution. Yet such was the case until recently.

It must be understood, to avoid conflict in the Church, that it is not a question of a "new IMass" versus the old, for which our forefathers in this country died: a new Communion service on a Protestant model.

One could hardly say this

seriously without joining those fanatics who have gone so far as to accuse the -Holy Father of heresy and deny the validity of the three new Eucharistic Prayers, one of which, Number II. is almost entirely the Canon of Hippolytus, from the third

century. _ .

The "new Mass" is simply, as the Pope says in the Apostolic Constitution an instauratto or reform of the Mass we have always known adapted to greater participation by the People of God who are offering it with the priest, though he alone consecrates the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is made very clear in the new rite that it falls into two parts, the readings from Scripture or Service of the Word, and the Eucharistic Sacrifice itself. It has been wrongly said that this first part is "like a Protestant service."

The association of ideas may make us think of lecterns and eagles as if they were Protestant. In reality they are much older than the Reformation, and if, as an excessive reaction against the "Bible only" mentality we have not given enough honour to the Word of God and the Scriptures, then as the Council has insisted, it is high time that we gave it, without fear of being thought "Protestant."

The Council laid down that a "richer fare" of Scripture be provided for Sundays and weekdays, and this has been done now by the lectionary, which gives us a three-year cycle of readings from Old and New Testament, helping us to see the whole history of Salvation reaching its peak in Christ.

This is now, incidentally, easily obtainable in the new People's Missals, which provide the whole three-year cycle for Sundays or weekdays, but if the readings are well read and acoustics good the ideal is for the people just to listen and take it in.

The Instruction issued by the Pope's authority after the Apostolic Constitution at the beginning of the restored Roman Missal speaks thus of the altar: "The altar, on which the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs, is also the table of the Lord, to partake of which the People of God is called together in the Mass, and is the centre of the thanksgiving which is brought about by the Eucharist." in Number 262 it is definitely laid down that the altar be constructed separated from the wall, "so that it can easily he gone rour ., and that the celebration may take place facing the people.' It is true that it is not laid down that it MUST be facing the people, but the rubric makes it clear that this is to be encouraged.

In some churches it may be impossible or sheer vandalism to destroy a fixed altar of artistic merit. In Notre Dame de Paris, for instance the altar erected in thanksgiving for the birth of Louis XIV (I do not comment on the significance of this event, fortunate or

otherwise, it is just a fact of history) has not been touched, it is still used like the High Altar of Westminster Cathedral for the daily Chapter Mass, and a simple but dignified altar has been placed permanently at the entrance to the choir where all Sunday celebrations take place facing the people.

It is to my mind better to face the people in the new rite. There does not seem to be much sense in having to turn round several times to address them, or even in addressing God so that the people only hear the words through your back. so to speak.

The position of the celebrant facing the people is also more like the Last Supper. in which Our Lord had the Apostles all round him, thus bringing them into the sacrificial meal. They can also see the "Breaking of Bread."

But such altars, whether facing the people permanently or as temporary substitutes, should never lay themselves open to the reproach of being "kitchen tables": they should have the dignity of the place of sacrifice and either he of simple marble such as ours at Holy Redeemer, Chelsea or, if temporary, be vested in the suitable liturgical colours.

The late Cardinal Danielou, whose posthumous Memoirs are full of wise words. speaks with horror of the tendency to "desacralise."

It is of course true that we can worship God everywhere in spirit and in truth, but it is deep in human instinct to consecrate and set aside holy places. specially dedicated to God, and where the whole atmosphere is conducive to prayer and recollection amid the disturbances of a crazy world.

This is not escapism: the Church bids us at the end of Mass: "Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord" in that same world; but we need the refreshment and the peace. that we may give out more.

One word more about that very important gesture, the Sign of Peace. Its significance is obvious. We are at Mass not just as isolated individuals hut as ONE in Christ. Before approaching Holy Communion. let us at least acknowledge. better still warmly salute, that neighbour in whom Christ also dwells, and whom we cannot afford to neglect or, despise if we want to keep the friendship of God.

And the reluctance to do this is not just English reticence or public school inhibition! I have found the same in Spain, though there perhaps the objection is more frank: "One might have something against one's neighbour" . . .

Precisely. And I seem to remember something in the Gospel about leaving your gift at the altar and being reconciled first to your neighbour, even if it is HE who has something against YOU .. , and then come and offer your gift, which in this case has now become God's gift.

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