Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Liturgy "By the Book"

Many people in many parishes seem to be under the impression that what goes on at Mass is determined by the Liturgy Committee. Not so! With the new translation of the Roman Missal coming into use on the first Sunday of Advent, the fact that there really is a "right way to do it" may get a little more exposure.

Here are a few important points about the liturgy:

1. The Catholic Church is not a democracy. There are instructions, mandates, and guidelines that we either must or should follow with regard to the liturgy.

2. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) tells us how to “do” the Mass. It is an instruction, not a suggestion!

3. There are specific guidelines for the music in the Liturgy. We should not look at it as what “we” want for “our parish”, but rather, what the Church has in mind for liturgical music. This applies also to the furnishings and decoration of the church and sanctuary; the GIRM contains a chapter on this.

4. There have been several instructions on music in the liturgy issued from the Vatican. Many of the mandates contained in them have gone by the wayside in the US. This does not excuse us from knowing what we are supposed to do. We can read them for ourselves.

5. Canon law supports the right and the duty of Catholics to request and to be granted an authentic liturgy. We should ask that things be done properly, and we should make known to the proper authorities when things are not done properly. So if a person or group asks for a liturgy that follows the rubrics, their request has canonical authority behind it. Asking for things that are not provided for in the GIRM or other documents, or which are prohibited, carry no weight at all and amount to an attempt to hijack the liturgy for one’s own purposes.

6. Latin is the official language of the Church. Vatican II documents on the liturgy and music stated explicitly that the people should be able “to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 54, #1 – Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). The "Ordinary" includes the Gloria, Kyrie, Sanctus (Holy holy), and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). We should all know those, in Latin!

7. As adults in the Church, we should all be actively seeking to grow in our faith. We cannot effectively pass on the faith to our children if we don’t know any more than they do. When we bring the liturgy down to the level of the children, we are not doing them any favors. They will come to see "church" as something "for little kids".

8. The music and the furnishings and d├ęcor of any Catholic church – the environment in which we celebrate Mass – should suggest and be conducive to awe and reverence. It's not about creating a "friendly" or "comfortable" atmosphere; our churches should reflect the fact that they are sanctuaries of God - the King of the Universe!

9. Maybe all of this, or most of it, or some of it, is new to you. If you did not know about these things before this, now I have given you the information, even if past, current, or future pastors did not or do not. What you do with it is up to you, but we are all held accountable by God to know these things. You can read the General Instruction of the Roman Missal

The treasury of our Catholic heritage is rich. It's time to rediscover it!

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