This week we have begun the second session of studies. You have already ‘met’ one of my teachers, Dr. Denis McNamara who is teaching Church Art & Architecture. The second class of the session is taught by Monsignor James Moroney. For many years he has been involved in the work of preparing the Revised Order of the Mass which is to be introduced in the New Zealand Church at the end of this year. This new Missal will be received in the remainder of the English speaking world over the next two years.
As I came back to my room tonight after ‘holy hour’ tonight I felt deep gratitude for the privilege of studying here at this particular moment in the life of the Church. Monsignor Moroney joined us for the ‘holy hours’ (notice that the singular has become plural!) so we had the privilege of talking informally about all aspects of the development of the liturgy. I hope we see him again at these evening ‘hh’ sessions.
In liturgical studies these days, the term ‘reform of the reform’ is commonly used. We know that there was significant ‘reform’ of the Liturgy of the Church in the 1960’s. Unfortunately most New Zealand Catholics think that the biggest changes introduced then were to move from Latin to English for the celebration of the Mass, and to turn the priest to face the people. In fact these were considered to be relatively insignificant and even optional changes in the light of the broad reform of the Liturgy we were called to by the Second Vatican Council. The present ‘reform of the reform’ invites us to move deeper than the external alterations to appreciate anew the beauty of the Mass.
The past forty years has been a time of great change in the world. The Church has been enthusiastic in responding to these changing circumstances and needs. In many ways this has been a ‘teen-age’ era for the Church. In the same way that a teenager might have little respect for traditional boundaries and accepted norms, so too this era in the life of the Church has shown many of these same characteristics.
It is not difficult to see many positive fruits of this phase. At the same time we can see that the Church, that was so central in the life of our parents and ancestors, is not as important for our children and grandchildren. This is a great concern to us; not simply because so many of those we love are not at Mass on Sunday, but because the Church is the ultimate place of encounter between God and humans.
If people are not at Mass regularly they really are missing out on the nourishment that is essential for human life.
While God is everywhere, and God speaks and listens in every moment of every human life, if we are not at Mass and the sacraments every Sunday at least, we are taking the tough road. In the Liturgy of the Church we place ourselves within a community of openness to God. Without a doubt, those who choose to live life fully within the Church are at a great advantage.
Now we are invited to move beyond the ‘teen-age’ phase of liturgical movement into the richness of adult liturgical life. In this stage we will no longer be satisfied with liturgy that satisfies our feelings. Instead we allow the Liturgy of the CHurch to FORM and to REFORM us in the image and likeness of God. Rather than simply praying how and what we feel in our Liturgy, we receive anew the fulness of the Tradition of the Church’s life of Liturgy. It is less important that the prayers and actions of the Mass ‘pray what we mean’. Instead we grow together to mean what we pray.
This is why the texts of the prayers of the Mass are so important. This is why people like Monsignor Moroney has given his years of his life to the work of developing accurate translations of the prayers of the Mass. You will notice when you look at the website and his dvd’s that the language used for some of the prayers is not the way we talk in everyday conversation. This is because the Mass is not primarily about human people talking to God. The Mass is the ultimate in God’s communication with us. Instead of praying what we feel, we grow to feel what we pray.
As many of you have heard me say before, I believe that these months are a moment of tremendous opportunity for the life of the Catholic Church in New Zealand. We are invited to look deeper than the superficial changes we have made in our celebration of the Liturgy, to appreciate more deeply the treasure that awaits us within. We have peeled the fruit, now we are ready to eat and drink from our Tradition.