moving forward in liturgy…

Nov 4, 2010

…with the wisdom and beauty of the past

After Sunday morning Mass last week, a parishioner made a comment that got me thinking. They said that they were happy that “I” had decided to introduce chant at Mass. They added that they were happy too with my decision to have incense at Mass.

While I would be happy to be credited with this, the introduction of chant and incense was not my idea.

I have also received some negative comments about the chant and incense. People say ‘why have you decided to make these changes…it’s not happening in other parishes?’ Some people go on to express their dissatisfaction that “I” decided not to have cd’s or Power Point in the Church, even at funerals. Once again this is not simply my decision. It was never intended or imagined by the Second Vatican Council, that churches would be a venue for slide-shows of granddad on the beach or mum in fancy-dress at a family party. The thought that one day a Catholic would be carried from his Funeral Mass accompanied by Frank Sinatra singing “I did it my way” was unimaginable in the mind of the Council.

The months since the restoration of our parish Church have happily coincided with the introduction of the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Revised Order of the Mass. In just two weeks (28 November 2010, First Sunday of Advent) the church in New Zealand will receive the revised people’s prayers of the Mass. In these months we also take further steps to implement the new General Instruction.

In the almost fifty years since the Council, many changes have been made to the way we celebrate the Mass. Some of these changes were presented and encouraged by the Council. The increased use of the local language in the Mass (especially for the readings) is an example. However there are some other changes we have experienced that were never intended by the Council. An example is the movement away from use of scripture in the prayers and hymns of the Mass.

Another change that the bishops of the Council could never have imagined is the increased adapting and building of churches to be ‘multi-purpose-gathering-spaces’, where coffee is served, canned secular music is played and movies are shown.

In hindsight we can see that the life-giving documents of the Council landed in a western culture that (in the mood of the 1960’s) was all too ready to discard anything that reeked of “tradition”.

These were the years when our families put the oak dining table in the garage and saved up for formica and chrome. It looks more ‘modern’ we said, and ‘it’s easier to keep clean’.

The same was true of our culture and language. Immigrants were encouraged (ordered even) to abandon their own language and traditions, so that they could ‘settle’ and integrate in a new land. Even the first people of our own land were discouraged from speaking Maori. Such repression is not the mark of a healthy society.

But now we realize that we lost a lot when the oak went out. It wasn’t just the table we discarded. It was the reminder of our parents who ate every day at this battered heirloom, and the memory of our grandparents who received the table as a wedding present and who brought it with them from Ireland. Now we lovingly restore the antique table and design the rest of the room around it. In doing this we are not moving backwards. We are remembering that we are not ready to move into the future, unless we carry the wisdom and tradition of the past.

So too in the Church the time is ripe to maturely restore anything of value that has been lost. We realize again that the Liturgy of the Church is a gift to be received rather than a performance of our own creating. Two thousand years of Sacred Tradition is worth re-embracing.

This is not a backward movement, or a tripping on nostalgia. At Our Lady of Victories we are not following the whims of an innovative priest. Every change we have made, from the restoration of the church building, to the form of our celebration of the Liturgy, is clearly outlined as the norm in the Rites of the Church.

In worshipping in our parish church in harmony with the wider mind and heart of the Church, we provide for the people of our city, the sacred space and worship that the human soul seeks.

Please do not hesitate to call or email me for further clarification on this. I am also happy to meet with any group who would like to grown in appreciation of and understanding of the Liturgy of the Church.

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