Tuesday, March 13, 2007



A cursory reading yields the impression of a solid theological and pastoral reflection upon the October 2005 Eucharistic Synod by the Holy Father, yet containing no significant new surprises -- nothing, certainly, concerning his views on the ad orientem celebration of the Mass.

A quick sampling:
Beauty and liturgy

35. ...Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor.

Ars celebrandi

38. ... The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio.

The Bishop, celebrant par excellence

39. While it is true that the whole People of God participates in the eucharistic liturgy, a correct ars celebrandi necessarily entails a specific responsibility on the part of those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders…. I would ask that every effort be made to ensure that the liturgies which the Bishop celebrates in his Cathedral are carried out with complete respect for the ars celebrandi, so that they can be considered an example for the entire Diocese.

Art at the service of the liturgy

41. The profound connection between beauty and the liturgy should make us attentive to every work of art placed at the service of the celebration.

Liturgical song

42. ... while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).

The sign of peace

49. ... It should be kept in mind that nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one's immediate neighbours (150).

The distribution and reception of the Eucharist

50. Another moment of the celebration needing to be mentioned is the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. I ask everyone, especially ordained ministers and those who, after adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist, to make every effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament.

Personal conditions for an "active participation"

55. ... The faithful need to be reminded that there can be no actuosa participatio in the sacred mysteries without an accompanying effort to participate actively in the life of the Church as a whole, including a missionary commitment to bring Christ's love into the life of society.

The Latin Language

62. ... In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, (182) that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin. Similarly, the better-known prayers (183) of the Church's tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung.

The location of the tabernacle

69. ... In new churches, it is good to position the Blessed Sacrament chapel close to the sanctuary; where this is not possible, it is preferable to locate the tabernacle in the sanctuary, in a sufficiently elevated place, at the centre of the apse area, or in another place where it will be equally conspicuous.
The Holy Father says some remarkably insightful and beautiful things in this Exhortation, as well as some important things reaffirming the tradition of priestly celibacy, the indissolubility of marriage, and much more. More on this, surely, anon. But, for the moment, one thing that again strikes the reader is the non-binding way in which pastoral recommendations are suggested rather than imposed:
E.g., #42 -- "I desire ... that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed"; #49 -- "nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety"; #50 -- "I ask ... those who, after adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist ... "; #62 -- "I wish to endorse the proposal ... that ... such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin" (emphasis added).
I think I understand the spirit of pastoral collegiality that animates this language. The thought, I believe, is that pastoral effectiveness is enhanced by winsome humility rather than by exercise of an authoritative tone. I could be dead wrong, but I wonder whether such understatement and repeated qualification could not strike a note of indecisiveness and play into the hands of those who have no intention of submitting to a "reform of the reform." It will be interesting to read what the pundits have to say.

Meanwhile ... back to our Lenten observance.

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