Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, the Prefect for Divine Worship said on Thursday that “Francis supported the work we were completing. He reiterated to us that more than being concerned with reforms, we needed to be based on the Pascal mystery that happens in the liturgy, to experience the mystery that happens in that moment. Watching the Pope celebrate Mass, we can understand how he experiences what happens during Mass”.
In Cardinal Llovera's succinct statement, His Eminence explains Pope
Francis' liturgical agenda that goes beyond superficiality. "More
than being concerned with reforms, we need to be based on the Paschal
Mystery that happens in the Liturgy and experience the mystery that
happens in that moment!" And isn't this true reform?!
What have we focused on in the last 45 years since
Sacrosanctum Concilium? Translating the Mass into vernaculars, stripping
and renovating churches, iconoclastic architecture, focus on the roles
of the laity in the Mass, tinkering with music and making new forms of
music a god, throwing out the baby with the bath water.
In this shift of focus what has been lost? The
Paschal Mystery! For if the Paschal Mystery shined forth more clearly
and strengthened the already strong faith of pre-Vatican II Catholics, a
new springtime for the Church would have followed indeed. But with the
shift in emphasis away from the Paschal Mystery what has followed is a
parched dessert and a seemingly eternal fall, with laity falling away
like the leaves of a tree in the fall.
We can, of course, lament that the Consilium
committee of Pope Paul VI did not hear the same words from Pope Paul VI
that Cardinal Llovera conveys concerning Pope Francis. What if Pope Paul
VI had simply told the committee that was to implement the sober and
limited scope of Sacrosanctum Concilium to be "More than being concerned with reforms, we need to
be based on the Paschal Mystery that happens in the Liturgy and
experience the mystery that happens in that moment!" What a
different Church we would be today, truly focused in our Liturgy on the
Paschal Mystery and thus maintaining a higher number of Catholics who
actually come to the Mass for that which is essential, the Paschal
Mystery, rather than for music, for lay lectors, for Communion Ministers
and for a free-for-all in terms of casualness.
What would the Post-Vatican
so-called "reformed" Mass look like if the walking orders for its reform
would have been based upon Pope Francis' liturgical vision of "more than being concerned with reforms, we need to
be based on the Paschal Mystery that happens in the Liturgy and
experience the mystery that happens in that moment!"
First of all, more attention would have been given to
what Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium asked for the liturgy, which
was to focus more intensely on the Paschal Mystery! Actual
participation both internal/contemplative and external/action! Maintain
the Latin, but allow for some vernacular! Maintain Gregorian Chant as
the music of the Latin Rite! Revise the Lectionary to include a more
lavish use of Scripture (couldn't we have kept the same format and
keeping the original lectionary but adding two more cycles but based on
the same format and accomplished the same thing?) Noble simplicity which
I think refers to the double Communion Rites of the Mass, one for the
priest and one for the laity which the revised missal got right but more
importantly the "Solemn Sung"version of the Mass with deacon and
subdeacon, especially in the Pontifical Form.
What took the focus off the Paschal Mystery with
useless reforms not envisioned by Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium
and effectively destroyed the faith of Catholics in the Paschal Mystery
celebrated at Mass?
1. The focus on the horizontal that led to
renovation of churches in an iconoclastic way, focus on lay ministries
in the Mass and badgering people to actual participation in a
dictatorial, denigrating way.
2. Making people stand for Holy Communion and
extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion becoming the norm rather than
the exception and not vesting Extraordinary Minister nor making it a
formal ministry with a year long "seminiary-like" formation!
3. Reception of Holy Communion in the hand which
contributes to a casual handling of the sacred and a diminished sense
of the Paschal Mystery and entering into it! The profanation of the
Blessed Sacrament by an unscrupulousness concerning the falling of Holy
Communion Fragments and Dropplets on the floor, in people's hands, wiped
on their clothes and elsewhere.
However, we can't whine about that which wasn't
and we have to deal with the normative Mass and the experiencing the
Paschal Mystery there. All that is needed, without changing anything
about the revised missal itself is the following:
1. Read the Black and Do the Red!
2. Encourage Reverence by being formal
3. Kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving on the tongue
4. Ad Orientem or the Benedictine Altar arrangement
5. Chanting the propers and sober liturgical chants that avoid the profane musical styles and instrumentation
As I have said time and time again, Pope Francis does
model for us priests and our congregations the way to celebrate the
normal Sunday Mass. He is sober, serious and hides his personality
completely as soon as the procession begins and remains so until the
recession is concluded. His personality or persona comes forward only in
non-liturgical events such as greeting people and papal audiences.
There is clearly a liturgical persona and a casual persona outside of
He also "says the black and does the red." The only
variation of course is, by his own supreme authority as pontiff, to
change the rubric concerning the mandatum of Holy Thursday to include
women and non-Christians. Of course this "mandatum" does not have a long
history in the Latin Rite and was reinstated only in the 1950's. But my
point is that the Holy Father using his legitimate liturgical authority
in a supreme way can change a rubric of this nature and interpret the
meaning of the mandatum apart from the institution of the priesthood to
showing forth the nature of the priesthood that is different than the
Jewish priesthood that would not allow a priest to become "impure" by
this sort of service.
But apart from that change, the Holy Father "says the
black and does the red" and makes adjustments for physical disabilities
at the genuflections. He models entering into and experiencing the Paschal Mystery!