Monday, August 22, 2022
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
Over a year ago, Pope Francis issued the apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes (July 16, 2021) on the use of the Latin Missal of St. John XXIII (1962).
But the pope made clear his desire that the Missal promulgated by St. Paul VI (1970) be "the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite."
While he also said that it is up to diocesan bishops to regulate the practice of the pre-Vatican II Mass, he gave them guidance in a restrictive sense. That Mass is permitted but should not be promoted. It prescribed, for example, that there should be no new groups for such Masses, that priests should ask permission to celebrate it, and that if newly ordained priests wished to be initiated in the ancient rite, they should ask permission from their bishops, who would consult the Holy See.
Almost a year later, on June 29, 2022, the Holy Father signed a new apostolic letter entitled Desiderio Desideravi, on the liturgical formation of the people of God. It is a kind of meditation very rich in eucharistic spirituality.
In addition to reiterating what was said in the previous "Motu Proprio", he now calls upon priests to cultivate the true "ars celebrandi" (the art of celebrating the Liturgy). That art must not degenerate into an "imaginative — sometimes wild — creativity without rules." (No. 48)
Father Klaus Demmer, a professor of morals at the Gregorian University, said it with a lapidary phrase: "The purpose of the rubrics is to protect the people of God against the subjectivism of the clergy."
Last July 22, the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, issued norms limiting celebrations according to the Missal of St. John XXIII. But he said something interesting, namely, that those who attend these Masses are parishioners who, for the most part, are not against the Second Vatican Council or the current Mass. They are mostly people who go to the preconciliar Mass for reasons of devotion.
Therein lies a significant detail. The Latin Mass is celebrated with a lot of reverence and a sense of transcendence, and also with unmistakably sacred music, all of which moves to devotion.
However, not a few priests celebrate the current Mass, according to the Missal of St. Paul VI, in a less than devout manner. It seems that they approach the Mass as if it belonged to the world of show business. They seek to entertain or amuse the people present with witticisms, antics and occurrences. They also manipulate the sacred texts with deletions, additions and changes. They do so with good will, but these alterations distract and scandalize the participants in the liturgical action.
One should proceed with special fidelity when praying the Ordinary of the Mass, which includes prefaces and eucharistic prayers. In ancient times the eucharistic prayer was called "canon," that is, fixed or immutable.
The 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, on what to do and what to avoid in relation to the Most Holy Eucharist, retains its full force. It is an excellent read for both seminarians and those already ordained.
Never forget the conciliar teaching on the presence of Christ in the Liturgy: "Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ." (SC No. 7)
The ministerial priest has ample room for creativity in the preparation of the homily, liturgical preaching, something that often leaves much to be desired. But in the rest of the Mass, the priest or bishop does not have to do more than lend his voice in a clear and meaningful way, and use his hands to perform the gestures and actions of rigor. The ministerial celebrant lends his hands and voice to the one who is the main celebrant of the Mass.
Let us say it clearly and unambiguously, the main celebrant of the Mass is Jesus Christ, the Eternal and High Priest.
This blog originally appeared as a column in the August 2022 edition of La Voz Católica.