As promised, my liturgy post. Hang onto your hats: It is long.I had hopes of writing a well-developed, somewhat scholarly post on liturgical reform, but realize I don’t have time, so I’ll just make the following reflections.
First, I think we can go very far toward renewal of the liturgy by simply using the missal we have now properly. Sacrosanctum Concilium makes the clear point that education is as important a means of renewal of the liturgy as reform of the missal. Even though some things have been lost in the 1969 missal, there are still many riches, and there have even been some gains, such as a richer selection of readings. Prayerful meditation on the missal, guided by reliable explanatory literature, could significantly deepen our experience of worship of the Triune God.
So, I’d say the first step in a reform is to a) make sure priests and communities are celebrating the 1969 missal properly and fully and b) to make sure that the priests and the people are properly educated as to the meaning of the various texts, gestures and symbols of the liturgy. Although I am strongly in favor of a more faithful retranslation, I don’t even think that is necessary for most people to have a much greater appreciation of the Mass. The lay people ought to be encouraged to use the gestures that are presently called for and priests ought to do all of what the missal says, not what they want, especially at the Consecration. For instance, if the rubric says to speak the words of institution into the cup, that is what the priest ought to do.
Following that, I have a few suggestions, most of which don’t require one iota of change in the current missal.
First, I’d suggest is that those aspects of the liturgy that are open to diverse expressions ought to be used to make the meaning of the liturgy more clear. For instance, hymns ought to be focused on the Triune God and the Incarnate Christ, etc. Petitions ought to be petitions for the needs of the Church and the world, not little sermons meant to inspire us to conform to some PC notion of what proper Christian activity in the world is.
As for art, churches ought to be well decorated in a manner that brings out dignity of the liturgy, as well as the symbolic element of the art. This includes for instance the shape and layout of the Church, as well as the incidental decorations and, for instance, the sacred vessels and vestments. I don’t favor one form of architecture over another. I’ve seen some pretty neat-o modern Churches that seem to bring out and enhance the mystery of the Mass. My personal preference, of course, is more classical. What would you expect from a blogger who names his blog what I did?
Music ought to be dignified and convey a sense of wonder and awe. Side note: I don’t mind guitars in Church so long as the songs are prayerful and meditative, even when joyous. For instance, I deeply appreciate the liturgical music of John Michael Talbot. I even like some of the St. Louis Jesuits stuff.
Finally, I am absolutely in favor of the ad orientem celebration of the Mass. I think that one change could go far towards recapturing for the faithful (including the priest) the sense of the mystery which we celebrate.
A note on language: I love Latin and would just as soon worship in it as English. It is a very beautiful and its use in the liturgy carries the rich theological and spiritual tradition of the West in a way that the English translation does not. Yet, I agree with the Council in opening up the liturgy to the use of the vernacular. I think Latin ought to be always used and available to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances of the particular celebration (in other words, depending on whether the use of Latin will in fact, given the state of the congregation’s formation, enhance their ability to enter into the Mass (participate fully and interiorly). I think the faithful ought to be catechized to use Latin. I think there should be a restoration of much of the Church’s musical patrimony that is in Latin. I will always think, though, that in most cases at least the readings ought to be in English. Finally, I do think it would help a great deal to scrap the ICEL translation in favor of a more literal one. I like sacral language!
In a later post I will discuss the things I would change in the 1969 Missal, although I don’t think any changes are necessary or pressing.