We are told a new handbook on how to celebrate Holy Mass will be published this summer. While Redemptionis Sacramentum was dead on arrival, I suspect the proposed handbook will be still-born. The only thing that can resuscitate our liturgy is clear positive legislation backed up by action.
We have spent fifty years ‘advising and encouraging’ clergy at all levels -from Cardinals down to associate pastors and deacons- to follow liturgical norms, but we have had very little success with such exhortations. Why? I think because if we were to follow even the norms that are in place now for the Missanormativa of Paul VI, we would have a very different kind of liturgy than we currently have in most parishes. Some questions we can ask ourselves about the liturgy in our own parish to see if we are following norms or not are the following. All of these questions should be responded to with a ‘Yes’ if we are following norms; a negative response means we are not following the norms (according to the General Instruction and Redemptionis Sacramentum)
- Do we ever use Latin for the Ordinary of the Mass? (cf. RS #112; GIRM #41)
- Do we retain use of the Communion Plate? (cf. RS #93)
- Do we use Extraordinary Ministers only in exceptional circumstances? (cf. RS #151)
- Does the celebrant stay within the sanctuary at the Sign of Peace? (cf. RS #72)
- Do we omit the chalice if the greater proportion of the congregation does not receive from it? (cf. RS #102)
- Do we allow/encourage Communion kneeling and on the tongue? (cf. RS #92)
- Do we keep the Church and adjoining rooms quiet before and after Mass? (cf. GIRM #45)
- Do we omit hymn singing to have an organ voluntary at the end of Mass? (cf. Celebrating the Mass, Bishops Conference of England & Wales, #225)
These may seem paltry things to some, but if they are so paltry, why refuse to follow them? It takes so little to put them into place, other than a sense of humility and obedience.
My personal reasons for taking liturgical norms seriously are two-fold. My first reason, in all honesty, is that I am not able to successfully subordinate my self-will to the will of God in all situations (i.e., I still sin), making liturgy the one area of my life where by the following norms I can subordinate myself with a measurable amount of success. Second (and this is a requirement of justice) because the people have a right to the liturgy with which the Church seeks to provide them. Justice is, after all, more widely applicable than just to issues of social poverty and/or oppression.
I return to a long-stated opinion here: if the Novus Ordo were celebrated exactly in accord with the Missal as provided by Pope Paul VI in 1970 in accord with liturgical continuity and the actual decrees of Vatican II, ie., altar-facing (rubric 133) with Latin (Sacrosactum concilium of Vatican II #54,116) and Communion on the tongue while kneeling (1970 GIRM 247) we would see significantly less hostility to the Church’s ancient form of Mass.