In an Article published in the Italian Newspaper Il Giornale Journalist Andrea Tornielli reports that the Roman Dicastery responsible for the Sacred Liturgy met and proposed certain reforms for the consideration of the Pope. I reproduce a translated excerpts of that article here with some of my own thoughts in RED.
ROME. A document was delivered to the hands of Benedict XVI in the morning of last April 4 by Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It is the result of a reserved vote, which took place on March 12, in the course of a “plenary” session of the dicastery responsible for the liturgy, and it represents the first concrete step towards that “reform of the reform” often desired by Pope Ratzinger.
The Cardinals and Bishops members of the Congregation voted almost unanimously in favor of a greater sacrality [sacredness] of the rite, of the recovery of the sense of Eucharistic worship, of the recovery of the Latin language in the celebration, and of the remaking of the introductory parts of the Missal in order to put a stop to abuses, wild experimentation, and inappropriate creativity. [There have been many observations over the decades that Masses in some places have become too informal. In many cases the action of worshipping God seems almost lost. The author of a book I read some years ago summarized many parish masses as “the aware and gathered community celebrating itself.” The personality of the priest and other liturgical leaders also seems exagerated in some celebrations of the Mass. Hence a re-emphasis that the Mass is an act of worship directed to God seems an important reminder and an antidote for mistaken notion that the Mass is really more for the self-actualization of the gathered faithful. However, I think we have to be careful to avoid the tendency that some have to frown upon joyful expression in the liturgy. Reverence doesn’t have to mean that everyone looks like they just sucked a lemon. Different cultures may well be more expressive than others and joyful praise can be very worshipful. The main point is to be sure that God is at the center and that it is He who is being worshipped. As for the liturgical abuses, they are clearly an ugly problem that persists. I think of them as a sign of pride, that somehow Father or some liturgy committee knows better than the Church. Liturgical abuses are also a form of injustice since they rob the faithful of the Liturgy they are entitled to. Abuses and violations of liturgical law cause division not unity. Hence they are not of God.]
They have also declared themselves favorable to reaffirming that the usual way of receiving Communion according to the norms is not on the hand, but in the mouth. There is, it is true, an indult which, on request of the [local] bishops, allows for the distribution of the host on the palm of the hand, but this must remain an extraordinary fact.[This may cause something of a stir. But notice that they are not saying the practice of receiving on the hand must end. Rather they state it is not the norm but is a departure that is permitted in some places. But it does seem to start a trajectory away from the practice of Communion in the hand. The Pope, at his Masses usually gives Communion only to the faithful kneeling and on the tongue. Several Bishops aroung the world have revoked the practice of permitting communion in the hand in their dioceses. I have also noticed in my parish, through no suggestion of mine that more people are returning to the practice of receiving on the tongue. I am not sure of the final outcome of this but a clear preference for communion on the tongue has been expressed by the Pope and the Congregation for Divine Worship. That is not something to ignore and it will proabably have ripple effects in the wider Church].
The Prefect of the Congregatoin for Divine Worship, Cardinal Cañizares, is also having studies made on the possibility to recover the orientation towards the east, at least at the moment of the eucharistic consecration, as it happened in practice before the reform, when both the faithful and the priest faced towards the Cross and the priest therefore turned his back to the assembly. [ Here too a pretty radical shift away from current practice. Put in plainer language it means that they are studying the possibility of returning to the practice of the priest standing at the altar with the congregation behind him, but only for the Eucharistic Prayer. It is wrong to say that the priest turns his back on the people. Rather, priest and people all face the same direction. In the early Church it was the practice for everyone to face to the East (looking toward the Light, toward God and toward the direction from whence Christ would come again). As the Church spread, it was not always possible for every Church to be oriented (to the east) so the cross in the sanctuary came to represent a symbolic east. Everyone faced the cross to pray. Although it may seem seem strange today to those who never experienced the older way, consider this example. Suppose a community leader is leading a large group of citizens forward to greet a dignitary. When he speaks on behalf of the group to the dignitary who will he face? It would be strange for him to face the crowd while he spoke to the dignitary on their behalf. No, he faces the person he addresses. This necessarily means he “has his back to the crowd” but no one thinks of it this way. Thus, in the old days, when the priest spoke to God on our behalf he faced God, to the East, or toward the cross.Understood this way it is not all that odd. The practice of everyone facing one direction for Mass continued all the way to 1965 when altars began to be turned and priests began to face the congregation. Truth be told this is an innovation unknown before 1965 and it has seriously changed the whole tenor of the Mass and tended to shift the focus to the assembly. Many liturgical theologians have strongly recommended that we study and revisit this practice. Where this study will go is uncertain and it is unlikely that we will see any sudden changes in this practice, but here too the tide seems to be turning].
…..the “propositiones” voted by the Cardinals and Bishops at the March plenary [also]foresee a ….recovery of the celebrations in Latin in the dioceses, at least in the main solemnities, as well as the publication of bilingual Missals – a request made at his time by Paul VI – with the Latin text first. [ This is not a return to ALL LATIN. Rather it is their intent to make the Latin more accessible to the celebrant and encourage more use of Latin espeically at feast days. Today if I want to say the canon in Latin, I have to flip a lot of pages to find it in the missal. The proposal by the Cardinals would make it easier to find and encourage the use of Latin more frequently].
OK. I know these proposals will not be without controversy. Please feel free to weigh in with comments and thoughts. That’s a main purpose of this blog after all, to generate discussion. Fire away.
I’ve posted this video before but it shows the practice of “facing east” during the Eucharistic Prayer.