August 13-15, 2001
volume 12, no. 142

The Germs of GIRM

Part Twenty: Presider and Divider

    [Continuing with selected passages found in Chapter Two of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in this issue Paragraphs 31 and 34 are analyzed. The former covers the the ambiguous term "adapt" which for many priests and parishes means "ad lib." The latter paragraph treats the disruptive nature of "dialogue" and "community" that are merely buzz words for laicization of the Mass.]

Paragraph 31 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "It is also up to the priest in the exercise of his office of presiding over the assembly to pronounce the instructions that are provided in the rites themselves. Where it is indicated in the rubrics, the celebrant is permitted to adapt to some extent these remarks in order that they correspond to the understanding of those participating; nevertheless, the priest himself should take care that he always respects the sense of the introduction given in the liturgical book and he should express it only in brief terms. It also belongs to the priest presiding to proclaim the word of God and to give the final blessing. He may give the faithful a very brief introduction to the Mass of the day after the greeting and before the penitential rite; to the liturgy of the word (before the readings), and to the Eucharistic Prayer (before the Preface), though never during the Eucharistic Prayer itself; he may also make comments concluding the entire sacred service before the dismissal."

Comment and Analysis:

    GIRM effectively canonizes idiosyncracy here, all the while maintaining that decorum and good taste will be maintained. The priest receives carte blanche in this paragraph to become a narrator or master of ceremonies, a liturgical Alistair Cooke or a liturgical Ed McMahon. Never before in any of the approved rites of Holy Mother Church, whether of the East or of the West, has it been the case that a priest is permitted to blab endlessly.

    However, the conscious effort on the part of the liturgical revolutionaries to permit priests to adapt the Mass in this way is an indication that something is lacking inherently in the nature of the Mass. Priests did not have to provide a running narration or commentary in the Traditional Latin Mass. They do not have to do so in the Eastern Divine Liturgies. The Traditional Latin Mass and the Divine Liturgies of the East communicate the sacred of their very nature, doing so in a way which emphasizes the true worship that is befitting our omnipotent and all glorious Blessed Trinity.

    The faithful learned the Mass in the past because the Mass itself taught them the Faith. It is the very lack of reverence and dignity in the Novus Ordo that causes even some very well-intentioned priests to offer commentaries at every possible opportunity, all to the detriment of the life of the Church.

Paragraph 34 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "Since by nature the celebration of Mass has the character of being the act of a community, both the dialogues between the celebrant and the faithful gathered together, and the acclamations take on special value; in fact, they are not simply outward signs of the community's celebration, but they encourage and achieve a greater communion between priest and people."

Comment and Analysis:

    The act of a community? The efficacy of a Mass does not depend upon the "dialogue" between the celebrant and the faithful, just as surely that the efficacy of our Lord's Sacrifice to the Father in Spirit and in Truth on the wood of the Holy Cross did not depend upon any "dialogue" he was having with those gathered around the foot of the Cross to console Him.

    While it is true that we offer up our prayers, our lives, our intentions and our sacrifices in the Mass, one priest alone offers the Mass efficaciously if he does so according to that which has been laid down by the Church. He does not need a community present. There needs to be no dialogue. The clear implication in paragraph 34 is that the "dialogues" and "acclamations" foster a unity between the priest and the people, ignoring the fact that the faithful are united to the priest by means of their understanding that he is offering the Mass for them as the alter Christus. No one other than a priest can act in persona Christi.

    While we do gather together in a common setting, we are not an amorphous group of people but individual souls who will be judged by God individually when we die. The priest acts on our behalf to give worship and glory to God and grace to the Church even when no other human being is physically present during a Mass he celebrates. This emphasis on "community" and "dialogue" is one of the basic defects of the Novus Ordo, one that has convinced people that it is important to play some "role" in the "celebration" in order to "feel" involved in the "liturgy" and in the life of the parish community. It is an infection of the democratic spirit of egalitarianism and entitlement into the Mass.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

Thursday: Part Twenty-one: Sacerdotal Power is Not to the People

For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

August 13-15, 2001
volume 12, no. 142
CHRIST or chaos
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