Is it realistic to expect the people of God to become actively involved in the liturgy when the celebration is dull, even boring, because it lacks sequential, appropriate, unbroken continuity as prescribed by Vatican II liturgical norms (“Where the Soul of Christ Transforms the Soul of the World,” November-December 2010)?
A good presentation of any kind has form and maintains smooth movement throughout its structure; this captures and holds attention and elicits reaction. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal offers liturgical guidelines for complying with this principle. Good liturgy maintains ritual action through its structure. In secular terminology: It is immersed in suitable rhythm, choreography, environment, silence, signs, and so on, which are not limited or exclusive to the performing or expressive arts.
Liturgical celebrations require a defined rhythm and dynamic to involve, inspire, and feed those in the assembly. Why, then, are so many holy celebrations reduced to a series of individual, choppy, unrelated, uncoordinated actions?
Why are liturgical ministers not performing their functions as a joint endeavor, a collaboration, much as threads woven into a single tapestry or as individual instruments blending sounds in a symphony orchestra?
Why are signs—those psychological nuances that communicate without words—barely discernable? Why are consecrated hosts handed out as though they were cookies, rather than raised reverently and then distributed? Why is the vocal power of the Great Amen no different in intensity and joy than other music selections? Why is there no time to reflect in silence at the conclusion of the readings, homily, and so on?
The Church has stated the importance of these elements:
- Silence at designated times is also a part of the celebration . . . Proper use of periods of silent prayer and reflection will help to render the celebration less mechanical and impersonal and lend a more prayerful spirit to the liturgical rite . . . there should be no celebration without periods for silent prayer and reflection. (GIRM 13)
- The liturgy of the Church has been rich in a tradition of ritual movement and gestures [signs]. These actions, subtly, yet really, contribute to an environment which can foster prayer or which can distract from prayer. (Environment and Art in Catholic Worship 56)
The people of God are entitled to excellence in all aspects of the “source and summit of Catholic worship,” the supreme liturgy—the Mass.
Chino Hills, California
This Rock answered a question regarding Ordinary Time (Quick Questions, January-February 2011). You wrote “The first part begins on the Monday after January 6 (or Epiphany Sunday).” The Catholic calendar on my desk refers to the days after Epiphany Sunday as Christmas weekdays. Doesn’t OT begin on the Monday after the Baptism of the Lord?
Jim Blackburn replies:
Thank you for the correction: Somehow I omitted the words “the Sunday following” from my answer and it came out quite confusing.
The answer should have read: “The first part begins on the Monday after the Sunday following January 6 (unless the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord falls on that Monday because Epiphany Sunday is the day before, in which case Ordinary Time begins on the following Tuesday) . . .”
In the present liturgical year January 10, the Monday after January 6, began the season of Ordinary Time.
Sorry for the confusion. I hope this clarifies the matter!