Yesterday in my first post from the Archdiocese of Toronto Priests’ Seminar in Alliston, Ontario I mentioned that there is some anxiety among priests that the revision of the texts of the Eucharistic liturgy are motivated by a a desire to return to a vision of church from the past. That’s an anxiety that I share less and less, well, until this morning.
A puzzling choice was made this morning to create the seminar’s worship space in a style that is a throw-back to the past; rows and rows of seats facing forward, theatre style, all the “holy” elements stacked away from the assembly, the altar crowded by multiple candles and the tabernacle right behind the altar. One of the priests immediately thought of the song: Let’s do the time-warp again. Or is it back to the future? In the past our chapel was constructed in the round with antiphonal seating and the ambo, altar and chair on the central axis and the tabernacle on one side and an image of Mary on the other. It reflected more my preferred ecclesiology. I guess there is more than one way to see church, but with all the anxiety about the “new mass” going backwards, this choice of chapel set up was inopportune.
Thank God we moved from that to an amazing presentation by Rev. Paul Turner, who is a gifted liturgist (doctorate from the San Anselmo in Rome). Fr. Paul spoke about how we present these changes to the people in our parishes. He situated these changes squarely in the vision of Vatican II. The reforms of the Second Vatican Council were a restoration of the mass that is in fact being continued with the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal. Fr. Paul pointed to the 1963 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as key:
In the restoration and development of the sacred liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is the paramount concern, for it is the primary, indeed indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.
For the most part I see the revisions of our text as a move to even better translations of the mass with clearer references to scripture and richer imagery. It’s also a revision that brings us closer to all the other language groups… making us truly “universal” while still in the vernacular.
Overall the presentation by Paul turner was incredibly practical. Paul also was quite profound in calling us to use this moment in the church’s history to grow in our faith and appreciation of the gift of the mass.
Here are a couple of resources that Fr. Paul recommended that I think are excellent:
The U.S. bishops’ presentation of the texts that have received approval from Rome and Fr. Paul’s own website with many great resources.