Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 26, 2005
Liturgical changes keenly felt
Liturgical changes keenly felt
By MARK PATTISON
Catholic News Service
March 7, 1965, the First Sunday of Lent, was a key date in the lives of Canadian Catholics.
On that day the Church in Canada ushered in a series of wide-ranging changes in the Mass. Instead of having his back to the people, the priest faced the people. And Mass was not just being "said," it was "celebrated" - and not all in Latin, but with parts of it in the vernacular.
It was just the first step toward the "full, conscious and active participation" by the laity in the Church's liturgical life as mandated in 1963 by Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
New Order of Mass
By 1970, the new Order of the Mass, which brought about further changes, was published.
There was not merely an "epistle" from the New Testament prior to the Gospel, but an Old Testament reading, as well as a responsorial psalm between Old and New Testament readings, with a three-year cycle of Sunday readings and a two-year cycle of weekday readings.
The fasting period before one was permitted to receive Communion, previously shortened in the 1950s from midnight to three hours, was lessened further to one hour for all food intake.
Communicants no longer knelt down at a rail to take the host, but continued to stand. Canada's bishops, with approval from the Vatican, permitted reception of the host in communicants' hands. The 1969 General Instruction on the Roman Missal permitted Communion under "both species," meaning bread and wine.
More Massgoers receive Communion now. There is a debate over whether that is the result of the relaxed fasting rule, Catholics feeling they have a right to the Eucharist, or a lessened sense of sin that leads some people to receive Communion when they should not.
With no Latin liturgies, there also was no longer a distinction between "high Mass" and "low Mass."
Choirs came down from the choir loft in the rear of the church and sang alongside or in the sanctuary in full view of the assembly. The music changed, too.
In keeping with the tenor of the times, the "folk Mass" sprang up primarily with guitar-driven ensembles.
"With the emphasis on greater participation, the placement of the choir became an issue . . . in animating the sung prayer of the assembly," said Peter Finn, assistant director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.
As well, a torrent of new music was written and published after Vatican II.
The sign of peace was inserted into the Mass between the Our Father and the Lamb of God.
"It's always been a part of the Roman liturgy. It was often exchanged between a bishop and his deacon and subdeacon at the Mass," Finn said. "Its application to the full assembly was a way of reviving an ancient custom or a circumstance in which the custom was spread to the whole assembly after the Second Vatican Council."
With liturgical changes came more roles for laity, such as serving as lectors or extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.
The Saturday Mass itself was another innovation. The 1967 Vatican document Eucharisticum Mysterium (Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery) declared that, in cases of "pastoral necessity," Sunday Masses could be celebrated on Saturday evenings. The thinking was that families could fulfill their Sunday obligation and have Sunday free for family activities.
In the wake of the council, it was not uncommon for wedding Masses to feature a reading from, say, Khalil Gibran's The Prophet, or to be celebrated outdoors.
Msgr. James Moroney, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Liturgy, said after "a spirit of experimentation that was appropriate for the time," Scripture readings at weddings again became the norm.
The "paraliturgy," a kind of prayer service that in some ways resembled Mass but did not include the consecration of the Eucharist supplanted older pietistic practices such as rosary recitations, novenas and the Forty Hours devotion.
"In any place in the history of the Church where we've emphasized participation, it has sometimes come at the cost of contemplation," Moroney said.
Another significant development was the communal Penance service, which includes Scripture readings, a homily, examination of conscience and prayers, followed by an opportunity for individual confession and absolution, or in some cases general absolution.
General absolution is allowed only under limited circumstances and with the condition that a person make an individual confession within a reasonable period of time.
Forty years after the close of Vatican II, some of the most passionate debates among Catholics, from the laity to cardinals, still revolve around liturgical issues.
Vatican II proclaimed the Eucharist as "the source and the summit of Christian life," Moroney said, so "it is absolutely right (that) the place for disputations and victories to be clear is at the source and at the summit."
The Eucharist, he added, is "going to be a place where everything we embrace and everything we disdain stands in crystal clarity."