Ed. note: The following is the text of a pulpit announcement and bulletin insert published by the Secretariat of Worship and Liturgical Formation for the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan. It is intended for use this coming weekend, November 19/20.
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As we approach the First Sunday of Advent we have an opportunity to reflect on our liturgical celebrations while we prepare to use the new revised Mass texts of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.
For some this might be a time of challenge as we cross the threshold between what we are used to saying and doing, to using the new responses of the Mass. For others, little difficulty will be encountered. But over-all, we must proceed through this portal together and united in our commitment to God to celebrate the best Eucharistic Liturgy we possibly can.
The Mass is a communal prayer, as demonstrated in our plural language of “we ask” and “answer our prayer.” There are also things that join us as one besides the words we use to pray. The gestures and postures we demonstrate also unite us as one throughout the Mass.
Most of the diocesan parishes have already begun to use some of the new texts in some of the music we sing, such as during the Gloria or the Mystery of Faith, but there are additional changes in store for all of us as we embrace the rest of the spoken words of the Mass starting next Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, especially on the part of the priest celebrant.
Along with the change of words Bishop Hebda, as the chief liturgist for his diocese, has decided to make a posture change during the Communion Rite.
This change is being made from a pastoral standpoint of what we do now, and has taken much prayerful thought as to its introduction. Presently, we all remain standing until the last person receives Holy Communion, which does help make us one in this most unifying moment of Mass. However, the Bishop has seen some people having difficulties with standing for this long, especially in larger parishes; and people want and desire to do as everyone else does, but the aged or physically challenged have difficulty at times trying to do as everyone is doing.
Bishop Hebda has also noted that the people at our Masses are very transient; both visitors and vacationers, as well as some of our own parishioners who have other homes they move to during the winter months, and attend Masses where the same posture was not chosen to be done at wherever that other diocese is located. Thus, it could be confusing for some when going from one place to another. What was meant to move us closer to a more ritualistic unified stance has instead divided us at times and caused confusion in many locations. Nevertheless, it has been noticed that the singing of the Communion hymn has increased greatly; another sign of our unity, through use of voice during the Communion Rite. Increased participation in singing the Communion song has worked well; and the posture maybe not so well in some churches. Losing this increased participation in voice was one reservation to consider in not changing posture, but the Bishop has weighed all things and made a decision to call for a change.
Therefore, beginning the First Sunday of Advent, next week, November 27 and 28, our posture will change to the following:
- All will kneel at the Sanctus (Lamb of God).
- All remain kneeling until standing to approach the altar for Holy Communion.
- Upon returning to the pew the posture of kneeling will resume until being invited by the priest to stand for the Prayer after Communion; when he says, “Let us pray.”
This is a simple change that many Catholics will be able to make with no great trouble, but the pastoral reasons are noted because it will assist us in understanding the reasons surrounding the change…
As always taught, one is only held to the law as much as they are physically able to do. Therefore, if one cannot kneel, they may sit at anytime, even during other parts of the Mass when all are standing and they are unable to stand for a long period or become tired.
- When one returns to their seat after receiving Holy Communion, it is for a time of short personal prayer of thanksgiving. However, if the selected Communion hymn has appropriately been selected and is about Holy Communion and the Eucharist, then joining in the singing of that song could be one’s prayer of thanksgiving, so everyone is encouraged to continue to join in voice in unity with others at this time by resuming and join in song with others.
- There should be a time of complete silence when all will be able to go into a prayer of thanksgiving after the last person has received Holy Communion and a functionary part of the Mass of “cleaning” the altar and putting things away is completed by the ministers. Occasionally there may be a song chosen that gives thanks to God for His great gift of His Son, but again, this could be part of the individual’s thanksgiving prayer if a song of thanksgiving is done.
- Musicians whose ministry it is to lead the assembly in song during the Sanctus and the Communion Song should remain standing to facilitate their voices better as they stand. These ministers will have the opportunity for individual prayer after the Communion Song has been completed.
- After returning to one’s pew, it is each person’s choice to either remain kneeling until the next posture change is called for by the initiation to prayer, or if one is unable to continue to kneel, then they may sit anytime they need to, but there should be no general rule to follow such as “when the priest returns to his chair all sit” or anything similar. Kneeling “officially” ends when all are invited to stand unless the person has chosen to sit otherwise.
- When to make that posture change is a personal decision and will not be determined by any other factor. Therefore, it is not in these instructions other than to kneel if able after returning to the pew and then to stand, from whatever posture one is in, at the invitation to re-join in communal prayer for the Prayer after Communion.
It is hoped that this change, along with all the changes about to take place, will enhance our worship for years to come. It may take time for these changes to become “common-place,” possibly even a year or so, but over time we will come to know this revised Mass setting and make it our own just as many have done so with things in the past.
May you be guided by the Spirit as we make our changes and may God the Father, through the Son, continue to nourish you as we celebrate the Eucharist together each week.