Thinking About the Liturgy on the Eve of the Council: Signs that do and do not signify

Over at Deacon Eric Stoltz’s fascinating Conciliaria there is an interesting article from the June 28, 1962 Commonweal by John Mannion, who was at that time the president of the Liturgical Conference, entitled “First, the Liturgy.” It not only gives a list of desiderata for liturgical reform — most of which were realized in the next decade — but also gives an apologia for why actual reform of the liturgical rites, and not simply better education, was needed.

I found particularly interesting the argument based on the sign-character of the liturgy. He make the (to my mind) convincing point that a sign that fails to signify fails in its function as a sign. A sign that needs to be translated in order to communicate is not really fulfilling  its sign function. Of course, we all need to learn how to use signs; few if any signs are naturally perspicuous. So some education — or, in the case of the liturgy, formation — is needed. So it is really a judgment call as to when the failure of a system of signs tis due to a lack of formation among the recipients of those signs, and when it is that the system itself needs reform.

I suppose we might think of it along the analogy with proposals for spelling reform. One might say that someone who fails to understand that the written sign “cough” stands for the spoken word pronounced kôf, then he or she simply needs to get better formation in the English language. Another might say that, given how English pronunciation usually functions, it would really be better to change the spelling to “koff.” Mannion, it seems to me, represents the latter position with regard to liturgy. The impact of the liturgical action is blunted by the need for constant explanation and signs that are more readily graspable will allow the liturgy better to fulfill its role in the life of Christians.

It is interesting to red these reflections from 1962. How, if at all, has the subsequent half-century proved Mannion right? How, if at all, has they proved him wrong? Do we today have any greater insight into the question of whether the desire for clarity in our liturgical signs is a salutary one?

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34 comments

  1. I think this was a shift from the perspective deeply encouraged by a juridical mindset that what mattered was that the sign was almost entirely directed towards God, so that its being more deeply apprehended (if not comprehended) by the faithful in the pews was an incidental consideration. The sacramental revolution of Pope St Pius X, however, began the fundamental undermining of that perspective.

  2. Thanks, Deacon, for posting this – have been following Conciliaria and this was one of the more interesting posts to date.

    Excellent questions – especially when you focus on Mannion’s *sign* analysis and consider the recent *New Translation* and the need to explain the *new-old* words/phrases. What does that say about *sign value*?

    Along with this historical post – here is an interesting memo from a German archbishop in 1942 complaining about liturgical reform by German priests who were living the *sign* changes articulated by Mannion and Vatican II/SC. It speaks to the reality that liturgical reform was happening long before VII and SC:

    “The following is a summary of the memorandum of Archbishop Groeber of Frieburg circulated among the German speaking bishops toward the end of 1942 which appeals to the bishops and the Holy See to do something about the disturbing elements in the Liturgical Movement in France, Belgium, and Germany. (See: Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. Liturgical Law Today: New Style, New Spirit. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1977, pp 2-4.)

    Archbishop Groeber calls seventeen issues to the attention of the Pope:

    1. The Liturgical Movement is causing divisions in the ranks of the German clergy. The “kerygmatics” are calling the rest of us ignorant, lazy and disobedient.

    2. They are causing dogmatic and systematic theology to be neglected.

    3. They give a new definition to “Faith.” Faith is no longer belief in revealed truths, but an experience, and emotion.

    4. They neglect scholastic philosophy and theology and prefer modern systems, Hegel, etc.

    5. They criticize contemporary institutions and contemporary forms of religious life because of the undue importance they place on the forms found in the primitive church.

    6. They give too much attention to the Oriental Liturgies.

    7. There is a growing influence of protestant dogma on the way in which we present the faith.

    8. The limits of the Church are so extended as to included even the protestants. The heretical churches are sometimes considered a part of the total Church.

    9. They give a new definition of the Church. The Church is no longer the “perfect society,” but some type of biological organism [i.e. “Body of Christ”].

    10. There is a supernaturalism and a mysticism raging in theology and even in pastoral practice.

    11. There is a surprising and terrifying growth of the emphasis placed on the Mystical Christ to the neglect of the Historical Christ. They affirm a mystical union between Christ and the Christian which can have disastrous consequences for the doctrine of grace and the sacraments.

    12. An exaggerated importance is given to the Mystical Body of Christ.

    13. The priesthood of the laity is exaggerated and emphasized at the expense of the functional priesthood. Some even say that the laity ratify the sacrifice by their “Amen.” Others say that people must be present for Mass and disparaging things are being said about private Masses.

    14. Some are saying that the communion of the faithful is an integral part of the Mass. Others say that Communion should not be distributed except during the sacrifice. Romano Guardini even thinks we ought to allow Communion with both bread and wine.

    15. They give an exaggerated importance to the liturgy and tend to identify it with the life of the Church. In apostolic times private prayer held first place, not the liturgy, and we must be careful not to be taken in by contemporary liturgists who play down private prayers: the rosary, the way of the cross, the month of Mary. We have even heard them say “a parish which lives only by these popular devotions is religiously anemic.” Nothing in history justifies this statement. After all, things weren’t so bad before there ever was a Liturgical Movement.

    If things are to be changed, this must be done only by the Holy See. There are those who are changing things on their own authority. Never have rubrics been treated so arbitrarily. New forms of vestments . . . Some have even asked publicly to replace black vestments by dark green ones.

    16. They would like to have the bishops declare that the community Mass is the obligatory way of celebrating. They put too much emphasis on the “strict right” of the laity to participate. They say that the priest speaks in the name of the parish and that it is the community which celebrates. They change the whole ideal of Catholic priesthood because the Catholic priest is not merely a servant as is the protestant minister. The true and unique priest is Christ. His priesthood is entrusted to the ordained priest. The priest is sent to the community by the bishop, he is not called by the parish. He celebrates Mass for the parish, but he is not delegated by the parish to celebrate Mass.

    17. They are attempting to introduce the German language not only into the administration of the sacraments as is already allowed by the Congregation of Rites, but they even want to use German at Mass. A vernacular liturgy has often served the forces of error as a weapon in the arsenal of heresy.

    The encyclical Mediator Dei, On the Sacred Liturgy, November 20, 1947, is the response of Pope Pius XII to Groeber’s memorandum.

  3. In contemplating this question I always find myself thinking to Romano Guardini’s open letter to Johannes Wagner (http://www.ecclesiadei.nl/docs/guardini.html). Here he questions whether 19th century ‘man’ was even capable of a liturgical act. I assume the question remains today. Thus any sign/symbol is an aborted attempt at meaning when, as Eliade would put it, homo religiosus no longer even exists. As Guardini notes the problem isn’t one of instruction but of the lived habitus of ritual. I don’t think we have sorted either side of the problem well enough. For example, to my eyes the reform of the reform only exacerbates the problem by believing homo religiosus exists as a select minority. Thus signs need no attuning to a profane audience. And for those who believe in the reform of the liturgy all to often the casualness of liturgical life, with plastic, posters, and carpet makes any sense of awakening homo religiosus nye impossible. As Guardini notes, liturgical crisis will come when the habitus is formed and those signs with little significance will stand out to be jetted. I for one contend that the problem is most often with the strength of signs – not necessarily the tradition of the sign or its audience.

  4. Mannion writes, “To the man of the twentieth century, the Mass [Tridentine] does not appear to be what it actually is: a formal proclamation of the Word of God, a sacrificial oblation re-presenting “in mystery” the redemptive work of Christ, and a community meal renewing the covenant—the pledge of eternal life and love—between the Father and His chosen sons. This threefold reality is not immediately and directly revealed by the words and actions of the Latin rite Mass, which fact has led to a growing realization of the need for further reform.”

    Certainly today, most would know by the form of its implementation that the reformed Mass includes the “formal proclamation of the Word of God.” The reform does a good job at making this reality clear.

    However, do most Catholics realize in the reformed Mass, “a sacrificial oblation re-presenting “in mystery” the redemptive work of Christ”? I think this has certainly been obfuscated more in the revised rite than in the Tridentine Rite and confusion exists between the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharistic Prayer as encompassing the Paschal Mystery and the Eucharistic prayer itself as becoming so horizontal that it is perceived as the “community meal or at least signifying it” rather than the actual sign of the Communion Rite itself being the “a community meal renewing the covenant—the pledge of eternal life and love—between the Father and His chosen sons.” In other words our current liturgy through the signs employed blurs the Sacrificial component with the Meal component thus diminishing the sacrificial aspect will elevating the meal aspect too much.
    I would say, though, that the current Communion Rite certainly signifies the meal aspect of the Mass, but I’m not sure that the Eucharistic Prayer from the Preparation of the Gifts through the Per Ipsum signifies well the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, precisely because this prayer is more often than not prayed facing the congregation and appears more as a preparation for Holy Communion rather than as a re-presentation of the one Sacrifice albeit in an “unbloody” way and thus intimately correlated to the Paschal Mystery independent of the consumption of the Holocaust.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #5:
        Karl, not really, because sacrifice and meal are united in the overall liturgy, the meal aspect is the Rite of Holy Communion beginning with the Our Father and its apex the Ecce Agnus Dei and then the actual communion of receiving our Lord first by the priest and then by the laity. This part of the Mass indeed is the horizontal and vertical intersecting. Whereas the Preparation of the Offerings and the Eucharistic Prayer signify in sign and symbol “a sacrificial oblation re-presenting “in mystery” the redemptive work of Christ…” But this three-fold reality of the Mass including the proclamation of the Word, the prayer of Sacrifice and the Meal form a unity, a whole, there is no dichotomy or “tricotomy.”

      2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #9:
        I can’t help but sense a inadequacy in this explanation, and an attempt to force the liturgy into contortions to satisfy a centuries-old explanation. One cannot confine the aspect of meal to the Communion Rite. It seems inclusive of eschatology as well: the hope for the Kingdom, the initiation of peace, a look to the removal of the sins of the world in the final resolution of creation.

        The Mass is far more than a three movement recreation of the Old Testament, Good Friday, and Holy Thursday. The lines are blurred, and largely dependent less on human cleverness than on the grace of the Holy Spirit.

      3. @Todd Flowerday – comment #10:
        Todd we wouldn’t be talking about this if not for God’s grace, the resurrection and the full gambit of eternity. The Eucharistic Prayer recalls a specific meal, the Last Supper as the way the apostles (first bishops) will memorialize the Paschal Mystery. The Old Testament experience of sacrifice which is encompassed in the full gambit of eternity, the Mystery of the Eucharist, prefigures the Christ event and His Cross, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost and Second Coming to judge all. The completion of the sacrifice in both the old and new dispensation requires eating what is sacrificed with blood figuring in prominently. In a sense, the Mass is like an “atom” compressing eternity and the Mystery of God and His plan into a temporal experience. Consuming the “Meal” is necessary for completing the liturgical sacrifice what Mannion describes as needing to be more clearly evident, “proclamation of the Word of God, a sacrificial oblation re-presenting “in mystery” the redemptive work of Christ, and a community meal renewing the covenant—the pledge of eternal life and love—between the Father and His chosen sons [daughters].”

      4. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #11:
        Consuming the “Meal” is necessary for completing the liturgical sacrifice what Mannion describes as needing to be more clearly evident, “proclamation of the Word of God, a sacrificial oblation re-presenting “in mystery” the redemptive work of Christ, and a community meal renewing the covenant—the pledge of eternal life and love—between the Father and His chosen sons [daughters].”

        The signs can’t be communicated very effectively with the distribution of small disks of unleavened presanctified hosts from a golden ciborium removed from the golden tabernacle ,and without being accompanied by drinking from the cup.

      5. @Dunstan Harding – comment #23:
        Dunstan, I do believe the sign and symbol of the Ordinary Form of the Mass in terms of the Communion Rite conveys better what is being done visually and theologically than the EF’s customs especially the expectation that the laity receive the Holy Eucharist consecrated at the Mass they are participants.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #4:
      I think this has certainly been obfuscated more in the revised rite than in the Tridentine Rite and confusion exists between the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharistic Prayer as encompassing the Paschal Mystery and the Eucharistic prayer itself as becoming so horizontal that it is perceived as the “community meal or at least signifying it” rather than the actual sign of the Communion Rite itself being the “a community meal renewing the covenant—the pledge of eternal life and love—between the Father and His chosen sons.” In other words our current liturgy through the signs employed blurs the Sacrificial component with the Meal component thus diminishing the sacrificial aspect will elevating the meal aspect too much.
      ———————————————–
      Fr. McDonald, I think the liturgy of St. James and the Coptic anaphora of St. Basil more fully achieve the balance between the communal banquet, sacrifice, and wrapping them in the narrative of Christ’s redeeming acts.

      Eucharistic Prayer IV was an attempt to address that. Perhaps, Father Vagaggini’s original draft for EPIV, had it been adopted, might very well have achieved that. A truly great missed opportunity to bring about what you’re referring to. Clearly, the Roman canon is deficient in this regard.

  5. I seem to recall Peter Fink putting it succinctly. Taking the scholastic definition of a sacrament as a sign which effects what it signifies, he suggested that the issue today is not so much whether it really effects what it signifies (that’s a given), but whether it really signifies what it effects.

  6. Fritz:

    I think you’ve got it right that in the end it is a judgement call and that is where the difficulty lies.

    The signs of the liturgy do not signify solely as “individuals,” so to speak. They are part of a broader ritual system. Even if the original meaning of a sign (e.g. the celebrant’s washing of his hands after the offertory) is no longer operative, additional layers of meaning may arise because of the sign’s place in the overall rite. Overemphasis on having a clear correspondence between signifier and signified may lead to a more or less constant re-working of those signs in a way that does damage to their role as part of a ritual.

    While he was a strong supporter of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, Aidan Kavanaugh also noted that rituals, by their nature, preserve certain archaic elements in both language and gesture. He also noted that signs can have power even if their meaning is apprehended more affectively than intellectually. Something to bear in mind, I think.

  7. Ifound quite interesting Mannion’s recommendations for incorporating the vernacular: “Some parts of the Mass might well be retained—without any threat to intelligibility—in Latin (and Hebrew and Greek), e.g., the familiar greetings and other versicles, and in prayers said silently by the priest. Moreover, the liturgy would be celebrated completely in Latin in monasteries and other religious institutions, in Rome, perhaps in cathedral churches, and at international gatherings.”

    Whether or not these particular prescriptions would have been the best ones, I am of the opinion that Latin in worship has some “sign value” as a sign of unity. Had the church in the post-Conciliar years adopted this balanced approach of retaining Latin in a widespread and practical way, I believe it would have been for the better.

  8. Mannion also notes the cultural diversity of wedding and funeral customs, and regrets that, in his day, the Holy See reserved all liturgical regulation to itself. Perhaps the constricting regulatory environment has been let out subsequently, if only by a single notch, but it seems to me that the cultural adaptations in weddings and funerals is vibrant.

  9. Todd (yep, inadequate, old sacrificial understanding, and catch *apostles as First Bishops*?) and KLS – this may be helpful:

    Start with the lived experience of the people in the pews. When the eucharist was experienced primarily with the Good Friday metaphor, Mass was spoken of as standing at the foot of the cross. Now that the community hears the prayers in their own language, now that the scriptures are read the the gospel call to social justice is more in evidence, now that people receive Holy Communion at Mass, the explanation of what the eucharist is about has been modified accordingly.

    This religious meaning of sacrifice became obscured at the time of the post-reformation and the the meaning of sacrifice was narrowed to mean “the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person.” Today the movement among contemporary theologians is to recover the deeper meaning of sacrifice. For example, Robert Daly (The Origins of the Christian Doctrine of Sacrifice, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978) describes this movement as “an attempt to emphasize the true meaning of sacrifice, that is, the inner, spiritual, or ethical significance of the cult over against the merely material or merely external understanding of it.” (p 7). The essence of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is found in the perfect unity of will and love between Son and Father in the Holy Spirit. In this sense, not only his death, but his entire life was a sacrifice. “Behold, I come to do your will…” The Eucharist is the sacramental sign of this union, as expressed and effected in eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ and thus being united with the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

    This avoids the need to find the external sign of the sacrifice in the 2-fold consecration, or by the separation of the body and blood or by the breaking of the host. Today most theologians place the sign in the sharing of the sacred meal. In eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, we are transformed into his body by the Holy Spirit and received with Christ by the Father.
    The meal is the sign of the sacrifice, the intimate union of Father and Son in the Spirit.

    The Emmaus story reveals the meal “shape” of the Eucharist: Gathering; Story Telling; Meal Sharing; Setting the Table; Saying Grace; Eating and Drinking; Commissioning

    A good theology of Eucharist as sacrifice should:

    – Begin with the self-offering of the Father to creatures in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit
    – Start with biblical and liturgical concepts (Lex orandi) rather than philosophical abstractions.
    – Integrate what we now know about the Eucharistic Prayer: BERAKAH, anamnesis, epiclesis
    – Give due place to the role of the Holy Spirit (and not be only about Christ)
    – Give weight to both parts of the Epiclesis
    – Integrate anamnesis into the issue of repeating or re-presenting Calvary
    – Understand sacrifice in biblical terms (rather in terms of blood, slaughter, immolation, giving something up, etc.)
    – Move beyond bloody-unbloody terminology (which leads nowhere)
    – Integrate the three distinct lessons of the Baltimore Catechism (Holy Eucharist, Sacrifice of the Mass, and Communion) into one synthesis
    – Integrate sacrament, meal, sacrifice and presence
    – Integrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday
    – Integrate a theology of Eucharist, Baptism, and Holy Orders

    How can you tell if the priest-presider is working out of Kilmartin’s theology of sacrifice or our of Thomas Aquinas’ theology of sacrifice? You can tell that the priest has Kilmartin’s theology of sacrifice if he:

    – Prays with and in the name of the gathered community
    – Addresses God
    – Proclaims (by word and gesture) the Eucharistic Prayer as one, unified prayer
    – Integrates the readings of the day into the anamnesis
    – Proclaims the narrative of Holy Thursday as part of the anamnesis rather than words of consecration
    – Uses no manual gestures during the BERAKAH except at the great *toast* at the doxology
    – Respects the pronouns and the structure of the text and addresses the Father with the words “Before he was given up to death, / a death he freely accepted, / he took bread and gave you thanks. / He broke the bread, / gave it to his disciples, and said: / Take this, all of you, and eat it: / this is my body which will be given up for you
    – Does not break the bread at the words “He broke the bread”
    – Proclaims the epiclesis for unity as the climax of the prayer
    – Receives the same bread and drinks from the same cup as the non-ordained participants (or does he have a different shaped bread and a nicer cup?)
    – When singing the text uses melodies with reflect the BERAKAH structure of the prayer

    In the context of the structure of the Eucharistic Prayer, the words of consecration are seen in the context of the grateful remembering.  At each Eucharist we remember God’s wonderful and mysterious plan for our salvation which culminated in the incarnation and life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Last Supper with his disciples, his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.

  10. The question of this post is, “Signs that do and do not signify.” The best way to answer this question is to view the Liturgy, EF and OF through the eyes of a non-Catholic going to each of these Masses for the first time.

    I would suggest giving them the criteria they should experience in each and then ask them afterwards which Mass better exemplified the criteria. The three criteria would be “Proclamation of the Word, the Sacrifice, the Meal.”

    In this regard, and armed only with the above criteria, I would submit that the Ordinary Form would show forth in sign and symbol, as well as language, the “proclamation of the Word” and the “Meal” aspects of the Mass better than the EF’s example to the uninitiated and uncatechized.

    I still contend, though, that the Eucharistic Prayer prayed facing the people and in a fashion that makes it look like this prayer is a “re-enactment” of the Last Supper, especially by improvised gestures to the congregation at the consecration, obfuscates the intent of the Eucharistic Prayer precisely through the sign and symbol of facing the people at this point and turning a prayer into a “proclamation” where the object of the prayer is confused, is it to God or to the congregation? What would a first time goer to the Mass think?

    So what Pope Benedict and multitudes of others suggest for the reform of the reform of the Mass hinges on the direction of the prayer during the sacrificial part of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer which employs signs and symbols to make that sacrificial aspect more evident. The Holy Father models these signs and symbols in two options, placing a crucifix dead center on the altar so that both the priest and the laity see it when the priest faces the congregation for this prayer, or what is truly the best sign value for the portion of the Mass with the priest facing the liturgical east or facing in the same direction as the majority of the laity.

    Of course, catechesis is extremely important so that all who attend the Mass understand its structure and the meaning of its constitutive elements of signs and symbols.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #17:

      What is the sign value of facing “liturgical east” to a first time attendee? Of turning one’s back to the majority of the laity? Of saying prayers while facing a wall? And why would a first time attendee be a good judge? Wouldn’t he just repeat the catechesis given him before he came?

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #19:

        Thanks for clearing that up.

        I am seriously interested in the other questions. Facing east sounds pagan to me, even as described by Ratzinger. Facing the congregation seems like a better sign of facing God given the presence of God described in SC.

  11. “I still contend, though, that the Eucharistic Prayer prayed facing the people and in a fashion that makes it look like this prayer is a “re-enactment” of the Last Supper …”

    I think this illustrates, at best, a misunderstanding as to how to discern. When we are presented with two possibilities, we do not emphasize the positives of one (facing the wall) versus the negatives of the other (facing Christ at the center). That is not discernment, or even a logical theological process. That is persuasion at best: the decision has been made; now what is the most effective way to implement.

  12. Jim McKay : @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #17: What is the sign value of facing “liturgical east” to a first time attendee? Of turning one’s back to the majority of the laity? Of saying prayers while facing a wall? And why would a first time attendee be a good judge? Wouldn’t he just repeat the catechesis given him before he came?

    I’ve attended the EF with non-Catholics and they tend to interpret liturgical east as the priest “being one with the people.” “Turning his back” is not the natural interpretation of liturgical east, IMO.

  13. Bill

    You packed a lot of good things into that; I might massage it in parts, in a few instances possibly significantly, but overall it’s very sound and manifests a much richer sense of the tradition. Btw, I especially value your bringing Emmaus into this. I am often left cold by Baroque and Rococo art (I know that the intention is the opposite, but overstatement tends to invite that reaction from me), but here’s one of the most interesting pieces of tabernacle art from that period, in Neuzelle Abbey in Bavaria (and, I should note, I would prefer that this remained in use as a tabernacle, given the artistry and synthesis of art, theology and reality involved):

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_71ZPiLxOVfU/ShU8yg2zy_I/AAAAAAAADIk/5j3Okd0o6Bo/s1600/P1020309.JPG

  14. KLS – use Emmaus as a sign of description and explanation. As referenced, sacramental theologians have moved past the meal v sacrifice. The Eucharist as sacrament is a meal, period. They don’t compartmentize *meal* – like Emmaus or a Thanksgiving Family event, meal signifies the complete event – not just eating/drinking. That event includes family stories, memories, etc. that goes well beyond just the physical eating/drinking.

    The sacrament as signified in a meal is the sacrifice.

  15. Liturgy and Life

    @Bill deHaas – comment #16:

    The essence of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is found in the perfect unity of will and love between Son and Father in the Holy Spirit. In this sense, not only his death, but his entire life was a sacrifice. “Behold, I come to do your will…” The Eucharist is the sacramental sign of this union, as expressed and effected in eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ and thus being united with the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

    On Tuesday evening I celebrated the Feast of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist with the local Orthodox Community.

    The priest made the point that all of the life of John the Baptist was a witnessing to the Lord, from the moment when he leapt for joy in his mother’s womb, and that we are all called to the life of martyrdom, to be a witness to the Lord daily in our own lives.

    If we constrict the sacrifice of Jesus to his death, or John the Baptist’s witness to his death we have a greatly impoverished religion. We are left with a religion that people might be able to admire from the distance of history but have little motivation to practice in their daily lives

    Then Liturgy becomes a ritual unrelated to life, and lapses into superstition with excessive concern about rubrics, controversies and competition about how to observe the hour on Sunday, a neglect of prayer (love of God) during the week (e.g. the Divine Office) and love of neighbor (both in the parish community and the broader civic community).

    The research says that the people are in rather good shape in their lives.

    Vibrant Parish Life Study showed they value liturgy in first place (love of God) and parish community in second place (love of neighbor) but see mediocre practices in both.

    American Grace showed that a combination of both church attendance and religious networks (family, close friends, small groups) produces greater health, happiness, and giving of time, talent, and treasure to both religious and civic groups.

  16. Liturgy, the Vernacular, Signs, and Life

    In regard to the article itself, I agree with Mannion that the vernacular was the immediate central problem that needed to be solved.

    Among all these changes, however, the central problem remains that of language. If it is a valid principle that changes are intended to make the forms of the liturgy conform more appropriately to their inner nature and purpose and to make them more meaningful to the people, then we cannot lightly dismiss the increasing desire for more vernacular in the rites of our public worship. Since the liturgy is a sacred sign—an external, intelligible signification of an interior, invisible reality—and since words are essential in the sacramental rites, the use of an unknown language obstructs the purpose of liturgy considered as a sign, a means of communication.

    Signs and symbols are ambivalent in their meaning. The cross which is sign of love and freedom for many is also the sign of hatred and oppression for many.

    For myself, the sung Eucharist Prayer at my favorite parish combined with the people standing and singing the responses is the high point of my week of praise. They both remind me that Christ has risen, and that in baptism we have arisen with him. In my local Orthodox parish the sung Liturgies and the standing during prayer also symbolize our risen life and sacrifice of praise in union with Christ.

    The lack of a sung Eucharist Prayer, and sung Divine Office in most of our Catholic parishes, makes me wonder if liturgy as a sacrifice of praise throughout our lives is really appreciated. Kneeling during the Eucharist Prayer makes me wonder if the resurrection as something more than a happy ending is well understood.

    What is needed in our parishes is well described by @Bill deHaas – comment #16: i.e. it starts with the lived experienced of the people, and develops both a theology and a practice that is more Scriptural and Liturgical than theologically speculative.

  17. Postscript

    FB has my thanks for this in several ways “timely” post. I had wondered where all the commenters had gone; then I noticed that all the posters had disappeared too.

    However, we are all busy. I am in the midst of canning season. So I did not bother to read the Mannion article. I just assumed the discussion would follow FB’s spin about “sign” which it did to some degree. Since I was not interested in that discussion I simply waited to see if any thing else would develop.

    Since I think many readers like myself probably did not read the Mannion article, it might have opened the article to more reading and the post to more comments if several other themes had been identified beyond the “sign” issue, e.g. the vernacular, the reform of the lectionary, the prayers at the foot of the altar, the “offertory”, the Last Gospel, etc.

    Mannion’s careful advancing of the case of the vernacular in light of Veteram Sapientia is particularly interesting.@Bill deHaas – comment #2: picked up this aspect and gave us a wonderful comment to help understand what was going on in terms of opposition to the Liturgical Movement.

    Since most of Mannion’s ideas succeeded it is all too easy to think the outcome was predictable. While the Liturgy Constitution was placed first because there was a track record of liturgical reform, the issue of the vernacular was understood to be controversial.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #31:
      Thanks, Jack. If anything, fifty years later it appears that we face the same degree of controversy, fear, and turning the clock back. SC was not guaranteed and the *powerbrokers* in the curia and their backers tried to abort the process before it was even born. The leaders from the infuential and theologically/scripturally developed conferences of bishops led both the education, meditation, and development of SC supported by those bishops from *mission* lands – read almost any individual records and you gain a respect for just how complex and difficult was the reform.

      As was said above to KLS – from the scripture story – you can not pur New or Old wine into *OLD WINESKINS*. Along with today’s gospel reading, concerned about the ROTR; debates around accidents such as foot of the altar, last gospel, etc. What I posted clearly indicates that the reform was based upon a more developed, scripturally based, and theologically developed concepts – you can’t go back and take reformed elements and stick them on the eucharistic foundation – it makes no sense liturgically, theologically, or sacramentally, You only confuse folks and live in the world that appears to be condemned by Jesus’ words today.

      1. Bill deHaas writes in comment #32: you can’t go back and take reformed elements and stick them on the eucharistic foundation – it makes no sense liturgically, theologically, or sacramentally, You only confuse folks and live in the world that appears to be condemned by Jesus’ words today.

        I am always weary of characterizing the postconciliar liturgical movement as a completely new set of wineskins. I would not say that postconciliar liturgical theology and ideology (the “new wineskins”) is necessarily incompatible with any vintage of worship practice.

        When you say “you can’t go back and take reformed elements and stick them on the eucharistic foundation” (did you intend to write unreformed instead?) do you mean to say that postconciliar liturgical theory has inaugurated a substantially new eucharistic theology which is basally incompatible with Tridentine and earlier recensions of western liturgy? Certain older liturgical practices, such as the judica me and the last Gospel are indirectly related to this theology. However, the medieval-Tridentine offertory is intricately intertwined with orthodox eucharistic theology. What has changed in the peri- and postconciliar eucharistic theology that would invalidate the reintroduction of the “old offertory” as an option in the post-1970 missal? One might say (e.g. per John Baldovin) that the old offertory, with its emphasis on priestly devotional prayers, is not in keeping with the postconciliar renewal of the teaching that the offertory is an action of both presider and assembly. Yet, it would be difficult to deny that the old offertory is not at some level reflective of orthodox eucharistic liturgy.

        Undoubtedly, certain older liturgical practices are not suitable for many assemblies. Appeals to liturgical or theological zeitgeist cannot completely exclude the possible reintroduction of older liturgical practices. Should these older practices retain their liturgical orthodoxy, then theoretically their readmittance to common practice is possible.

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