All readers of this blog are grateful to Father Joncas for his series on re-reading of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [SC].
But do these same readers (especially the ‘lurkers’) think that his questions about §24 were answered? They are found in his initial entry, in his seventh comment, in his twenty-fourth comment, and in his forty-fifth comment. I want to revisit these questions and give my answers.
Initial Entry Note that the influence of sacred Scripture is not limited to its formal proclamation and preaching in the Liturgy of the Word. Art. 24 declares that scripture forms the textual substratum of the major liturgical prayers (preces, such as the Eucharistic Prayer, the Prayer of Ordination, or the Blessing of the Baptismal Water), the minor liturgical prayers (orationes, such as the Collect, the Prayer over the Offerings, or the Post-Communion prayer) and the liturgical songs (carmina, such as the Glory to God or the Lamb of God). It further declares that the liturgical rites as symbolic gestures are drawn from those described in the scriptures. Thus unless Biblical literacy and love for the scriptures is developed among Catholic worshipers, they will be hindered in their full and active participation in the liturgy, the goal to be considered before all else in reforming and promoting the Liturgy, according to art. 14.
Readers of Pray Tell may wish to address (a) how and (b) how well a “warm and living love for sacred Scripture” has marked Catholic life over the last fifty years. They may also wish to revisit earlier discussions challenging (c) how scripture has been distributed for Roman Rite liturgical celebration (e.g., the wisdom of moving from a one-year lectionary cycle in the EF to a two-year/three-year lectionary cycle in the OF for Eucharist; the development of lectionaries for OF celebration of Baptism of Infants, the various Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Ordination vs. the appointed readings for the equivalent sacramental celebrations in the EF). They could also engage a discussion of (d) how orationes and carmina still operating on a one-year cycle in the Missale Romanum might be enriched to reflect the two-year and three-year lectionary cycles in the OF.
Of course Father Joncas will lead us to the implementation-of-§24 paragraphs later in SC:
§35. “That the intimate connection between words and rites may be apparent in the liturgy”: more reading—more varied and suitable—from holy scripture; sermons redefined as homilies; instructions (short directives within the rites themselves, at the more suitable moments); and bible services. [further spelled out in §§51, 52, and 90]
Jack Rakosky anticipates these implementation paragraphs in his excellent comment and correctly reminds us that “SC was written and adopted before Dei Verbum.” Dei Verbum is scarcely reflected in the 33-article introduction to the first edition of the Lectionary (25 May 1969); we had to wait for this omission to be remedied in the 21 January 1981 introduction to the second edition of the Lectionary, now grown to 126 articles! How many know that the first 65 articles are entirely new and of the greatest importance in understanding why there is and must be a Liturgy of the Word in every sacrament and sacramental! See my essay and ”The Liturgy of the Word as Consecratory” in John D. Laurence, S.J., The Sacrament of the Eucharist (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2012) 125–126.
As I travelled the country for two years doing what I could to help liturgical leaders help people pray the new translation of the Roman Missal, I discovered that most had never read the introduction to the Lectionary. This ignorance and the further failure to teach the importance of the Liturgy of the Word in every sacrament and sacramental contributes to the persistence of the misunderstanding about what fulfills the Sunday and Holy Day obligation in the previous discussion (#9, #11, #13, #14, and #15). I’d like to suggest that the standard is that everyone be present in the Sunday assembly for the Collect and stay to the end of the Prayer after Communion. If they are not present for the gospel out of carelessness, they need to read the gospel privately in the silence after communion or at some other time during the same day.
#24 Could we at least agree that the Council Fathers hoped to promote a deeper engagement with the scriptures as part of the liturgical renewal? What I’m still trying to get us to focus on is HOW that deeper engagement has occurred in the OF and the EF over the past fifty years and what we might do to promote it in the future.
Thanks to Felix Just, S.J. (with a little further work by yours truly on the specifics of the 150 psalms and 75 OT and NT canticles), we have the following picture of the difference between the lectionaries for the EF and OF of the Mass:
Returning then to Father Joncas’s questions, I answer from my experience of the Roman Rite churches along the Pacific coast of the US:
(a) how a “warm and living love for sacred Scripture” has marked Catholic life over the last fifty years—Catholics who celebrate Mass on Sundays, Vigils, and Major Feasts are exposed to at least twice as much of the bible as they were before 1970.
(b) how well a “warm and living love for sacred Scripture” has marked Catholic life over the last fifty years—If the psalms/canticles have been sung well, if the readings have been proclaimed well, if the homilies have been preached well, Catholic life has been deeply enriched. But we have yet to realize the goals of “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” of the Pontifical Biblical Commission [PBC], not to mention Verbum Domini from the Synod of Bishops, Oct. 5–26, 2008. About homilies the PBC says:
The explanation of the biblical texts given in the course of the homily cannot enter into great detail. It is, accordingly, fitting to explain the central contribution of texts, that which is most enlightening for faith and most stimulating for the progress of the Christian life, both on the community and individual level. Presenting this central contribution means striving to achieve its actualization and inculturation, in accordance with what has been said above. Good hermeneutical principles are necessary to attain this end. Want of preparation in this area leads to the temptation to avoid plumbing the depths of the biblical readings and to being content simply to moralize or to speak of contemporary issues in a way that fails to shed upon them the light of God’s Word.
(c) how scripture has been distributed for Roman Rite liturgical celebration—the distribution was done thoughtfully and is rich with great gifts for the whole church, especially for those who partake in these liturgies; but is rarely used in the formation of parents, godparents, penitents, confirmandi, ordinandi, and the sick (understandably).
The use of the lectionary for OF celebration of Baptism of Infants is largely stillborn, not only in the formation of the parents and godparents but in the actual celebration. There are still some parishes where there is no liturgy of the word at all (in spite of §17), let alone proclamation from the ambo, psalmody, homily, and sung petitions and litany of the saints. No one seems to know of §14′s recommendation that the infants themselves be carried from the church so that the parents and godparents can pay attention to the liturgy of the word. Does anyone use §§186–215? Additionally the largely biblical carmina listed in §§225–245 of the rite are ignored. Rare is the baptism of infants accompanied by song.
The use of the lectionary for OF celebration of the various Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults is mixed. Great attention is paid to dismissal catechesis, but the fruits of the dismissal are infrequently gathered up to form the basis of catechesis. The most neglected part of the RCIA are the celebrations of the word of God especially for catechumens (§§81–92 and §100). The rite of acceptance into the catechumenate is usually celebrated within Mass so the magnificent readings at §62 are never used. Does anyone notice the list of psalms just before §155/169/176 and note that this is the mini-psalter meant to accompany the period of purification and enlightenment? The presentation of the Creed and of the Lord’s Prayer almost never have their own proper liturgy of the word (§158 and §179). Are the recitation of the Creed and the Ephphetha rite accompanied by their own liturgies of the word (§§189, 194 and 198)? Additionally the largely biblical carmina listed in RCIA §§49, 60, and 595–597 and the antiphons of the Roman Missal: Ritual Masses: I. For the Conferral of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation: 1. For the Election or Enrollment of Names; and 2. For the Celebration of the Scrutinies are ignored.
The use of the lectionary for OF celebration of Confirmation is largely stillborn in the formation of the candidates. In the rite itself the choices are most often made by the bishop’s office or by the formation team, and not by the candidates themselves. The readings are too frequently ‘executed’ in the proclamation by the inept. Additionally the antiphons of the Roman Missal: Ritual Masses: I. For the Conferral of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation: 4. For the Conferral of Confirmation are ignored.
The use of the lectionary for OF celebration of the Rite of Reconciliation of Individual Penitents (Form I) is largely stillborn in both the preparation of the penitent and the celebration of the sacrament with individuals (§17). The riches of scripture are on display in §101–201 and again in §205–206. The penitential services in Appendix II of the rite are some of the glories of the liturgical reform.
The lectionaries for OF pastoral care of the sick, in the celebration of OF Anointing of the Sick, and in the OF Order of Christian Funerals are very rich. They are used unevenly however; and, in the case of the funeral vigil, psalmody has yet to dislodge the rosary, itself a replacement for the psalms.
The use of the lectionary for OF celebration of Matrimony is promising both in the formation of the engaged couple and in the celebration of their wedding. The readings are too frequently ‘executed’ in the proclamation by the inept. The antiphons of the Roman Missal: Ritual Masses: V. For the Celebration of Marriage are ignored.
The use of the lectionary for OF celebration of Ordination is mixed: I don’t detect its use in formation but it is used in the rites themselves; my impression is that the ordinandi don’t know that the Word of God is ordaining them! Certainly the antiphons of the Roman Missal: Ritual Masses: IV. For the Conferral of Holy Orders and the carmina in the rite itself are ignored.
(d) how orationes and carmina still operating on a one-year cycle in the Missale Romanum might be enriched to reflect the two-year and three-year lectionary cycles in the OF—I am prepared to let stand the current orationes of the Roman Missal and only make a change in the texts of the communiones, to bring them into alignment with the liturgy of the word of the day, especially the gospel. The Psallite project does this in its Songs for the Table.
Let the conversation continue, especially by the ‘lurkers.’