Yesterday I received the directives from the Archdiocese of Baltimore regarding the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal. As I expected, Archbishop O’Brien encouraged us:
to see what is good in the new Missal, to be open to surprises, and to see in the implementation process for the new Missal more than just a time to learn new words, but a time to embrace a serious catechesis on the liturgy.
But we were also encouraged:
to take the opportunity given us by the new Missal to do a liturgical “examination of conscience” and to let go of those bad habits that have crept in over time, such as: making up our own words, failing to respect the dialogical nature of the Mass (by taking the people’s parts ourselves or running through our parts as if the people were not even there), omitting or replacing ritual actions, not allowing for silence, and making efficiency the measure of our liturgical life.
I found this encouragement encouraging. Even more encouraging were the specific directives. For example, regarding altar servers we were reminded:
In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, this ministry is open to all baptized Catholics in good standing: girls and women as well as men and boys.
And this from an Archbishop who has as a top priority the encouragement of vocations.
Regarding communion under both species we were instructed:
In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Holy Communion under both kinds is to be considered normative. Parishes that do not currently offer Communion under the species of wine should implement this practice. And those that stopped distributing Communion under the species of wine during the H1N1 Virus epidemic scare should now fully restore it and parishioners once again invited to share in it.
Against those who see communion under both species as some sort of concession to the Protestants, and who used the H1N1 scare as an occasion to eliminate it (along with the congregational exchange of the sign of peace), Archbishop O’Brien makes it clear that it is to be the norm in our diocese. Particularly interesting was this additional directive:
given the large number of individuals with gluten sensitivity, the transfer of even a small amount of bread to the wine could pose a serious health risk for some. Therefore, distribution by intinction ought not be used in the Archdiocese of Baltimore; and it may never be used as the sole method of distribution. Likewise, self-intinction is never allowed.
This was encouraging, given that some have advocated using intinction as a way of eliminating communion in the hand.
Regarding what is undoubtedly the most widespread liturgical abuse (by both traditionalists and progressives), distributing communion at Mass from hosts reserved in the tabernacle, the Archbishop notes:
Thus, the gifts of creation—become symbols of our work and our lives, returned in gratitude—are given back to us, transformed, as we are transformed in this holy exchange of gifts. Routine recourse to the tabernacle negates this powerful and active exchange, and risks reducing the assembly to passive observers.
This shows a fine appreciation for theological principle over ritual convenience.
And finally, in a magnificent display of episcopal good sense, Archbishop O’Brien notes with regard to sacred vessels:
As a general rule, they are to be made of precious metal, and gilded on the inside. . . .Those currently using substantial (thick) glass vessels that are not easily breakable may continue to do so. Such vessels may not be newly acquired by parishes and other communities.
So no one has to smash those crystal chalices they purchased in good faith before the rules got changed on them.
What I find encouraging about this communiqué is that it combines fidelity to liturgical legislation with adherence to theological and liturgical principle as well as a sense of practicality. I don’t think anyone who knows Archbishop O’Brien would ever accuse him of being a liberal. In a time when some of the loudest voices are proclaiming the ideal to be a liturgy that is as much like the pre-conciliar liturgy as possible, I was happy to hear my bishop speaking in a way that shows an appreciation of the liturgical vision enshrined in Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Update: Some have asked for the whole text. It can be found here.