It will be another thirty weeks before we get to our re-reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium 35. [UPDATED]
But I am teaching an elective, “The RCIA: The Sacraments of Christian Initiation & the Catechumenal Model as Inspiration for Parish Life” and I need help remembering what happened to the implementation of CSL 35, §4;
Bible services should be encouraged, especially on the vigils of the more solemn feasts, on some weekdays in Advent and Lent, and on Sundays and feast days. They are particularly to be commended in places where no priest is available; when this is so, a deacon or some other person authorized by the bishop should preside over the celebration.
I was in the seminary in the sixties and seventies and bible services were ‘in.’ The first two years of the US BCL Newsletter provides documentation and samples (e.g., 17–18), and charts their implementation across the US (56). World Library Publications included 12 such service in their 1966 editions of the People’s Mass Book.
Directory for Masses With Children (November 1, 1973) says:
14. Depending on the capacity of the children, the word of God should have a greater place in these celebrations. In fact, as the children’s spiritual capacity develops, celebrations of the word of God in the strict sense should be held frequently, especially during Advent and Lent. These will help greatly to develop in the children an appreciation of the word of God.
But then what happened? Does anyone remember? Were having bibles services a fad that faded?
I ask because, re-reading the RCIA, I am struck by §79: “Among the rites belonging to the period of the catechumenate, then, celebrations of the word of God are foremost.” Are they foremost, I ask? RCIA §81 elaborates:
During the period of the catechumenate there should be celebrations of the word of God that accord with the liturgical season and that contribute to the instruction of the catechumens and the needs of the community. These celebrations of the word are: first, celebrations held specially for the catechumens; second, participation in the liturgy of the word at the Sunday Mass; third, celebrations held in connection with catechetical instruction.
82. The special celebrations of the word of God arranged for the benefit of the catechumens have as their main purpose:
1. to implant in their hearts the teachings they are receiving: for example, the morality characteristic of the New Testament, the forgiving of injuries and insults, a sense of sin and repentance, the duties Christians must carry out in the world;
2. to give them instruction and experience in the different aspects and ways of prayer;
3. to explain to them the signs, celebrations, and seasons of the liturgy;
4. to prepare them gradually to enter the worship assembly of the entire community.
83. From the very beginning of the period of the catechumenate the catechumens should be taught to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
1. Care should be taken that some of the special celebrations of the word just mentioned (no. 82) are held on Sunday, so that the catechumens will become accustomed to taking an active and practiced part in these celebrations.
2. Gradually the catechumens should be admitted to the first part of the celebration of the Sunday Mass. After the liturgy of the word they should, if possible, be dismissed, but an intention for them is included in the general intercessions (see no. 67 for formularies of dismissal).
84. Celebrations of the word may also be held in connection with catechetical or instructional meetings of the catechumens, so that these will occur in a context of prayer.
Is this going on? Particularly, SPECIAL celebrations of the word of God?
Under the title, “Prayerfully Hearing the Word of God,” the 2001 Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy says:
193. The Council’s call for the “sacred celebrations of the word of God” at significant moments throughout the Liturgical Year (CSL 35, 4), can easily find useful application in devotional exercises made in honour of the Mother of the Word Incarnate. This corresponds perfectly with the orientation of Christian piety and reflects the conviction that it is already a worthy way to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, since it involves acting as she did in relation to the Word of God. She lovingly accepted the Word and treasured it in her heart, meditated on it in her mind and spread it with her lips. She faithfully put it into practise and modelled her life on it.
194. Celebrations of the Word, because of their thematic and structural content, offer many elements of worship which are at the same time genuine expressions of devotion and opportunities for a systematic catechesis on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Experience, however, proves that celebrations of the Word should not assume a predominantly intellectual or didactic character. Through hymns, prayers, and participation of the faithful they should allow for simple and familiar expressions of popular piety which speak directly to the hearts of the faithful.
Most recently, Benedict XVI, in Verbum Domini: On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church (September 30, 2010), says:
I would now like to take up and develop several proposals and suggestions advanced by the Synod Fathers with a view to making the People of God ever more familiar with the word of God in the context of liturgical actions or, in any event, with reference to them.
a) Celebrations of the word of God The Synod Fathers encouraged all pastors to promote times devoted to the celebration of the word in the communities entrusted to their care. These celebrations are privileged occasions for an encounter with the Lord. This practice will certainly benefit the faithful, and should be considered an important element of liturgical formation. Celebrations of this sort are particularly significant as a preparation for the Sunday Eucharist; they are also a way to help the faithful to delve deeply into the riches of the Lectionary, and to pray and meditate on sacred Scripture, especially during the great liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. The Synod Fathers also recommended celebrations of the word of God on pilgrimages, special feasts, popular missions, spiritual retreats and special days of penance, reparation or pardon. The various expressions of popular piety, albeit not liturgical acts and not to be confused with liturgical celebrations, should nonetheless be inspired by the latter and, above all, give due space to the proclamation and hearing of God’s word; “popular piety can find in the word of God an inexhaustible source of inspiration, insuperable models of prayer and fruitful points for reflection”.