Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 11

Having declared that the Liturgy serves as source and summit of the Church’s life in Christ, the Constitution on the Liturgy now turns its attention to the dispositions needed in the faithful (clergy and laity) for the liturgy to function effectively.

Vatican Website Translation:

11. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain [28]. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

Latin Text:

11. Ut haec tamen plena efficacitas habeatur, necessarium est ut fideles cum recti animi dispositionibus ad sacram Liturgiam accedant, mentem suam voci accommodent, et supernae gratiae cooperentur, ne eam in vacuum recipiant(28). Ideo sacris pastoribus advigilandum est ut in actione liturgica non solum observentur leges ad validam et licitam celebrationem, sed ut fideles scienter, actuose et fructuose eandem participent.

Slavishly Literal Translation:

Nonetheless so that this [liturgy] might have full effectiveness, it is necessary that the faithful should approach to the sacred Liturgy with dispositions of the right spirit, that they should attune their mind[s] to their voice, and that they should cooperate with heavenly grace, lest they should receive it in vain [cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1]. Therefore there is to be vigilance among holy pastors that in liturgical action not only are laws for valid and licit celebration to be observed, but that the faithful should participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully in it [i.e., the liturgical celebration].


Article 11 continues the Constitution’s discussion of the importance of the liturgy in the life of the Church. Grounded in the teaching of Mediator Dei ##28-48, 174-176, this article excludes any sense of magical operation in the rites by stressing the intimate union between external participation in liturgical celebrations and the interior piety of each participant. Anticipating the teaching in article 41, the article emphasizes that the faithful should engage the liturgy “knowingly” (scienter), “in a lively manner” (actuose), and “fruitfully” (fructuose).

I suspect that there might be some interesting discussion among the readers of Pray Tell about the intent of this article, how it has been implemented over the last fifty years, and what concerns we might have about its present implementation. The banner-cry “say the black, do the red” would seem to be an inadequate agenda for liturgical restoration/reform/renewal according to this article, which calls for something more than the observance of the laws of valid and licit liturgical celebration from those charged with liturgical leadership. Perhaps we could have a challenging discussion of what we think the Council Fathers meant by “knowing,” “lively,” and “fruitful” liturgical participation; what we mean when we use the terms (and how we might assess whether or not such participation is taking place); and strategies to assist (or at least not impede) the Holy Spirit in fostering such liturgical participation.


  1. Jesus calls us beyond the 10 commandments too, but he doesn’t do away with them, these are the foundation of his teaching, starting with the “least” one can do (minimal) and going toward the maximum which few of us can actually accomplish for that would be perfection. The same is true of the liturgy. Those my age and older remember the day when catechists were saying the 10 commandments were passe and that all we needed to do was love God and neighbor and observe the Beatitudes. It sounds like some are still stuck in that mode as it regards the liturgy. The “say the black and do the red” is the basis or foundation and then one moves to truly “knowing, lively and fruitful” liturgical participation which could be accomplished through silence as well as visual and audible actions. Yes, Vatican II, as Jesus, calls for something more than the observance of the laws of valid and licit liturgy or Christian life, but neither do away with the observance of laws however these remain the starting point. I am sure the Council fathers more than likely understood that these enunciated principles could well be fulfilled even in the Liturgy that was celebrated by them at Vatican II.

  2. “….the observance of laws however these remain the starting point.” Really?
    Per M. Joncas – “The banner-cry “say the black, do the red” would seem to be an inadequate agenda for liturgical restoration/reform/renewal according to this article, which calls for something more than the observance of the laws of valid and licit liturgical celebration from those charged with liturgical leadership.”
    Would suggest this *starting point*;

    The following is a brief summary of the thesis of Richstatter’s doctoral work, Liturgical Law Today: New Style, New Spirit 1978:

    “In order that the liturgy may possess its full effectiveness, … pastors must realize that when the liturgy is celebrated something more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and lawful celebration” (CSL 11).

    What is this “something more”? Obedience to liturgical law in the post-Vatican II period demands attitudes, knowledge, and skill at three levels:

    1. General Liturgical Principles – ”the “goal” statements; the purpose of the law; the “whys”; what the law is for.

    2. Liturgical Norms – the rubrics. (“Liturgy law has always sprung from practice and not from legislation.” P. Gy as reported by P. Laurant.)

    3. Pastoral Sensitivity – ”insight into the concrete pastoral situation of these people at this time and the skill to apply the norms in such a way that the general principle is achieved. “When asked to rank the trait they most value in a pastor, parishioners named sensitivity to the needs of others by a wide margin over holiness, learning, good preaching skills, good organizing skills, or anything else. They want a pastor who understands them, who consults them, who respects them as contributors to the common life of the parish.” David Leege. “The American Catholic Parish of the 1980s

    “To obey liturgical law is to use pastoral sensitivity to assure that the norms achieve the General Principles”

    Example: “One of the interesting things (IMO) about liturgical law is that liturgical law (usually) does not initiate a new liturgical practice but rather confirms and/or universalizes an existing practice. E.g. the rediscovery of the meal aspect of the Eucharist, and the movement to use food and drink, led to the realization that a piece of bread is usually received (by adults) in the hand, not in the mouth. The wide spread practice of communion in the hand in Belgium, France, and Germany led their bishops to ask Rome to change the law to legitimize this practice. But the practice came before the law. This is how liturgical law usually came about.”

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #2:
      Quoting something from 1978 is extremely suspect and your typical meme and unfortunately quite predictable, sorry, it doesn’t cut the mustard as law is the foundation of most things including liturgy, but more is expected than just the law but never to the elimination of the law.

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #3:

        I’m afraid that this is wishful thinking, Allan. Practice has always superseded edict, and edict has always had to catch up with practice.

        The impact of this paragraph was immense, and people have spent a lot of energy in trying to undo what the Council Fathers clearly willed. They are blowing in the wind.

        As I said in a commentary on this paragraph earlier this year:

        Something more is required than mere observance of laws and rubrics? This was earth-shattering for a Church that had never previously felt itself able to exist without legal circumscriptions. Such a willingness, indeed a permission, to go beyond rules and regulations was a hugely liberating force. Without it, not only would such pastoral rubrics as “in these or similar words” and “where pastoral reasons suggest” have never seen the light of day, but, more importantly, subsequent Council documents could not have progressed in the direction that they did, broadening the horizons of the Church. The then-prevailing practice, which resembled liturgical robots performing an antique, complicated ritual without emotion and without true human engagement, would henceforth be consigned to history, except in the minds of those for whom such supporting structures were something without which their lives would collapse. (Those people are still with us, and it is unfortunate that their underlying motivation is a fear of “putting out into the deep” without the protection of those structures. “Say the black, do the red” is their mantra.)

      2. @Paul Inwood – comment #4:
        Paul, as one who uses hyperbole myself, I like your hyperbole too, some truth but a lot of exaggeration and stereotyping! There are extremes on both sides of this spectrum except I’d take the robotic priest devoid of human personality at the liturgy to the entertainer who thinks his personality is the center of it.

      3. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #3:
        I suppose if you understand liturgical law as the slavish adherence to ritual minutiae, or rubrical precision, you would begin with rubrics. Rubrics are only one form of liturgical law, and important ones. However, there are other sources of litrugical law, and as equally important to the unity and ordering of liturgical rites. For example, the Praenotanda of the rites provide a theological and pastoral orientation, and establish much of the canonical discipline for them. They contain doctrinal and catechetical norms. We have rubrics which together with the praenotanda have the same force of law. Another source of liturgical law is the Code of Canon Law. So I guess I would see “law” as more encompassing than simply rubrics. John Huels reminds us that the deepest purpose of litrugical law is that of the liturgy itself: to build up the body of Christ through spirit-filled celebrations of the saving mysteries.

      4. @Mike Burns – comment #12:
        In the first comment I made on the subject above I wrote: ” Yes, Vatican II, as Jesus, calls for something more than the observance of the laws of valid and licit liturgy or Christian life, but neither do away with the observance of laws however these remain the starting point.”

        It seems to me what I have written in no way undermines what you are suggesting.

  3. In the previous paragraphs we had a description of what liturgy is and here we have a comment on how we should approach it and perform it.
    There is no description of what was perceived as deficiencies in liturgical practice and hence of what changes were desirable. We might infer some of this from the proposals but the Pray Tell readers will probably be able to see different meanings.
    I suspect that an analysis of deficiencies in liturgy by the early 1960s would have been hard work but it would provide a foundation for what is to follow.
    I infer from this paragraph that some clergy and faithful seemed to be going through the motions rather than anything better. I suspect that they had in mind the 15 minute Masses that were said and people who had no idea what was going on in Mass and may have been saying the Rosary or going to confession. These may have complied with all the rules but done little more.

  4. “The banner-cry “say the black, do the red” would seem to be an inadequate agenda …”

    Most definitely.

    And since we have yet to address the particulars (rubrics) over the structure, I would wager that the council bishops were far more concerned with the “full effectiveness” of the liturgy. This effectiveness remains largely absent, especially in the places where reform was perfunctory or has been resisted, when compared to where we could be. This is why I find the red-n-black agenda as it is often trumpteed at best a diversion, and at worst a serious obstacle to liturgical reform that truly engages the spiritual life of both clergy and faithful.

    Rather than focus on some magic formula (follow Rome’s rules and as Brian Wilson sang, “Don’t worry, baby; everything will be all right”) we should instead be devoting more energy to formation, and to seeing liturgy well-celebrated as its own formative experience, enriched by the Word, and dependent on the sacramental grace of Christ. Not (necessarily or only) the correct enactment of a human recipe.

  5. M. Joncas – propose an experiment. You have to teach an intro liturgy course to 3rd year graduate theology students. Would you start by picking up the GIRM and having the students read, memorize, and practice *say the black, do the red*? That would be like teaching moral theology via the manualist approachs of the 1950s? or teaching theology by starting with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Might work in elementary school but as folks matured and were more educated, this type of minimal and elementary educational process would fail – as it does today with educated catholics in the pew. You can’t preach down to them; you can’t start with legal prescriptions without being able to explain, address questions, the *why*, etc.

    Just love it – on a series of posts quoting from a 50 year old document and Allan wonders why you would reference a well-established, respected, and acknowledged textbook that is 34 years old (young) – and this is extremely suspect? Suspect how? Does this mean that Vatican II documents are even more *suspect*?

    Or does it not fit your *meme* or, as Fr. Ruff says so well, your favorite hobby horses? Does this mean that only recent publications that fit the *reform of the reform* movement aren’t suspect?

    Doesn’t *cut the mustard because law is the foundations* – actually, even canon law experts as well as liturgical law experts would never claim that rubrics, GIRM, even law is the *foundation* (how Pharisaical).

    The classic shape of liturgical law has two parts: the discursive part and the dispositive part. DISCURSIVE LAW: The discourse, the context, in which the dispositive law is given. DISPOSITIVE LAW: The “therefore” that follows upon the discourse or discursive law.

    The opening paragraphs of SC are *discursive* including paragraph 11. GIRM would follow much later and on a much lower level of law and would be *dispositive*. The dispositive has little meaning if you do not start with and understand the discursive first. (even in SC, the dispositive will not start until chapter two, paragraph 50).
    And you really do need to understand the hierarchy of law – principles, codes, directives, etc.

  6. Inwood: “Practice has always superseded edict, and edict has always had to catch up with practice.”

    So…the new liturgical law of the post-conciliar Missal and its General Instruction merely “caught up with” existing liturgical practice? How utterly bizarre that this old line [law follows practice] comes up in the discussion of a council that prompted major structural revisions to the liturgy. And I suppose when Trent suppressed the sequences and proliferation of saints’ days, that step was necessary merely as a reflection of current liturgical practice?

    Or, is it possible that both edict and practice influence one another?

    And back to the topic – classic example of a false dichotomy, from several posts above. One could also say “to be a loving parent, something more is required than the mere setting out of boundaries, chores, and rules for your children.” It does not logically follow that the loving parent will ignore responsible boundaries and rules for their children. Rather, MORE is expected – love and care for the person, first and foremost.

    Using flawed logic will also lead to trouble when we get to SC #121, on new compositions. There we read that composers will write works “which can be sung not only by large choirs but also by smaller choirs.” Applying a hermeneutic of False Dichotomy, we can triumphantly conclude that works for large choirs are not recommended by the council.

    Reading #11 above and concluding that we don’t need to follow the rubrics is childish – simply not up to the presumed intellectual standards of this blog.

    1. @Jared Ostermann – comment #9:


      Two examples of edict catching up with practice:

      (1) Communion in the hand
      (2) Communion under both kinds

      Both of these were in the fullness of time (actually, rather swiftly) permitted because

      (a) people were already doing it, and
      (b) neither practice had been found to be objectively sinful! — indeed, they had resulted in a deepening of the spirituality of the faithful.

      If only those who are trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube could understand the latter point, our dialogue might begin to get somewhere.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #14:
        Maybe law will catch up with the reform of the reform some of which is being done in the same spirit as the two examples you give! What comes around goes around. Or put another way, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander as the two examples you provide have opened the door to this sort of thing.

      2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #15:
        It’s possible to be doing things in a similar spirit. But for it to be the same thing as Communion practices, it would have to be a lot more widespread than a handful of parishes. Many of us reject reform2 as too often a practical disguise for the hermeneutic of obstruction.

      3. @Todd Flowerday – comment #17:
        Perhaps the Benedictine altar arrangement repioneered by Benedict himself as well as Holy Communion kneeling will be the two modern examples to the decades old ones Paul fondly remembers in terms of practice preceding legislation! 🙂

      4. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #18:
        Six candlesticks like prison bars? I think not.

        It shows the poverty of the reform2 movement in comparison to real liturgicla reform. Communion under both kinds has the potential to affect real change in a believer through the more perfect sign of the Paschal Mystery.

        And six candles? Why not just two or even one of very high quality? Easter Vigil’s hundreds of candles in the assembly: a far richer experience. But it is typical of clerical narcissism being reclaimed and dressed up to imitate reform to suggest that decorating around the priest is anything more than a fad. I place the so-called Benedictine arrangement right up there with canvas-and-felt banners as post-conciliar developments better left forgotten.

      5. @Todd Flowerday – comment #22:
        I agree that six tall candles on the altar looks odd when facing the people, all the more reason for ad orientem. Although six low candles is not as jail like.
        I’m surprised you didn’t suggest banners of high quality, though. And yes Communion under both kinds by intinction should become the law. Receiving Holy Communion under either form is the “perfect” sacramental sign (and all signs are meager as Cardinal Daneel’s states) of the Paschal Mystery. Perfect is the superlative, you can’t have “more perfect” in correct English. I’ve seen and heard far more clericalism and more sinister clericalism at that which comes from the priest’s quirks rather than the rubrics and the liturgy revolving around the priest in the OF over the last 45 years than anyone ever experienced in the EF prior to the Council.

        To Mike Burns, I think it was in the 1990’s that people in many places started to genuflect prior to receiving Holy Communion standing and this then led the USCCB to come up with some other “suitable” reverence prior to receiving Holy Communion which was a “bow” of the head. Of course when one kneels for Holy Communion as many are now doing is many places, that is the act of reverence more in tune with our tradition of showing reverence to the Most Holy Eucharist prior to receiving.

        I believe the same cadre that pushed successfully for Communion in the hand, etc prior to it being law also pushed in the most clerical way possible the removal of kneelers in churches to force the laity stand and never kneel. That was unsuccessful and the law was laid down about 10 or more years ago to make sure people kneeled from after the Sanctus through the Great Amen.

      6. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #23:

        And yes Communion under both kinds by intinction should become the law.

        Anyone with any knowledge of the history of the distribution of Holy Communion could never make such a comment. I suggest that Nathan Mitchell’s magisterial Cult and Controversy would be a good starting point for reading.

        Receiving Holy Communion under either form is the “perfect” sacramental sign (and all signs are meager as Cardinal Daneel’s states) of the Paschal Mystery.

        Same remark. The doctrine of concomitance was invented (not too strong a word) precisely because Communion under both kinds was disappearing at the time. It was about expediency, not perfection.

        Signs may be meagre, but we fallible humans need them. As GIRM puts it (para 281): “Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Kingdom of the Father.”

      7. @Paul Inwood – comment #25:
        Let’s face it, intinction is permitted under para 281 as well as the common chalice and has a long a venerable tradition maintained to this day by the Orthodox and the Eastern Rite of the Church. My parish offers both and at the intinction Masses, far more people are receiving the…”fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds…”

        See for yourself in this video at our first ad orientem Mass for our normal 12:10 PM three Sundays ago where the common chalice is available and how many people actually go to the chalice at the beginning of the procession and how many by-pass the chalice rather quickly as the procession continues. At our intinction Masses far more people are receiving the “fuller sign” even as the procession continues toward the last communicants.

        We have five weekend Masses and only one of those is “ad orientem” our 12:10 PM.

        Also please note the option for people to kneel and those who do and those who don’t and it isn’t any big deal and far from divisive.

        The Holy Communion procession begins around minute 54:29

      8. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #27:
        How did the apostles receive the bread and wine from Jesus at the Last Supper? Communicants receive the Blessed Sacrament they do not administer it to themselves.

      9. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #23:
        Fr. Allan,
        With all due respect, where is it that many are now kneeeling for Holy Communion as you state? You say that kneeling is the act of reverence more in tune with out tradition? Our entire tradition? Are you sure?
        Your point about the practice of people genuflecting prior to genuflecting prior to receiving holy communion is a good example of the role of custom in liturgical law and how the law needs to at times correct custom. Many of our liturgical practices began as customs of the christian community. As the Church became more centralized there was a greater need to codify these customs in liturgical law. However, even after Trent, custom continued to drive the ordering of Church life and liturgical rites. Customs that are contrary to the law can obtain the force of law when they have been observed for 30 continous years(canons 23-26). These can only be changed or abolished by the legislator himself. In the example of the custom of people kneeling being corrected by the USCCB to a bowing of the head we see this process in play.

      10. @Mike Burns – comment #36:
        The custom of the communicant being denied Holy Communion or made to stand has since been corrected by the Holy See and is clearly a legitimate option or exception to the norms established by Bishops’ Conferences. Our instruction in my parish is, “In the USA the norm is to stand, the exception is to kneel both are allowed and it is the communicant’s choice.” We simply show hospitality to those who choose the venerable tradition of kneeling for Holy Communion by graciously providing a kneeler for them to do so, although some choose to kneel and receive in the hand too–perfectly fine by current legislation.

      11. @Todd Flowerday – comment #22:
        Thanks, Todd. Thought his usual hobbyhorses over reach. Communion in the hand – as Paul Inwood recalls, this was part of the ressourcement of the council fathers, a practice of the earlier church; richer sign value, puts into action what other VII documents stressed – People of God, Pilgrims on a journey, use of Emmaus story and actually implementing the actions of breaking, taking, sharing at a meal (do we feed adults by mouth at important coummunal celebrations? or intinction – really, Italians dip their bread but that is an image of self-communicating which is not what we do in eucharist). It also dovetailed with a much more develped sacramental and euchatristic theology (rather than the minimal and narrow pre-VII practice). Thus, it is different because it is based upon a community/church’s theological/eucharistic understanding (much deeper than just rubrics or an appeal to someone’s feelings) and why comparing the decision to return to in the hand is much different than advocating to go back to restricting communion.
        Kneeling for communion – same dynamic but also reinforced by episcopal conferences outside of Europe/US. Many of the Aisan and African cultures/conferences deal with concepts about kneeling that do not convey the same meaning western Europeans have. So, ressourcement because standing has an historical and theological understanding – it conveyed by sign value the deeper developments in eucharistic theology.
        Benedictine Form – how can you even compare this to the VII documents and SC. It is really about accidents (appearances on an altar and personal preferences).
        To go back to M. Joncas’ original question – participation, lively, etc. Would suggest that the council fathers ressourced and reformed these three to achieve those qualities of litrgy – enhanced participation, more lively communcal actions; deeper appreciation of simplicity and focus on the most important parts of the eucharist – actions not objects and actions that underline the dignity of human actions that are, at heart, eucharistic – taking, breaking, eating, sharing.
        And thanks for raising Nathan Mitchell’s work, Cult & Controversy. But, be prepared, Allan may question because it is an *old* reference.

        Jared – you appear to be on this jag about *false dichtomoy* ….you will have to make a better explanation of what you mean? Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean that there is a false dichotomy. Actually agree with your analogy but would explain differently – you need to start with the whole idea of dancing or liturgy and eventually you get down to the actual, specific dance. So, yes, liturgy practicum profs might start with a liturgy but then take it apart step by step so that the principles, liturgical foundations, the writers and intent of the documents or sacramental actions are illustrated. Then, eventually, you would understand why and where the GIRM/rubrics came from but also that they change and develop. They are tools and starting points to achieve what M. Joncas highlights about active, participatory, lively, communal, etc. If that does not happen, then the future presider winds up being on autupilot when ministering – you agree with Allan that you would rather have a minimal, robotic liturgy than achieving what SC proposed and laid out in terms of the responsibliities of presiders/ministers to ingrain, deepen, and taylor the liturgy so that SC paragraph #11 can be accomplished. (IMO, the difference between *settling for* and *dreaming/reaching for full and complete liturgies).
        In fact, an issue no one has raised is that the sacramentary provides many options, etc. – without careful preparation; awareness and knowledge of liturgy and its options; planning so that music, prayers, choices all enhance and dovetail together – just a legalistic say the black, do the red fails to achieve the goals and principles of the reformed liturgy.

  7. It is possible to read the second sentence as if pastors simply had to instruct the people what they should do in order to participate. But the ‘ars celebrandi’ required of the celebrant requires much more.

    One could read the paragraphs on ‘ars celebrandi’ in Sacramentum caritatis (#38 and ff) as if all the priest had to do was to follow the rubrics. I was therefore delighted to find a much more nuanced understanding by Pope Benedict, given at an Italian clergy conference in 2006. You can read it all at but here are a few sentences:

    “We ourselves [priests!] must interiorize the structure, the words of the liturgy, the Word of God. Thus, our celebration truly becomes a celebration “with” the Church: Our hearts are enlarged and we are not doing just anything but are “with” the Church, in conversation with God. It seems to me that people truly feel that we converse with God, with them, and that in this common prayer we attract others, in communion with the children of God we attract others; or if not, we are only doing something superficial.

    “Thus, the fundamental element of the true “ars celebrandi” is this consonance, this harmony between what we say with our lips and what we think with our heart.

    “In other words, the “ars celebrandi” is not intended as an invitation to some sort of theater or show, but to an interiority that makes itself felt and becomes acceptable and evident to the people taking part. Only if they see that this is not an exterior or spectacular “ars” — we are not actors! — but the expression of the journey of our heart that attracts their hearts too, will the liturgy become beautiful, will it become the communion with the Lord of all who are present.

    “It follows that the recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer requires a moment of special attention if it is to be spoken in such a way that it involves others.”

    The faithful will participate more fully by discerning example than by listening to pious exhortations!

  8. Fr Michael does not seem to have received a response to his question. I would offer that “knowingly” requires informed laity with enquiring minds, “lively” would imply following the actions of the celebrant rather than, say, reciting the rosary, and “fruitful” would imply trying to learn from and be inspired by the liturgy. Doing something more might include saying the rosary before Mass: St Bernadette of Lourdes said that she knew nothing more than her rosary but that was everything.
    To do more than merely follow rules in liturgy presumably means a well prepared homily that teaches part of the faith, it may include a good newsletter that provides further teaching. It should include the celebrant, servers and choir taking care over their work to demonstrate that it is important: think how any establishment expecting a visit by a member of the Royal family is smartened up. Perhaps we should take the same care for the presence of God even if it is routine. Surely Pray Tell readers can think of many ways to make liturgy as good as possible in ways that comply with the rubrics: saying the black and doing the red being a necessary but insufficient base on which to build.

    Paul Inwood writes about how changes in practice may lead to changes in rules. This may or may not be a good thing.
    It seems to me that the growing reluctance to permit smoking indoors may lead changes in rules and be good for public health. The simultaneous increase in the speed at which cars are driven may lead to increased speed limits but is less obviously good for road safety.
    Is it likely that the Council Fathers intended the clergy and faithful to vary the directives and guidance that they were about to issue? If this was their intention then there would have been little point in issuing these.

    1. @Peter Haydon – comment #11:
      Peter – excellent points but would suggest that others did respond to M. Joncas’ request but not in either the detail or direction you have provided.

      Would suggest that there are a number of issues raised in these comments:
      – Jared says – “Reading (SC) #11 above and concluding that we don’t need to follow the rubrics is childish – simply not up to the presumed intellectual standards of this blog.” Don’t think anyone here is suggesting what you state so black and white. It is closer to what Peter & Mike have explained. Folks are suggesting that rubrics are not the best starting place; it requires much more than that. *Ars Celebrandi* captures some of what M. Joncas is alluding to in paragraph #11 if you broaden to the community celebrating liturgy and not just presider/ministers; starting with the praenotanda, etc.
      John says well – “The faithful will participate more fully by discerning example than by listening to pious exhortations!”
      – Peter – your final statement about the council fathers’ intention in issuing the guidelines. As Paul Inwood suggests, this process is also one of development. The council fathers overwhelmingly approved SC but left it to Paul VI and Consilium to actually implement and develop the GIRM. Initially, Consilium supported a *gradual* application of the reforms to support Paul’s Sacram Liturgiam and after six drafts, the Congregation of Rites issued the Instruction effective 1st Sunday of Lent, 1965. Rubrics/instructions continued to evolve via Consilium throughout the 1960s i.e.Tres Abhinc Annos & ending w/Liturgicae Instaurationes published Sept. 1970 (Congar’s negative description of this last instruction can be found in his Reform of the Liturgy, chapter 54 (less harsh, more persuasive, more explanatory when issuing admonitions, more openness on certain rubrical points; but Congar acknowledges that this was an effort to end *experimentation*. His points, tho, surface the on-going tensions this instruction created for the future e.g. diminishing the role of episcopal conferences in liturgical decisions; confusion in terms of *adaptations for local cultural reasons*. Congar saw it as a *brake* on reform and return to pre-conciliar methods via Roman determination.
      – valid and licit…..would suggest not confusing M. Joncas’ initial comments with terms such as valid and licit. They are two separate arenas. Thanks for mentioning John Huels, “Liturgy and Law: Liturgical Law in the System of Roman Catholic Canon Law, 2006” (is this recent enough, Allan?). BTW – Huels has a section about Redemptionis Sacramentum and thus a need to reform Canons 29-34.

      He comments about *valid & licit* thusly – “At times, a diocesan official, canonist, or liturgist is asked for advice about whether a sacrament was administered validly after a question or complaint is lodged concerning some serious infraction of liturgical law. This judgment is sometimes necessary also regarding a sacrament conferred in another Christian community, especially regarding the form or intention of baptism. Such issues may be complicated , depending on the nature of the case. Apart from questions concerning the validity of marriage or baptism in other denominations, contemporary authors by and large have manifested little or no interest in these problems whose solutions sometimes may only be found in old manuals of cannon law and theology, mainly written in Latin and long out of print. Moreover, the contents of these of these old works are in some cases unreliable and in need of updating in light of changes in the law and developments in sacramental theology and ecumenism since Vatican II.”

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #19:
        Thank you Bill
        It does seem to me that much of the discussion here has been about how rules are made and how they evolve. Little has been about how we should best make choices within the limits of these rules.
        Presumably the Council, in establishing the Consilium, gave it the authority to issue rules / directives in its name.

        My preference would be for gradual change as you seem to suggest but with a note of caution: if the books we buy get out of date too quickly that will cause resentment.

  9. Paul,

    I did not say that there are no examples of edict catching up with practice. I said that your statement “edict has always had to catch up with practice” is false. And it is. The relationship between law and practice is much more complex than that.

    The concept of law following practice becomes problematic when we consciously ignore an edict, replacing it with a practice of our own invention (presumably in the hope that if we ignore church law long enough, the church will finally give in). We have no right to do this. See for example Mediator Dei, where although the Liturgical Movement in general is spoken of approvingly, overzealous experimental practices are sharply criticized.

    Some seem to take SC 11 as a mandate to do this kind of experimenting – falsely concluding that the phrase “more is required than the mere observation of the laws” requires us to make up our own laws or ignore existing rubrics.

    There is another false dichtomy between “law follows practice” and “practice follows law.” A more nuanced middle would be more accurate and helpful – as in: “practice which is founded on law may grow licitly within the given boundaries of the liturgy.” And remember that the Church does not always follow such developments with edict. Some developments – even formerly legitimate ones – are later rejected. At which point practice follows (or should follow) law.

    1. @Jared Ostermann – comment #16:

      The concept of law following practice becomes problematic when we consciously ignore an edict, replacing it with a practice of our own invention (presumably in the hope that if we ignore church law long enough, the church will finally give in). We have no right to do this. See for example Mediator Dei, where although the Liturgical Movement in general is spoken of approvingly, overzealous experimental practices are sharply criticized.

      The point about the two practices that I instanced was that, far from being overzealous experimental practices, they in fact returned to an earlier and venerable tradition of the Church. Nothing of our own invention there.

      The problem is that our memories are very short in comparison with the life of the Church. We think we don’t like “novelties” without realizing that they are nothing of the sort.

  10. What happened in the EF before the Council was that the priest performed for God, now in the OF the priest performs for the people.

    What I have not observed in either case is much evidence that priests come to the liturgy with proper dispositions, that their minds are attuned to their voices, that they are cooperating with divine grace lest they receive it in vain, and that they are fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and are enriched by its effects What mostly happens are mediocre performances whether for God or the people.

    And of course the laity respond with their own mediocre performances of standing, sitting, kneeling and singing.

    From my observations everyone is pretty much JUST saying the black and doing the red, which in the light of this paragraph is a problem.

  11. One of the strong approaches/attitudes in almost all of the comments above is that they are based on what the French (and other continentals) call the “Anglo-Saxon view of the Law”. Our view of the law is that ‘if it says something it must be obeyed literally’ — the continental view is that ‘yes, in principle, it should be obeyed, but one must take into account the circumstances of the particular occasion’. Liturgical Law as indicated at the Council and afterwards in general is that they are ‘principles of action’ to be applied to the circumstances of the celebration. They are originally and in principle not generally meant to be ‘confining/closeting’ — as certainly the ‘rubricism’ before the reforms of Vatican II was — but rather ‘methods of freeing up the celebration’ to apply the ‘principles’ to the particular circumstances. This different approach requires ‘Anglo-Saxons’ to discover another view of the Law and how to be true to it (and the ‘legislator’s intentions) so ‘applying the principles’ with suppleness and dexterity. [This is also a difficulty for the application of any Church Law by Anglo-Saxons,]

    A more comical insight into this is the saying heard in Curial circles: “We make the laws and the Anglo-Saxons keep them.” [A number of the struggles and misunderstandings over the new translation of the Roman Missal can be chalked up to this difference of attitudes.]

    However, it should also be pointed out that this is not a new problem — one of the causes of the classical forms of the Protestant Reformation is just exactly these two different attitudes to law, And the same ‘stress and strain’ is a large part of the cause of the problems being experienced by the European Union over its existence and that of the Euro,

  12. Fr. Allan J. McDonald : Perfect is the superlative, you can’t have “more perfect” in correct English.

    We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    Those founding fathers — what a bunch of grammatical slouches.

  13. The Biblical resonances of “drinking the cup” are fairly strong, redolent of both salvation and judgment (Psalm 16:5, 116:3; Isaiah 51:17, 51:22: Jeremiah 16:7, 25:17; Ezekiel 23:32-33; Habakkuk 2.16; 2 Esdras 14.39; Mark 10:38-39 and parallels; Luke 22.42; John 18:11; 1 Corinthians 10.21; Revelation 14.10). The only instance of intinction I can this of John 13.26. Yes, Church law allows it. But is it the best practice? I am inclined to think that — to steal a line from Bp. Trautman’s parodic sockpuppet — intinction should be safe, legal and rare.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #31:
      I had never thought about John 13.26 as a indication of intinction, although I am sure it was quite common in the culture of Jesus day to do dipping at a meal just as it is in Italian culture to take a good piece of Italian bread and dip it into a nice Chianti. Yes, that is drinking the wine with your bread. I like to take bread and sop the juices of a steak off my plate which is much nicer than taking the plate in front of everyone and drinking these, although I’m not above doing that privately or licking my plate clean.

      At papal Masses I have seen concelebrating bishops approach the papal altar while Holy communion is distributed to the laity and take the host from the altar and dip/intinct into the Precious Blood from chalices provided. I think in both cases the grace of God is present either literally drinking or figuratively so.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #37:

        The John 13:26 reference was somewhat tongue in cheek.

        Yes, but in the medieval Church this was a subject of lively discussion — see Nathan Mitchell once again. Essentially Christians at that time said “Intinction? What’s that? Oh, dipping. Well, the only person who dipped was Judas Iscariot and we certainly don’t want to be like him!”

        And within less than two centuries intinction — endured under protest from the 9th/10th centuries on — had died out as a normative practice, leaving it on the statute books but never much used in the Western Church — until now! If it had not been for the AIDS scare, it would not be much used even now. As it is, it seems often to be used as a yardstick for personal holiness, which is a million miles away from what Jesus asked us to do when he said “Take and eat, take and drink”.

  14. And perfectior (more perfect) and perfectissimus (most perfect) appear in Cicero, Juvenal, Apuleius and Quntilian. But hey, what did they know?

  15. Since Fr Allan refers to his Southern Orders blog, I think it’s fair to say that I have real sympathy for him given the shrillness of some of his commentators there — e.g. claiming that Fr Allan’s “musical resources are not deployed to their best advantage because he has an aversion to Latin” or that he is a wimp for not suppressing EMHCs altogether or getting rid of the Missa Normativa.

    Hard work.

  16. BdH:
    “Folks are suggesting that rubrics are not the best starting place; it requires much more than that.”

    To my mind this is akin to saying “the steps of the waltz are not a good starting place for dancing the waltz well. Much more is required – graceful execution, attention to movement around the floor, careful avoidance of other couples, shaping of your and your partner’s upper bodies, etc.” The second sentence is perfectly true, but the first is nonsensical. You add all of the intangibles – the ‘art of dancing’ if you will – to the foundation of basic steps. You would not start with upper body shaping, and then add in the basic steps later if you felt like it. At least, not if you wanted to be dancing a waltz well. by creating your own basic steps you would be creating your own dance form.

    The example makes a lot of sense to me, and will hopefully resonate with others – I used to be on a competitive ballroom team in college. A lot of beginners want to sweep elegantly around the floor first thing (just like the movies!), without putting in the work to master the basic steps of each dance.

    Yet again, a false dichotomy – between the given steps of a dance and its elegant, artful execution. In fact, mastery of a dance involves USING the given steps to glide gracefully around the ballroom. Good dancers don’t pick one or the other.

    1. @Jared Ostermann – comment #38:
      Your example of a waltz does not make sense to me. Liturgy is not a waltz. It is an action of God in Christ, his saving life, death and resurrection made present to us in word and sacrament. There are different kinds of rubrics. Some are statements of doctrine, some are norms functioning as pastoral guidelines,some are explanations of options, others are statements of what must be done. The last says “one must” the others say “one may”. I dont’ know anything about dancing a waltz, but I would be certain that you don’t have too many options of how you do it, or that you can do the Gangnam style in place of its steps. You seem to understand rubrics as “one must”. Rubrics are one source of liturgical law. There is also the praenotanda of the litrugical rite which offers the theological , pastoral catechetical, and canonical underpinnings for the celebration. These two sources must be used together.

  17. Mike – I understand that the liturgy is not a waltz. This is called an analogy 🙂

    Just as the basic steps of a waltz are the foundation a dancer builds upon in order to artfully enact the dance, the rubrics are the basic foundation on which the celebrant builds artful celebration of the liturgy.

    Whether or not you agree with it, that is the analogy. Here is another – when teaching kids to play a sport, do we start with the rules/boundaries, or simply tell them to enjoy play with no rules. I believe that even from day one, we would approach basketball and soccer differently with kids – the rules define what the game is. Of course, once the rules are internalized the players can enter into the game more and more as second nature – the skilled basketball player dribbles from point to point, without having to coordinate the proper number of steps per bounce.

    The point of either analogy is that while we need more than JUST rules, we don’t need less.

    BdH – the danger of false dichotomy is a running theme in church history. God OR Man, Faith OR Works, etc. etc.
    In this case, it is setting up a conflict between structure and freedom that does not necessarily exist.

  18. Jared – unfortunately, most questions, issues, etc. are not simply dichotomies. Vatican II and its theology typically resolved tensions by focusing on *both/and*. Both/And is better able to theologically explain that most tensions/questions are *gray* – not black and white and are filled with nuance.

    Liturgy is not a conflict between structure and freedom. This is where your initial analogy limped badly; as others have pointed out. The purpose and intention of SC and the council fathers was to reform what they perceived as hundreds of years of rigid structure that had lost its meaning and original purpose. In its place, they purposed both structure and options and proposed that training/education/experience would allow folks to make choices in ritual to better experience the paschal mystery.
    Appears that many of us agree with part of your analogy but not the *over-emphasis* on say the black do the red. You don’t start with rules when you educate about liturgy…you start with liturgical theology, history, etc. and if you are dealing with the GIRM, you start with the praenotanda. This doesn’t mean that any of us are dismissing the GIRM – just locating it in its proper place and not allowing it to be (in my analogy) the tail wagging the dog.
    Example to my point: GIRM, rubrics constantly change. Ministers/pew sitters need to know the reasons why, the theology behind the change, etc. or it becomes or feels like someone is just re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. Especially, presiders/ministers need to know why liturgy changes; how, where, etc. If you overly focus on rules, then when they change, folks feel lost, let down, confused, etc. Liturgy is about *unity* but that can be impacted if the foundation of liturgy is solely based upon a black/white application of rules.

  19. I think Jared’s example, and explanation, are quite good. Steps are basic to dancing, but music is the heart of it. A preoccupation with steps leads to clumsy dancing, no matter how well practiced. Gliding effortlessly is rooted in the music, though knowing the steps helps. And occasional mistakes are easily dismissed when expression of the music is paramount.

  20. Thanks Jim.

    BdH – you seem to be disagreeing with me by reiterating my points…I am confused.

    False dichotomies paint nuanced realities in stark black or white, and then require us to pick one or the other. You seem to dislike this, as I do. Many of the great heresies are rooted in such choices – for example, choosing Christ’s humanity INSTEAD of his divinity.

    Similarly you say “Liturgy is not a conflict between structure and freedom.” That is the point of my analogies (whether it is sports or dancing). Liturgy is both structure AND freedom – as has become even more clear with the many licit options celebrants now enjoy in the post-conciliar Mass. In other words, you can shape the liturgy a good deal while still STBDTR – if nothing else, by picking which red and black options to observe at a given liturgy. On top of this, there may be legitimate additions that do not conflict with the letter or spirit of the liturgical laws. The Benedictine altar arrangement may be one such example (although some here liken it to ‘prison bars’ – but that is nothing more than a personal opinion).

    The point of all of this is that artful liturgy requires more than just the rubrics – but not less! If anyone here says more than STBDTR is needed, I completely agree. But if you go the next step and say we don’t need the black and red, I disagree. As does the church, which is why she spends so much energy crafting the black and red.

    1. @Jared Ostermann – comment #50:
      Thank you Jared.
      I think that this discussion would have benefitted from more illustrations on what “more” could be done and less on whether to conform to “say the black, do the red”.
      As a general point I would offer the idea: Proper Preparation and Planning Prevents Pxxxpoor Performance. I find the casualness and haphazardness of some services very offputting. The priest, choir, servers and others should know the way that things are to happen so that it goes smoothly.
      In a similar way Joe Benanate (from Boston in the USA) taught me that, at the station in Lourdes, the team should speak only to the malade and avoid the “1, 2, 3” prior to lifting. Not only does it create tension for the malade it means that the team forget to speak with the malade and give that smile so necessary even if it is “more” than the basic lifting role.
      Joe told how, at the D Day landings he hoped to stay in the landing craft. A large Royal Marine “boot in the butt” got him off. He bore no resentment. Sometimes well all need a little encouragement even if not welcome at the time.

  21. Jared – agreed. Allow me to add – *Benedictine altar arrangement – actually, that is also just a personal opinion that many feel violates one of the SC principles of *simplicity* and focus on the altar as sign & symbol.

  22. Anyone for GIRM 21? (following on from GIRM 20 about the importance of choosing and arranging the forms and elements proposed by the Church in order to foster the spiritual welfare of the faithful)

    Hence this Instruction aims both to offer general lines for a suitable ordering of the celebration of the Eucharist and to explain the rules by which individual forms of celebration may be arranged. [My emphases]

    Say the black, do the red? Nah! Use your pastoral common sense. Yay!

      1. @Thomas Dalby – comment #53:

        On the contrary, I think you’ll find that GIRM has been revised several times since that version (2003) was posted on the Vatican website. What is currently printed in the Missal is as I have posted above.

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