N CERTAIN MATTERS, Catholics are free to disagree with statements by a pope so long as they express their disagreement in a respectful manner. Speaking for myself, I don’t agree with everything Pope Paul VI said in the following quotation — specifically his third paragraph. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share them in the combox.
[ The following address was given by Pope Paul VI on 17 March 1965. ]
N AN AUDIENCE such as this our talk must deal with the topic of the moment, namely, the application of the liturgical reform to the celebration of the Mass. What we would really like, except that the public nature of this audience makes it unfeasible, is-as we do in private conversations-to ask your own views on this great change. It certainly merits our consideration. We believe, however, that your reply to our question would be much the same as those we have already heard.
CONFUSION AND ANNOYANCE:
Liturgical reform? The answers can be reduced to two categories. The first type of reply is that which manifests a certain confusion and therefore a certain annoyance. Previously, they say, there was peace, each person could pray as he wished, the whole sequence of the rite was well known; now everything is new, startling, and changed; even the ringing of the bells at the Sanctus is done away with; and then those prayers which one doesn’t know where to find; Holy Communion received standing; Mass ending suddenly with the blessing; everybody answering, many people moving around, rites and readings which are recited aloud … In short, there is no longer any peace and we now know less than we did before; and so on.
We shall not criticize these views because then we would have to show how they reveal a poor understanding of the meaning of religious ceremonial and allow us to glimpse not a true devotion and a true appreciation of the meaning and worth of the Mass, but rather a certain spiritual laziness which is not prepared to make some personal effort of understanding and participation directed to a better understanding and fulfilment of this, the most sacred of religious acts, in which we are invited, or rather obliged, to participate.
AN IRREVERSIBLE DEVELOPMENT:
We shall repeat what pastoral priests and teachers of religion have been saying frequently these days. First~ that in the beginning there will be a certain amount of confusion and some irritation is inevitable. It is of the very nature of a reform of religious practices which are deeply rooted and cherished, a reform both practical and spiritual, that it should cause some upset and be sometimes difficult. Secondly, that explanation and preparation and a certain degree of attentive assistance will speedily remove the uncertainties and soon give rise to an appreciation and enthusiasm for the new order. Because, thirdly, one must not imagine that after a short time we will once again be silent and devotional or lazy, as formerly.
No, the new scheme of things must be different and must prevent or stir up the passivity of those attending Mass. Previously it was enough to be there; now we must participate. Previously our presence was sufficient; now we demand attention and action. Previously one could doze or perhaps even have a chat; but no longer; now one must listen and pray. We hope that very soon both priests and people will be able to obtain the new liturgical books, and that in their new form, whether literary or typographical, these will reflect the dignity of the old books. The congregation will be alive and active—participation means that the activity flows from the soul, whether it be through paying attention, responding, singing, or gesturing.
The harmony of a communal act performed, not merely according to its external form, but under the interior impulse of the sentiment of faith and piety, endows the ceremony with a special power and beauty. It becomes a choir or symphony, the rhythm of an immense wing flying towards the heights of divine mystery and joy.
ENTHUSIASM AND PRAISE:
The second category of comments regarding the first celebrations of the new liturgy which have reached us is rather that of enthusiasm and praise. They say: now at last one can understand and follow the complicated and mysterious ceremonial; at last one can take pleasure in it; at last the priest speaks to the people and one can see that he is acting with them and for them. We have moving evidence from the ordinary people, from children and young people, from critics and onlookers, from holy people earnest in devotion and prayer, from men of wide and serious experience and of real culture. The evidence is positive. An old and most distinguished gentleman, a man of wonderful spirit and of a most refined spirituality, and therefore never fully satisfied, felt obliged to go along to the celebrant after the first celebration of the new liturgy to express to him frankly his happiness at having at last, perhaps for the first time in his life, participated to the full spiritual measure in the holy sacrifice.
TWO SPIRITUAL ACTS:
It may be objected that this type of interest and this type of holy excitement will quiet down and quickly settle into a new and peaceful habit. What is there that man will not grow accustomed to? But it is to be hoped that the religious enthusiasm stirred up by the new form of a worship will not lessen and that with it there will be a consciousness of the obligation to perform simultaneously two spiritual acts: on the one hand a true and personal participation in the ceremony, with all that this implies which is essentially religious; on the other hand, communion with the assembly of the faithful, with the “Church.” The first of these acts tends towards love of God, the second to the love of our neighbor. This is the gospel of love realizing itself in the souls of our time; it is truly something beautiful, new, wonderful, full of life and hope.
But you will have understood, dear sons and daughters, that this liturgical innovation, this spiritual renewal, cannot take place without cooperation, without your free and serious participation. We so desire your cooperation that, as you have seen, we have made it the subject of our talk; and in the confidence that you will indeed give it willingly we promise you many, many blessings from the Lord, of which we assure you with this our apostolic blessing.