ARGE-SCALE liturgical celebrations are not infrequent in the modern, globalized world. I have been part of several, myself, including during papal Apostolic journeys, World Youth Days, and the World Meeting of Families last September. The quality of such celebrations has varied widely, from the carefully executed liturgies of Pope Benedict XVI’s very successful UK visit to many less worthy celebrations.
Following the 2005 Synod of Bishops, the CDW started work on a document that would provide guidelines for such circumstances. An initial document was published in 2007 in Italian (Le grandi celebrazioni: una riflessione in corso, Notitiae 43, 2007, 535-542). In 2014, the document was revised and expanded, but published only in Italian and Spanish. Now, the USCCB Secretariat of Divine Worship has commissioned an unofficial English translation of the 2014 document, for the benefit of all who contribute to the organization of large liturgical gatherings.
Here are ten points made in the text that are noteworthy:
1. The new English translation is available in the current (March-April 2016) issue of NewsLetter, published by the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship (more information here). Following are a few observations about this overall very good document:
2. One section of the document (paragraph 12) deals directly with sacred music. Notably, it states that, “While attention should be given to different praiseworthy approaches and traditions, Gregorian chant, proper to the Roman Liturgy, retains its constant value.”
3. The same section addresses matters of language, including this praise for the use of the language of the Church: “In a celebration of international character, so as better to express the unity and universality of the Church, a more ample place can be given to the Latin language.”
4. Another section (paragraph 22) deals with the location of the schola, suggesting that the singers be placed outside the sanctuary and facing the altar, so as to help the choir exercise their function more easily and to make “full participation in the Mass easier for everyone.”
5. Surprisingly, this Guide encourages (paragraph 27) that the Eucharistic Prayer, or at least the words of consecration, be sung, “since in addition to highlighting the sacred character of the Prayer, this makes it easier to synchronize the words.”
6. The document (in paragraph 8) encourages organizers of major liturgies to consider whether the liturgy celebrated should be Mass or something else.
“The celebration of the Mass presupposes and requires that those gathered in the Lord’s name are able to feel that they are part of a praying assembly . . . and that the concelebrating priests can manifest their essential connection to the altar. For this reason, it is well on occasion to consider whether it is opportune to have Mass or whether it might not be preferable, given the circumstances, to opt for another type of liturgical celebration or prayer service.”
Other options given include the Divine Office, a celebration of the Word of God, a solemn procession of the Blessed Sacrament, exposition/benediction, or a prayer vigil.
7. Paragraph 26 deals with the offertory. When it is not possible to fit all the elements to be sacrificed on the altar, itself, a strange recommendation is made. In this case, “prior to the presentation of the gifts, some non-concelebrating priests, deacons, or instituted acolytes, carrying a ciborium in their hands, should position themselves near the altar.” This, I believe, is common practice at large papal Masses.
8. There is a laudable encouragement (in paragraph 6) that the Sacrament of Penance be made available in advance (or even during) large-scale Masses.
9. There is a curious directive (in paragraph 25) that “large-scale celebrations are a case in which the chair would seem to be the most suitable place for holding the homily.” I say this is curious only because there is no explanation given for why this is to be preferred more at large-scale celebrations than at other liturgies.
10. A whole paragraph (13) is devoted to the role of silence in large-scale liturgies. This reminds me of the unforgettable experience I had during Eucharistic adoration on Copacabana Beach at WYD 2013, when three million people fell utterly silent.
Many other recommendations are made in this Guide for Large-Scale Celebrations. These ten points are simply those that most caught my attention.
If anything were to be added, I would recommend something along the lines of the remarks Msgr. Guido Marini made to those of us serving the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families last September (see HERE for a summary). These deeply insightful remarks would serve as a great addendum to the very good Guide for Large-Scale Celebrations.