Sunday, September 19, 2010

Roman Missal Implementation: "Mystical Body, Mystical Voice" Workshop Review

I had the opportunity on Friday to go to the Liturgical Institute at University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, to participate in the free diocesan leaders' preview of "Mystical Body, Mystical Voice" - the training on the new Mass translation which our diocese has chosen for our own leadership. I wanted to experience it so, in my role in our diocesan office and as chair of the Catechetical Formation Committee for Year of the Eucharist, I could speak intelligently about it. I also, frankly, hoped to find positive ways to present it to parish leaders who are not accustomed to "mandatory" training events. I have to say, the overall experience was very good.

Although there was a definite academic flavor to the all-day experience, it was not oppressively so. The presenters, Father Douglas Martis and Cristopher Carstens, took the approach that if the worshiping assembly understood the words we pray, our experience of the Mass would be very much enriched. This was not so much about implementation of new texts as discovering the beauty and sacramental richness which has for centuries been present in the language of the Mass. As such, it was high-quality liturgical catechesis, delivered in-depth, with reverence, humor and a nod toward the practicalities (and admitted difficulties) of implementing the new texts.

The morning was geared toward helping people understand Word - in all its richness. Providing background in Scripture, theology and Tradition, the presenters developed an understanding that the liturgical words we speak "mean" Christ.  They also showed how participation in the Mass is participation in the Liturgy of Heaven. Sacramental words, they said, "are porters, for they carry and make present the reality they symbolize. This reality is the eternal divine dialogue [among the Persons of the Trinity] restored in Christ, and carried on today in the Mystical Body [the Assembly at Mass]"  Fr. Martis talked about the difference between "gathering" and "assembling" a people - the former being more a sense of bringing people into one place physically, the latter meaning putting the parts of the Mystical Body of Christ together.   When we, as the Mystical Body, speak liturgical words, we participate in the conversation among Father, Son and Spirit.

Although this was not mentioned in the workshop, I know of no better way to explain it than to connect it to The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, which defines this participation in the Liturgy of Heaven well in paragraph 3 -

When the Word, proceeding from the Father as the splendor of his glory, came to give us all a share in God's life, "Christ Jesus, High Priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile the hymn of praise that is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven." From then on in Christ's heart the praise of God assumes a human sound in words of adoration, expiation, and intercession, presented to the Father by the Head of the new humanity, the Mediator between God and his people, in the name of all and for the good of all.  

Coming out of a seminary background enriched by a deep understanding of Liturgy of the Hours, the presenters link this understanding of the Liturgy of Heaven to what is going on in the Mass.  This speaks to the need for a "universal" language - and to the accuracy of all vernacular translations around the globe, in all times and all ages. We need as a people not bound by time or space, to speak with one voice the same "words".

The presenters proceeded to work though an understanding of sign, symbol and sacrament. Then, they laid the context for the Third Roman Missal in the history of liturgical renewal from the beginning of the 20th Century to Liturgiam Authenticam, the 2001 document which laid out the principles that resulted in the new translation which we will be implementing beginning November 27, 2011.

The "Workshop Philosophy" from the Mystical Body, Mystical Voice website is a great summary of the backdrop presented in the first part of the workshop:

The Mystical Body, Mystical Voice program sees the implementation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal as a providential opportunity for heeding the call of Vatican II to enrich the liturgical participation of the faithful.

• Mystical Body, Mystical Voice is based on the liturgical principle lex orandi, lex credendi, holding that the Church says what she believes when she prays and means what she says.

• Mystical Body, Mystical Voice recalls that the Sacred Liturgy is safeguarded by the Church and its purpose is the glorification of God and the sanctification of humanity. To that end, the texts of the Mass are seen in light of the Paschal Mystery and the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.

• Mystical Body, Mystical Voice reiterates that the words we say make a difference in worship and in life because language itself is sacramental. The language we use communicates what we believe.

• Mystical Body, Mystical Voice understands that the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam represents an ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

Having laid this groundwork in the morning, the presenters spent the afternoon on specifics about new wording for Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and some tips for Catechesis.  (I see a need for these to be expanded to include some more specific tips for parish leaders.)

Bottom line: this workshop is a very good experience. Yes, it's "heavy" and may stretch people who do not have academic background. That may mean that the presenters will have to vary their approach to assist those for whom thinking about liturgy in these kinds of terms is new. Will it help with the implementation of the new Mass translation?  Yes - by providing parish leaders with a personal understanding and way to talk about the new translation - and by helping them understand that liturgical catechesis is an ongoing imporant priority in all parishes and not just an occasional thing or a one-time process to get people to pray with new words.

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