Liturgy always a communal act: Lahey

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Prairie Messenger

week of 29 July 2009

In addition to providing an overview of changes coming from a new translation of the Roman Missal, Lahey reflected on the nature and meaning of liturgy.

“We don’t ‘do’ liturgy.” Lahey said at the June gathering of parish and diocesan leaders. “Christ is the one who acts.” It is Christ’s paschal victory that we celebrate. “He is the Word who is proclaimed, he is our priest and our offering.” Our role is to proclaim our “amen” to Christ’s action.

Liturgy is always a communal action, never an individual one. At the same time, it is never passive, Lahey stressed, describing the Vatican II call for “full, conscious and active participation” of all the faithful in the celebration of the eucharist.

“If we are to be members of Christ’s body, we have a duty as baptized people to participate,” he said.

Lahey spoke of the interconnected relationship of the assembly and the priest. “The presence of Christ in the assembly and the presence of Christ in the one who presides must be understood together. It does no service to our understanding to subordinate one to the other. There are different roles, but the two are never separate.”

The Holy Spirit is present in every eucharist as the agent of transformation and communion, Lahey said. “The Holy Spirit comes first to change the gifts and second to change us, so that we become what we eat, as St. Augustine said: we become the body and the blood of the Lord because the Holy Spirit changes us into the body of Christ.”

Lahey said that the Word of God should be read from faith and followed by silence, giving time for reflection. The Psalm, too, should be clearly sung so that the assembly can hear and reflect on the words. The homily should be a well-prepared exposition of the Scriptures of the day, presented in clear and simple language, drawing from life and relating to life.

Intercessory prayers should be true prayers to God, “rather than telling him what to do.” They should relate to the community and the country, addressing real needs, including the needs of those who are overlooked.

Music leaders should “start from the inside out,” Lahey said, stressing liturgical elements such as the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Psalm refrain and the Gospel acclamation, rather than approaching it as choosing four hymns. There is also a clear priority of hymns, with a communion hymn being “a must” and a gathering hymn more important than a hymn for the procession of the gifts or the conclusion of mass.

He also noted the difference between religious songs and liturgical music. Praise and worship music is wonderful for some occasions, but is not necessarily appropriate for a liturgical celebration. Music should be chosen seasonally, with an understanding of the community. “We should build up a repertoire over time so that people get to know a piece. But don’t change everything every week.”

A reverent celebration is one of noble simplicity, Lahey said. “We don’t have to be spectacular, we just have to do what we do well,” said Lahey.
During his visit to Saskatchewan, Lahey also spoke in the dioceses of Prince Albert and Regina. (See related story.)


New translation to emphasize unity

Prairie Messenger

week of 29 July 2009

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

SASKATOON — Parish and diocesan leaders from across the Roman Catholic diocese of Saskatoon recently gathered for a day on liturgy that included an overview of expected changes in a new English translation of the Roman Missal and to the general instructions that will guide its practical application.

Liturgy expert Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, N.S., explained that the upcoming changes to prayers and responses for the mass and to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) are proceeding through a complex process of translation, approvals and revisions.

Implementation of the new translation and the revised GIRM in Canada is still about two years away, said Lahey. Overall, he called it an improvement on earlier versions, but he stressed the need for catechesis and explanation as the changes come into effect.

“The new GIRM has some real strengths,” Lahey said. It is better organized, more consistent and coherent, incorporates clearer theological foundations, contains more explanation and is far more readable. It also eliminates the distinction between male and female lay ministers.

A new chapter on adaptations and enculturation seeks greater unity of practice in the universal church, he noted. At the same time, the GIRM affirms the autonomy of the local bishop in such things as concelebration, altar servers, communion under both kinds, the construction of churches and the placement of the tabernacle.

Each national conference of bishops must submit its own adaptations, said Lahey. Although the bishops of Canada have discussed adaptations, the CCCB has not yet definitively voted on them. The implementation of the GIRM in Canada will be common in English and in French for the first time in history.

Asked for more detail about matters of posture during the eucharistic prayer, Lahey said section 43 of the GIRM describes the norm of having the faithful seated during the offertory, standing at the invitation to prayer over the gifts and throughout the first part of the eucharistic prayer, and then kneeling at the consecration. The assembly would rise again after the words “Do this in memory of me” and remain standing for the memorial acclamation, the conclusion of the eucharistic prayer and throughout communion.

“The idea of kneeling at the consecration is for that sacred moment of calling down the Holy Spirit,” Lahey said.

With regard to posture, Bishop Albert LeGatt said he has asked that there would be no changes to current practice in parishes until the Canadian bishops have decided what will be the practice across the country. “When it has been decided, then it will be clear that all parishes in the diocese will follow the one practice.”

In a final talk about the new translation of the Roman Missal, Lahey noted there will be new translations of the eucharistic prayers, universal use of the Apostles’ Creed, new prayers for Lent, a number of saints added to the calendar, new votive masses, and new dismissals.

The translation of the missal is characterized by a “noble simplicity,” said Lahey. The principles underlying the translation include a desire to have a single English text, a rich yet accessible vocabulary, faithful to the Latin, retaining the language of prayer and echoing the Scriptures and familiar sources. Another principle is to retain inclusive language where possible.

Presiders will face changes, noted Lahey, with all the eucharistic prayers being re-translated. As for the assembly, the changes to the people’s parts will be noticed in a number of responses and prayers. It may complicate things for awhile, Lahey acknowledged, but “by and large, it gives us a wonderful and rich translation of prayers which will lead us forward in the centuries to come.”

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