American Catholic Press
16565 S. State Street, South Holland, Illinois 60473
by Bishop Donald Trautman
The quest for a liturgy both Catholic and contemporary is not easy to satisfy. Witness the tension surrounding the revision of the Sacramentary and Lectionary. We must struggle to avoid one-sided simplistic approaches such as traditionalism with its emphasis on the Latin Mass, clericalism with its non-collaborative ministry, congregationalism with its forced isolation from the broader Church, radical feminism with its blurring of distinctions for sacramental ministry, biblicism and the like. Future direction for the liturgy must be loyal to the faith, which it seeks to express. At the same time, future direction must be relevant to the cultural environment, which it seeks to transform.
Good liturgy flows from life and leads us back to life. To the Lord’s table we bring our faith life, our family life, our personal life, our everyday life with all of its experiences. We do this a that might be transformed and return home strengthened, renewed, more rooted in the Lord.
There is a gap, a chasm of Grand Canyon proportions, between our experience and the language with which we express it, between the reality and our descriptive word. There are parish communities which are communities in name only. There are songs which are recited, acclamations which are muttered, meals at which no one drinks, gifts of the people which they do not give, celebrations which are simply a perfunctory fulfillment of an obligation. Christopher J. Walsh .has put it so well: “Reforms and revisions we have had in plenty, but liturgical renewal will never be achieved until our texts, rites, and affirmations are translated, not into this or that sort of English, but into reality in the lived experience of the people; and they will rarely be experienced as real until the congregations celebrating them are genuine communities of faith, witness, and action.”
As our cultural forms change, our liturgical formulations need continuing review and, at times, reformulation. This is a truth that Catholics in the United States need to hear over and over again. In my opinion and the opinion of many others, the Church in the United States today is experiencing a retreat, a falling back to an era that has passed, tb era that preceded the Second Vatican Council. Are we still committed to a future built upon the vision of Vatican II?
We all experience the complexity of modern life and the dominance of its secular values; some recent approaches to renewal appear to be bankrupt. Perhaps these are the reasons that prompt people to seek simpler times, simpler solutions. There are those who seek a return to liturgical life as it was prior to Vatican II. These people offend the teaching of that very Council, which calls us to a “full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations.” (Constitution on the Liturgy, 14.)
Let us have the courage to tell it the way it is: A pre-Vatican II liturgical theology has no chance of speaking to a post-Vatican II world. The full, conscious and active participation of all the people has been the singular goal and concern in the reform and promotion of the liturgy. Do we accept this teaching of the Council Fathers of Vatican II? If we do, we should not be calling for a return to a liturgy where celebrant alone confected the eucharist, with his back to the people, in a language no one else understood, with mute spectators in pews.
Tradition and Scripture