A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Change and Confusion in Liturgy

Fr Merv Duffy sm

by Fr Merv Duffy sm

Many in our church community have not experienced much liturgical change. The dramatic changes after the Council were way back in the 1970s – during that time we had transitional prayerbooks that seemed to go out of date very rapidly. In my parish, the Sign of Peace was introduced in one form then changed, then changed again. That was nowhere near as traumatic as the change from Latin to English, but it was annoying and disconcerting. It was a relief when the aftershocks of the Council finally quietened down into a ‘new normal’.

A French sacramental theologian, Louis-Marie Chauvet, puts it like this: “One of the positive effects of ritual programming [is] to allow the participants to be carried by this programming, that is not to be constrained all the time to carry or support the rite by a participation at the level of consciousness and intelligence.” After hearing much about the Vatican II call to “full active participation” I found this very refreshing and revealing. Yes, Liturgy is to involve us, but that involvement has a strong element of routine and automatic response. In church on Sunday, we should not have to be on our toes; alert for whatever might be coming next. Liturgy is a safe and protected place where we go to lift our minds and hearts to God, supported by our neighbours. We can relax into prayer because we know what is coming next and the appropriate response will trip off our tongue with little conscious thought.NZ-Liturgy

A time of liturgical change upsets these deep rhythms and we have to pay attention to what words we are about to say. If you worship in different places or with a variety of priests this can be exacerbated by the variety of styles and how rapidly the changes have been adopted. Some parishes have been drilled in the new responses and tunes, and speak out confidently, others seem to be hoping that if they do nothing for long enough all the changes will be called off.

Here are my three tips for praying your way through liturgical change:

1. Throw yourself into the changes and let them bring the texts of your responses alive for you. They will never have the same freshness again.

2. Be patient with yourself and with your fellow parishioners. If you, or they, say the wrong thing do not fret about it. It is going to take some time for the new to become automatic.

3. In liturgy unity is more important than correctness. Join in with what everyone else is saying and doing; if you think they are doing it wrong have a word with someone on the liturgy committee –afterwards!

Tagged as: ,

Comments are closed.