6/4/08 – Why Release a New General Instruction?

Last week I let you know of some small changes that are approaching in our celebration of Mass.  Before we look at the specific changes more closely, it might by timely to consider why these changes may be occurring.

These small changes that are coming are a result of the Church revising its General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).  This introduction to the Missal gives, as its title suggests, general instructions on how the Mass is celebrated.  The entire Missal has been revised in Latin, and the General Instruction is the first part to be translated into English and implemented at the request of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; the committee with responsibility for the guidelines and texts of the Church’s liturgy, among other things.

The General Instruction has, in many cases, remained unchanged in what it asks of those who celebrate the Mass; the liturgical assembly and its ministers.  It does, however, seek to clarify some matters that have been points of question and dialogue.  In some cases, the bishops of Australia have made specific requests to encourage a commonality across liturgical celebrations across the country, and to ensure that a range of pastoral needs are met.

This all results in a long, slow process that may not produce results that “keep everybody happy”.  The Missal we had before the Second Vatican Council had been the Church’s Missal for four centuries.  In making these revisions, even just half a century after the Council, the Church sincerely hopes that it continually works towards achieving fully the Council’s vision for the Church’s liturgy; that it be the source and summit of Christian life, and that all of us fully, consciously and actively participate in this incomparable expression of faith.  It’s a sometimes winding and bumpy journey that we’re asked to travel.  There’s likely to be change well into the future as we try and reach the destination.  We pray that we’re blessed with patience and perseverance as we ensure that the glory, honour and praise we give God is all it can, and should be.

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