16/10/11 – “The people rise and reply”

Recently we have been looking at the postures and gestures that we engage in during Mass.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

A few years ago now, a new edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal was introduced.  When it was implemented, it required us to make two changes to our practice as a liturgical assembly during the Mass.  One of these involved our posture after the priest has prepared the gifts of bread and wine.

After the priest prepares the gifts, he invites the assembly to pray.  Although it seems to be a routine action, this invitation is not without its significance.  The priest invites us to pray.  Our affirmative response makes clear our wish that the priest continue to lead us through the Eucharistic Prayer and the rest of the Mass.

Nowadays, we are required to stand immediately after the priest says “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”    For many people, it seemed to be far more practical to do as we did previously, and stand after we responded to the priest’s invitation.

To stand immediately after the invitation, and then respond, makes our posture more consistent with other times of the Mass.  Standing is generally the posture the Church adopts when it prays.  While we also kneel at times, the Church does not pray sitting down – at least not during its liturgical celebrations.  We stand because we accept the invitation to prayer and now pray together once again as the body of Christ; this time in certain hope that Christ that is present within each of us will make himself present to us once more through the bread and wine that become his body and blood.

9/10/11 – Standing Up (and bowing… and genuflecting) for What You Believe In

Recently we have been looking at the postures and gestures that we engage in during Mass.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

Last week, we looked at some of the gestures and postures that are used during the first part of the Liturgy of the Word, primarily the scripture readings.

After the homily, we stand for the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful.  This is another time during the Mass where we stand as an assembly because we are actively engaged in the role of praying.

Given that we are often told to “stand up for what we believe in”, it seems to make sense that we stand when we profess our faith.  Outside of the Church, standing is a posture used for important occasions related to our beliefs and values, such as the national anthem or a minute’s silence on Anzac Day.  To sit for such things (unless we are unable to stand, of course) is considered inappropriate and disrespectful.  Standing can be interpreted as a sign of commitment, resolve and pride – all feelings that should exist within us when we profess our faith through the creed.

The creed has within it another gesture to acknowledge an important element of our faith.  Again, this is a gesture that has always been included in the missal, but has fallen into disuse.  During the Profession of Faith, when we recall the incarnation and Jesus becoming man, we bow.  Like other times when we bow, this is a sign of reverence, and is included in the rubrics of the missal for both the Niceno-Constantinopolitan and Apostle’s Creeds.  Furthermore, when we celebrate this aspect of our faith at Christmas time, the missal asks us to genuflect instead; thus requiring of us an even more profound sign of reverence on such an important occasion.

Finally, much of what I’ve written in Liturgy Links this year has been related to the introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, which has gradually taken place since January.  This week, our parish finally received its copy of the new edition of the Missal, meaning we can now celebrate the Mass in its entirety according to the new translation.  You will notice differences to the Collect (Opening Prayer), Prayer over the Offerings and Prayer After Communion from now on.  Use of the new translation is mandatory in Australia from All Saints Day.

2/10/11 – Postures, Gestures and the Gospel Proclamation

Recently we have been looking at the postures and gestures that we engage in duringMass.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

While some of the gestures of Mass have fallen into disuse, one that has not been lost is the gesture prior to the proclamation of the gospel.

Once the priest announces the gospel reading, each of us signs ourselves with the cross three times; once each on the forehead, lips and chest as we say (or sing) the response, “Glory to you, O Lord.”  Signing ourselves with the cross these three times serves as a prayer or petition in itself.  Through signing ourselves with the cross we ask that the word of Christ be always in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.  In other words, we pray that all that we say and do in our lives may make the gospel of Jesus something very real for us today.

Posture is also an important part of the Liturgy of the Word.  During the Introductory Rites we stand, united as the Body of Christ that has been gathered and formed to share in the ultimate act of thanksgiving that is the celebration of the Eucharist.  Standing is also the typical posture for any time that the assembly prays during the liturgy, and the Introductory Rites include several different forms of prayer.

For the first and second readings, as well as the responsorial psalm, we sit and listen to the word of God.  The role of the assembly has changed here from praying, to listening to the scripture proclamations.  We stand again for the gospel, but not because we resume the role of praying.  We stand because the gospel is the high pointof the Liturgy of the Word.  God speaks to us through all of the readings, but Christ is particularly made present to us through the proclamation of the gospel.  The introduction to the Lectionary for Mass (book of readings) reminds us that “Christ himself is the centre and fullness of all of Scripture, as he is of the entire liturgy” (article 5).  Our standing for the gospel is a sign and acknowledgement of the particular importance of the gospel both in the celebration of Mass, and in our lives as Christians.

18/9/11 – “And, striking their breast, they say”

Last week, we started to look at the postures and gestures that we engage in during Mass.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

Many of these postures and gestures are outlined in the liturgical books in what are called the rubrics.  The rubrics give the instructions on what is to be done during the liturgical celebration, and are printed in red text.  Some of the rubrics are directions for the priest, while others give directions for the assembly and other ministers to follow.

One such rubric of a gesture is given in the Confiteor (I confess to Almighty God…).  Before we say “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”, the rubrics state “And, striking their breast, they say”.

Some people can remember the celebration of the Mass before the reforms of Vatican II, and remember the priest and people striking their breast three times as they said “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”.  Noting the new translation’s close match to the Latin text, some have made comments like “the chest beating has been brought back.”

In fact, if you look closely at the former English translation of the Confiteor, the striking of the breast was never removed from the Mass – at least not according to the Missal itself.  The former translation reduced the acknowledgement of fault to the single phrase “through my own fault”, at which point the priest and people were to strike their breast once.

As such, it was never envisaged that the gesture of striking the breast during the Confiteor would be stopped.  It did, however, obviously fall into disuse, probably for a variety of reasons.  The revision of the Missal, however, gives us an opportunity to focus again on the liturgical texts, what they call us to say and do, and how they invite us into full, conscious and active participation.

11/9/11 – Postures at Mass

Over the past months, we have looked at what happens during Mass and some of the changes that have occurred to the texts as part of the transition to a new English translation of the Roman Missal.  Full, conscious and active participation in the Mass, however, involves more than words.

The assembly standingPosture and gestures are also an important aspect of our participation in Mass.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explains that:

The gestures and posture of the priest, the deacon, and the ministers, as well as those of the people, ought to contribute to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered. (article 42)

Over the course of time, the Church has adopted and integrated different postures and gestures into its liturgical celebrations.  These are often indicated in the liturgical books, and may on occasion vary according to different circumstances and pastoral needs.

In adopting the new English translation of the missal, we can and should take time to pay attention to these outward actions and their purpose.  Some of them have fallen into disuse in recent times, even though there has always been an expectation they be retained.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

Over the coming weeks we will take a closer look at the postures and gestures we are asked to adopt during the celebration of the Mass.