Looking Back in Order to Move Forward

Sunday marks the 200th anniversary since the arrival of Frs John Therry and Philip Connolly as the first official Catholic priests in Australia.  Prior to that, some priests (mostly sent as convicts) were allowed at different times to minister to Catholics in New South Wales.  Their tenures, however, never lasted long.

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Sunday of the Word of God

While it is Australia Day here in this part of the world, universally today the Church celebrates its first ever Sunday of the Word of God.

Last September, Pope Francis decreed that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” (Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis, no. 3).  It fulfils a proposal that he made at the end of the Holy Year of Mercy.

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14/10/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Noble Simplicity and Scripture

On Thursday, the Church marked the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of Vatican II.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

After addressing general principles that were to underpin the constitution’s understanding of the liturgy, it began to articulate some general norms that were to be observed when implementing the liturgical reforms the constitution would subsequently propose.

The first was that the liturgical rites were to be marked by a “noble simplicity”, that they be clear and generally comprehensible.  It should not, for example, be necessary for there to regularly be lengthy explanations needed during a liturgical celebration for people to understand that is taking place.

Gospel According to MarkAnother general principle was that of the importance of sacred scripture in liturgical celebrations.  Sacrosanctum Concilium called for an increased use of a wider range of scripture texts.  It emphasised the importance of good preaching, helping people to come to a better understanding of the scriptures and the liturgical rites.  Finally, the constitution also encouraged an more frequent use of what it called “Bible services”, especially on more important occasions during the liturgical year, and in places and on occasions when a priest is not available.

5/2/12 – The Ambo

The Church is nourished spiritually at the table of God’s word and at the table of the eucharist: from the one it grows in wisdom and from the other in holiness. In the word of God the divine covenant is announced; in the eucharist the new and everlasting covenant is renewed. The spoken word of God brings to mind the history of salvation; the eucharist embodies it in the sacramental signs of the liturgy.

(Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, article 10)

The amboRecently we looked at the increased use of scripture in liturgical celebrations since the Second Vatican Council.  The ambo, then, as the place where the scriptures are proclaimed, needs to be a permanent, prominent place suitable for its liturgical function.  Its use is reserved to the proclamation of the readings, the responsorial psalm and the Easter proclmation.  It may also be used for the homily and the prayer of the faithful.

There must be a place in the church that is somewhat elevated, fixed, and of a suitable design and nobility. It should reflect the dignity of God’s word and be a clear reminder to the people that in the Mass the table of God’s word and of Christ’s body is placed before them. The place for the readings must also truly help the people’s listening and attention during the liturgy of the word. Great pains must therefore be taken, in keeping with the design of each church, over the harmonious and close relationship of the lectern with the altar.

(Introduction, article 32)

22/1/12 – The Year of Mark

Gospel according to MarkDuring much of Ordinary Time this year, we will listen to readings from the gospel according to Mark.  For Sundays we have three years worth of readings.  Year A is comprised mostly of Matthew; Year B, Mark; and Year C; Luke.  Parts of John are proclaimed during the Easter Season, and on other feast days and occasions across the three-year cycle.

It has not always been this way, however.  For a long time the same readings were proclaimed every year.  In the first half of the 20th century, biblical scholarship began to develop once again in the Church.  This was reflected in the proceedings at the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this October.  The Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy spoke of the importance of scripture in liturgical celebrations, and called for the larger, more extensive collection of readings we use today.

Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony… In sacred celebrations there is to be more reading from holy scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable.  (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 24, 35)