From the National Office
by Bishop Kevin Manning
Bishop Kevin Manning, Bishop of Parramatta .
FOR some time now Catholics in Australia have been hearing about the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The General Instruction is a preamble to the new Roman Missal, which is the book of prayers that is used by the priest at Mass.
Hopefully, the English translation of the General Instruction will be finalised by early next year when you will be able to read it for yourselves. When we receive the English translation of the General Instruction and the new Missal, there will be a catechesis throughout the country to acquaint Catholics with the changes.
The General Instruction is important because it not only contains the theological and spiritual rationale for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice but also gives concrete directions for our participation in the Holy Sacrifice.
You have probably already heard about some of the changes that will occur and are asking questions. Do we sit, kneel, or stand during the Mass? Are the prayers and responses going to change? Does the new General Instruction establish any new requirements having to do with the furnishing or objects used for Mass?
There will be changes, but there will be no changes until the Instruction is formally promulgated and the Bishops of Australia decide on the date for the implementation of the General Instruction throughout Australia .
The Bishops have already planned that whatever the changes they will be accompanied by a helpful catechesis beforehand throughout Australia . Such well-founded catechetical explanations will help to further the goal of "a full, conscious and active participation" on the part of the faithful envisioned by the Second Vatican Council.
Why the changes?
The General Instruction is not only a part of the ongoing work of renewal, which is faithful to the directions of the Second Vatican Council, but also has been made necessary because of other changes that have taken place since the last such revision back in 1975.
In 1983 a new code of Canon Law was published that established some legislative directives, mostly having to do with Sacramental celebrations. Other clarifications in the way the Mass is to be celebrated have occurred when doubts or liturgical and theological questions have been raised with the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments over the past 25 years or more.
Various decisions and other directives issued by other Vatican Congregations have been incorporated into the new General Instruction. There has also taken place within the new Roman Missal some restructuring of Mass prayers for various needs and occasions, and the addition of some new sets of Mass prayers.
Other additions to the General Instruction will include theological introductions concerning different participants of the Mass, bishop, priest, deacon, and lay ministers and their roles.
It will also present some ritual changes or slight refinements in the gestures, postures and words used at Mass. There will also be a reflection on the meaning and proper use of sacred things at Mass, eg the Sanctuary furnishings, vestments, sacred vessels and art used in the liturgy.
The new General Instruction will be complemented with certain adaptations for the Dioceses of Australia. These adaptations have been discussed by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference and approval for them is being sought from Rome .
These adaptations, which the Instruction leaves to the decision of the Australian Bishops, will become binding norms for worship. The General Instruction's consistent use throughout the world is an expression of unity in the "one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church ".
Study of the General Instruction
The approved text of the translation of the new General Instruction, when available, deserves to be studied, and studied in its full theological context. In subsequent issues of Catholic Outloo k I hope to explain further its content.
Future articles will focus on specific changes and their correct implementation. What needs to dominate specific changes is the reality that the Church has the authority to do this, and exercises this authority, not to capriciously control the flock, but to provide the People of God with an authentic celebration of the Mass in the light of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
The changes that will take place have been precipitated by the need for a greater clarity between the ministry of the priest and the role of the people.
The changes also stem from the desire of the Church, and those charged with taking care of our liturgical life, to provide the People of God with the greatest wealth of the Church's prayers and practices.
Thus, certain prayers will be restored for celebrations, while certain practises, customs, gestures and the like will be refined in order to make of our sacrifice a truly worthy and fitting sacrifice of praise to God, our Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, by the working of the Holy Spirit.