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by Bishop Kevin Manning

The New GIRM Part 1

The New GIRM Part 2

The New GIRM Part 3

The New GIRM Part 4

The New GIRM Part 5

The New GIRM Part 6

The New GIRM Part 7


Discussion Starters

Are we preaching enough about sin?




New General Instruction of the Roman Missal: Part 7

By Bishop Kevin Manning.

IN this article on the new General Instruction, I am able to say a few things, first of all, about where the General Instruction stands at present.

The Australian Bishops, when in Rome recently, were told that, even though the US Bishops’ Conference had received an English translation of the GIRM, it was only provisional, and it would later have to be brought into conformity with the final translation by the International Committee for English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

It was suggested to us that the Australian Church wait until the ICEL has completed its definitive translation before we do anything more about it. This brings us back to square one where we await the ICEL translation and then, having made our comments, apply again to the Congregation for recognition. Despite this setback, I will continue my series using the Latin original of the General Instruction.

General structure of the Mass

At Mass, we are called together into one, with the Priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice. For this reason, Christ’s promise is applied to such a local gathering of the Church: “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I in their midst” (Mt. 18:20.)

The reason is that, in the celebration of the Mass, which re-presents the sacrifice of the cross, Christ is really present in the assembly gathered in His name. He is present in the person of the priest, in His word, and, in a special way, substantially, and continuously, under the Eucharistic Species.

As we well know, the Mass is made up of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. These two parts are so closely interconnected that they form but one single act of worship: where God’s People are instructed by His Word and fed with the Body of Christ.

Different elements of the Mass

1. Reading and explaining the Word of God

When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God is speaking to His people and Christ, present in His own Word, is proclaiming the Gospel.

We must all listen with reverence to the reading of God’s Word because it is of the greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although the readings from the Sacred Scripture, i.e. God’s word, addresses all people of every era and are understandable to them, nevertheless a living commentary on the Word, that is, the homily as part of liturgical action, fosters a fuller understanding and effectiveness of the Word, hence the need for proper preparation by the reader and the Priest.

2. The prayers and other parts assigned to the Priest

In the parts assigned to the Priest the Eucharistic Prayer is pre-eminent; it is the high point of the entire celebration. Next are the prayers: collect, prayer over the offerings, and the prayer after Communion. The Priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ addresses these prayers to God in the name of the entire holy people and all present. Thus, there is good reason to call them the Presidential Prayers, despite the objections of some.

The Priest, as part of his presiding office, should offer remarks that are provided for in the Rite itself. Where indicated in the rubrics, he is permitted to adapt these remarks to some extent in order that they correspond to the understanding of those participating.

Nevertheless, he should always take care to preserve the sense of the remarks given in the Missal, and express them succinctly and clearly. In addition, he is permitted to give the faithful a very brief introduction to the Mass of the Day (after the initial greeting and before the act of penitence), to the liturgy of the Word (before the Readings) and to the Eucharistic Prayer (before the preface), though never during the Eucharistic Prayer itself. He may also make comments concluding the entire sacred action before the dismissal; however, these are not times for preaching supplementary homilies!

The nature of the “presidential text” demands that it be spoken in a loud and clear voice, and that everyone listens with attention. Thus, while the Priest is speaking these texts there should be no other prayers or singing; the organ and other musical instruments should not be played.

In fact, the Priest, as the one who presides, prays in the name of the Church and of the community gathered together. At times, however, he prays in his own name that he may exercise his ministry with greater attention and devotion. Such prayers, which occur before the reading of the Gospel, at the preparation of the gifts and also before and after the Communion of the Priest, are said privately.

3. Other formulas in the celebration

Since by its nature, the celebration of the Mass has a “communitarian” character, both the dialogues between the Priest and the faithful gathered together, and the other acclamations take on a special value. In fact, they are not simply outward signs of celebrating in common, but they encourage and achieve the community between Priest and people.

The acclamations and the responses point the faithful to the Priest’s greetings and prayers, create that level of active participation to which the gathered faithful must contribute in every form of the Mass, so that the action of the entire community may be clearly expressed and fostered.

There are other parts very useful for expressing and encouraging the active participation of the faithful, that are assigned to the whole congregation that is called together: especially the act of penitence, the profession of faith, the general intercessions and the Lord’s prayer.

4. Vocal expression of the different texts

In the texts that are to be spoken in a loud and clear voice, whether by the Priest or the Deacon, or by the reader, or by all, the tone of voice should correspond to the genre of the text itself, that is depending upon whether it is a reading, a prayer, a remark, an acclamation, or a sub text; the tone should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the solemnity of the gathering. Other criteria are the idiom of different languages and the cultures of the people.

In the rubrics and in the norms that follow, words such as “say” and “speak” are to be understood of both singing and reciting, and in accordance with the principles just stated.

5. Importance of singing

The Christian faithful who gather together as one to await the Lord’s coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16). Singing is a sign of the heart’s joy (Acts 2:46.) As St Augustine says rightly: “Singing is for lovers.” There is also the ancient proverb: “One who sings well prays twice.”

For this reason, and with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly, great importance should be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass. Although it is not always necessary to sing all the texts that are themselves meant to be sung (e.g. in weekday Masses) every care must be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

In choosing the parts that are to be sung, however, preference must be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the Priest or the Deacon or the reader, with the people responding or with the Priest and people together.

All things being equal, Gregorian chant, which is proper to the Roman liturgy, has pride of place. Other types of sacred music, polyphony, in particular, are in no way excluded; provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they encourage participation by all the faithful.

Since in these times the faithful from different countries come together more frequently it is desirable that the faithful know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the profession of faith and the Lord’s Prayer set to simpler melodies.

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