Msgr. Wadsworth’s Address to the St. Gregory Society

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Making the most of the Missal
Challenges and Opportunities in the implementation of the English Translation of the Third Typical Edition
The 2012 Crichton Lecture by Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth
to the Society of St Gregory
November 10, 2012 – Clifton Cathedral
Your gracious invitation to address you today
reminds me of the story of the survivor of the famous Johnstown Flood
which occurred on May 31, 1889. It was the result of the catastrophic
failure of the South Fork Dam situated 14 miles upstream of Johnstown in
Pennsylvania, made worse by several days of extremely heavy rainfall.
The dam’s failure unleashed a torrent of 20 million tons of water which
killed 2,209 people. It was the first major disaster relief effort
handled by the recently founded American Red Cross and support for
victims came from all over the United States and 18 other countries,
including this one.
As
a major national calamity, it captured the popular imagination and
stories about the flood abounded. In one such story, one of the
survivors of the flood eventually dies and goes to heaven and arriving
at the Pearly Gates is greeted by St Peter and on being admitted into
heaven, is given one wish. Having had a long and interesting life after
the flood and accustomed to speaking at length about his experiences,
the survivor said: ‘What I would really like is to be able to tell
everyone here about my experience in surviving the great Johnstown flood
of 1889!’. Rather weary worn, St Peter reluctantly agreed and all of
the residents of heaven were arrayed to hear the account. As our
intrepid survivor was mounting the podium to begin his address, St Peter
took him to one side and said: ‘I feel I ought to mention before you
speak that Noah is in the audience!’. Well, I feel as though I am
addressing a lot of Noahs this afternoon, those who certainly have a
first-hand and often expert knowledge of the subject under
consideration, but given the nature of liturgy, that is hardly
surprising! For the liturgy is something which, of its nature,
necessarily admits participants rather than spectators.
When
I was a seminarian in the mid eighties, the writings of Mgr Crichton
were standard fare and probably the largest single source of our
information about the liturgy. His monumental works on the
Study of the Liturgy, The Celebration of the Mass and The Sacraments have
been reliable sources of liturgical formation now for several
generations of English-speaking Catholics. His insightful studies,
Worship in a Hidden Church and Light in the Darkness: Forerunners of the Liturgical Movement certainly
played a significant role in galvanizing my own enthusiasm for a more
profound study of the sources of our liturgy. In many ways, Mgr
Crichton’s work was an obvious flowering of scholarship in the immediate
wake of the Second Vatican Council. He was preeminent among those who
attempted to explain the work of the Council and provide a scholarly
matrix for the reception of the revised liturgical rites.
Some
fifty years later, we find ourselves once again returning to the source
of that renewal, the first utterance of the Council Fathers, mandating
the process which essentially gave us the liturgy as we have had it ever
since. The fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Council together
with next year’s fiftieth anniversary both of
Sacrosanctum concilium
and the founding of ICEL, all provide ample opportunity for reflection,
appraisal and renewal of the liturgy. It is with these things in mind
that I would like to begin a consideration of the title of this lecture:
Challenges and Opportunities in the implementation of the English Translation of the Third Typical Edition.
Very
shortly we will reach the first anniversary of the implementation of
the full text of the new translation of the Roman Missal in these isles.
Any real assessment of the reception of the text still lies some long
time in the future as we have only just begun the process of digesting
it. That said, it is already possible to identify the areas which
represent both opportunities and challenges in coming to terms with a
liturgical text which in so many ways is quite different in character to
the text it has replaced. In outlining both the opportunities and the
challenges, we uncover some of the characteristics of the translation
that were consciously willed in the long process of its gestation:
1. The elevated linguistic register of the orations
Although
commentators vary in their treatment of the significance of this
characteristic, it is fair to state that all agree that there has been a
considerable move towards a greater formality of language in the
prayers of the Missal. In this, the translation echoes some of the
features of the original Latin text which is often distinguished by a
beauty of form and balance. As a consequence, the internal rhythms of
the text are considerably different from what they were, longer phrases
and greater formality in syntax often need more time to be heard and
even more time in their proclamation. The most common observation among
priests seems to be that it takes longer. People generally agree that
advance preparation of the text, taking care over phrasing that will
afford the listener the greatest access to its sense, is an activity
that is readily rewarded. Returning to a text, either in the course of
the same day or possibly over a number of days can serve to shed greater
light on the unpacking of texts which are often dense and rapid in the
concentration of their ideas. The fact that we now potentially use a
single English language text throughout the world bears witness to
English which as a world language is subject to an almost infinite
variety of uses and yet at a more elevated register is comprehensible
across local and national boundaries.
2. Greater evidence of Scriptural allusions
Scripture
is the greatest single source of our liturgical text, not only those
elements which are the reading of the Scriptures in the strict sense but
also the many prayers which either directly quote Scripture or clearly
allude to it. Some prayers contain whole strings of Scriptural citations
or images and their recognition has been greatly facilitated by an
awareness of the various versions of the Scriptures that are habitually
used in our territories. This has been a conscious part of the process
of the preparation of the text and consequently this characteristic is
now much more marked. In this way, it is hoped that the greater
familiarity with the Word of God, so earnestly desired by the Fathers of
the Council, finds an echo in the words which the Church places on our
lips in the celebration of the Mass.
3. Increased sensitivity to the fundamental sung character of the liturgical text
Most
texts of the Missal are intended to be sung, at least at more solemn
celebrations. The Missal itself contains more music than any of its
predecessors or indeed any ritual book promulgated by the Catholic
Church thus far. In addition to those elements of the Mass which are
notated for singing, there are the orations which are ideally sung at a
solemn celebration. This will continue to present something of a
challenge, particular in those places where the priest is not generally
used to singing even in a celebration of Mass that already contains much
music. The history which explains how we ever became separated from the
notion of singing the orations and the proper chants at Mass is very
complex and we don’t have time to rehearse that whole story here today.
Suffice to say that we find ourselves at a new moment in this regard in
that we face the possibility of maybe choosing to do things in a
different way from the way in which we have done them over the past
forty years.
Having
travelled the English-speaking world very widely in preparation for the
implementation of the English translation of the third typical edition
of the
Missale Romanum,
and having experienced the liturgy in a wide variety of circumstances
and styles, I would have to say that I have generally encountered among
our people a very great desire for change, although this desire is not
always to be found among those who are most directly responsible for the
liturgy. I think we are currently very well placed to respond to this
desire and this is evidenced by the fact that many things which were
indicated fifty years ago, such as the singing of the parts of the Order
of Mass, and perhaps more particularly the singing of the proper texts
rather than the endless substitution of songs and hymns, are only now
being seriously considered and in some places implemented. I think it is
earnestly to be desired that such developments continue to flourish in
such a way that an improved liturgical culture is accessible to everyone
in the Church. Time will tell whether the musical resources necessary
to the success of such a development also flourish in our midst. This is
a very considerable creative challenge as many people believe that the
question boils down to whether to use chant or not. I do not personally
believe that this is ultimately the case and I am convinced that a
variety of musical styles could easily be admitted in the realization of
this important principle. On the other hand, if such necessary musical
resources do not emerge, then I fear that many of the less desirable
features of post-conciliar liturgical music may be here to stay.
For
all of us who habitually use the Roman Missal in English, our liturgy
has changed considerably over the past year – it sounds different. The
change of text is indicative at a deeper level of the possibility of
doing things differently which will hopefully bring us all a little
nearer to a more faithful realization of the liturgy willed by the
Church as expressed in
Sacrosanctum concilium.
It is true to say that considerable improvements in the liturgy have
already been in evidence in more recent years, and many people such as
yourselves have been essential in this endeavour. Crucial to this
peaceful revolution, however, has also been the leadership and example
of the present Holy Father who has consistently studied and written
about the liturgy in a long life of scholarship which now informs his
governance of the Church’s liturgical life. Much that he commends was
already evident in aspects of liturgical scholarship from the early
twentieth century onwards and in many ways the work of Mgr Crichton is a
significant contribution to the whole liturgical debate.
In
our own time, perhaps we have a sense that for many Catholics the
renewal of the liturgy is finally being received with the joy and
enthusiasm that it merits. A new generation of Catholics eagerly awaits a
greater experience of the basic Catholic truth that the liturgy is
always a gift which we receive from the Church, rather than something
which we make for ourselves. As those most intimately concerned with the
liturgy, you all have a highly significant contribution to make to this
process. If I may be so bold as to profit from the opportunity of
addressing you to make some practical suggestions that may be of
assistance in supporting the on-going work of renewal both for each of
us individually and all-importantly for the diverse communities we
serve, I would like to suggest that:
  • as
    those who love the liturgy, you persevere in your study of the liturgy.
    The fiftieth anniversary of the Council should engender in all of us a
    return to the source documents – a careful re-reading of
    Sacrosanctum concilium
    in such a way as to establish what it does and does not say, I dare say
    that for some people there will be surprises in both categories.
  • a careful reading of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal which
    really reveals to us how the wishes of the Fathers of the Council are
    applied to our celebration of the Mass. In the latest edition of the
    Missal the GIRM has been expanded to include a considerable amount of
    new material. In some cases this offers a development of thought or even
    a corrective that will necessarily have an impact on our celebration of
    the liturgy. This is the charter by which our celebration of the Mass
    is ordered.
  • I
    want to encourage you to share your very considerable knowledge and
    experience in such a way that patterns of good practice in the
    celebration of the liturgy are established and strengthened. This is
    much easier now thanks to the internet and it is always very encouraging
    to learn from the insights and experience of others.
  • to
    make your observations in relation to the new translation known to your
    bishops or directly to us in the ICEL office. In this way you will
    contribute personally to the necessary process of appraisal of the text
    in its use and assist in the process whereby liturgical translations are
    prepared in the future. Please don’t say ‘nobody asked me!’, I am
    asking you now.
  • please
    offer as much support and assistance as you can to your priests who
    inevitably have a primary responsibility with regard to the liturgy. If
    you are a musician, please offer your expertise in assisting those who
    are less confident in responding to the most recent invitations to sing
    the Mass. This will require patience and often ingenuity in building
    confidence.
  • if
    you are a composer, please think carefully about the challenge that the
    Church places before you at this time and perhaps consider the
    possibility of setting the proper texts of the Missal, particularly the
    antiphons and psalms as proposed in the Missal and the
    Graduale Romanum for the entrance, offertory and communion processions.
And
finally, please pray that all of us will come to a far greater
experience of what God wills for us through the liturgy. For the
greatest number of our people, the Sunday Mass is their principal point
of contact with the Church. For that reason, it is always something of a
surprise to me that the liturgy is not immediately identified as a
primary instrument of the New Evangelization and that programmes do not
tend to see the fundamental importance of the liturgy implied in the
endeavour of evangelization.
I
would like to take this opportunity to  thank you for all that you do
so generously in the service of the Church and to ask you to please
continue to do it – we all have a very important part to play in this
sharing in the
leitourgia,
this  liturgy which is genuinely a work of the people in which there
are only participants and beneficiaries and no spectators. May God bless
us all as we share in his work.



(221)

Jeffrey Tucker (422 Posts)


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