"The journey of liturgical renewal is only in its early phases" – Archbishop Coleridge

HT to Peterand to Athanasius for putting me onto this statement by Archbishop Coleridge (late of Melbourne) to his flock in Canberra-Goulburn, in which he also makes the point that

Bowing is the preferred gesture, but those who are accustomed to genuflect before receiving or to kneel to receive will be free to follow their custom.

I think that, in legal terms, there is a body of authoritative interpretation of the canon developing here upon which we can rely. Probably the freedom to chose the exact action (head bow, profound bow, genuflection or kneeling) is intended in the broad category of the word “bow”. I believe this method of interpretation has its authority from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”, where it was stated that Jesus’ words “Blessed are the cheese-makers” was not to be interpreted narrowly, but applies equally to all manufacturers of dairy products…

More significant, however, is His Grace’s comments on the journey of liturgical renewal begun with Vatican II:

The new version of General Instruction is one of a number of indications that the Church is moving into a new phase of the ongoing journey of liturgical renewal, the roots of which reach back to the Second Vatican Council and beyond. In earlier times, it seemed that the process of liturgical renewal begun by the Council was complete. But that is not the case. The journey of liturgical renewal, we can now see, is only in its early phases, and the appearance of the General Instruction is one indication of this. Other still more important indications will be the appearance in the not too distant future of the new translation of the Roman Missal and the new translation of the Lectionary. Now is the time, the Spirit is saying to the Church, to take stock of the liturgical renewal of the last forty years, to discern as clearly as possible what has succeeded and what has failed, and to make adjustments in the light of that discernment.

It is certainly curious how some liturgical “experts” seem to have assumed that what was done in the 1970’s somehow or other was carved in stone, much like the traditionalist assumptions of the Tridentine rite whom they love to ridicule for making exactly the same assumptions!

His comments on language are also spot on (as one would expect from someone working directly on the new translations for the English missal):

When the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the use of the vernacular languages in the liturgy, they had no idea of what was on the way. They imagined that some parts of the liturgy would move into English (in our case), but that Latin would remain in general the language of worship. …[I]t seemed that the Church went from Latin to English overnight. Some in the Church have continued to worship in Latin – as is their right – but most are happy to have moved into English. At the same time, it does not have to be a stark choice of one or the other. In the Cathedral [in Canberra] at least…the Kyrie is sung at times in Greek, and the Common of the Mass, the Gloria and the Creed are sung at times in Latin. Similarly some of the great hymns of the Gregorian repertoire – especially the Marian anthems – are sung at times. It would be a pity if such a heritage were wholly lost to us.

To be sure!

His comments on music are certainly noteworthy:

Some of the texts used are also decidedly feeble and even at times questionable theologically. [He can say that again!] Historically, the Roman Rite used only the Psalms in the Eucharistic liturgy: hence the Entrance and Communion Antiphons which were sung with the Psalms and accompanied the Entrance and Communion Processions. [And it is a great pity that we do not today have a way of singing these properly.] …I might add that the Holy See has asked Bishops’ Conferences around the world to draw up a list of music approved for use in worship. This is part of a pruning process of the repertoire that has built up over the last forty years, and it is already taking place in Australia.

Yes, I know that this process is continuing, in fact, I have often dropped in on the meetings of the Australian committee to whom this work has been charged. This little group of three meets here in the same building in which I work, and believe me, they have their work cut out for them. They are attempting to do two tasks: First, to draw up a draft list of song for the Bishops according to the Holy See’s request; and Second, to come up with a new hymnody resource for the Australian Churches. One of the members told me especially of the frustration of there being so few really decent hymns and songs for the Entrance and Communion. We will all experience this dearth in the next few weeks at the Feast of Corpus Christi (I am on music in that day in my parish, and believe me the choice is not good…)

But I do wonder about this comment from the good bishop:

It is worth recalling too that singing or music should not be prolonged unnecessarily. In the Roman Rite, singing or music tends to accompany action rather than stand in its own right. Therefore, the music or singing should stop once the action is complete.

Well, maybe. Depends on the hymn. Some hymns don’t make sense if you stop it after verse two, when all verses are integral to the sense of the whole. On the other hand, I did have this experience at mass yesterday when we were singing Farrell’s “Praise to you, O Christ our Saviour” for the Entrance–it did go on too long and could have been cut down.

I might pick up a couple of Archbishop Mark’s other points later in the day, but for the moment, here is a question Athanasius suggested I pose for you all. If you were making a list of hymns to be sent to the Holy See, which would you insist were put in and which would you insist were left off (ie. FORBIDDEN!). That’s a big question, so limit yourselves a bit, eh?

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