Liturgy: Substituting the 'Lamb of God'
And More on Water With Wine
ROME, JULY 14, 2004 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: It is common in my diocese for priests, after the Lamb of God, when the Missal reads "This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world ..." to substitute a different (but still true) title or description of Christ -- usually related to the Gospel of the day. For example, "This is Jesus, who today calls us to take up our cross and follow him ..." Is this permitted? -- C.S., Hamilton, New Zealand
A: The short answer to this, and to other similar questions regarding priests altering prescribed texts or composing new ones, is no.
But -- and there is a but -- in some countries and religious congregations, small additions have been made to these prayers with proper authorization from the Holy See.
The general principles involved are those announced in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 24-26.
No. 24 reminds priests that while some adaptations of the liturgy are possible these "consist for the most part in the choice of certain rites or texts, that is, of the chants, readings, prayers, explanations, and gestures that may respond better to the needs, preparation, and culture of the participants and that are entrusted to the priest celebrant. Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass."
Nos. 25 and 26 refer to other adaptations reserved to the diocesan bishop or to the episcopal conference which often require the definitive ratification of the Holy See.
The recent instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" has also weighed in on the topic of unauthorized alterations in No. 31:
"In keeping with the solemn promises that they have made in the rite of Sacred Ordination and renewed each year in the Mass of the Chrism, let Priests celebrate 'devoutly and faithfully the mysteries of Christ for the praise of God and the sanctification of the Christian people, according to the tradition of the Church, especially in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.' They ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions. For as St. Ambrose said, 'It is not in herself ... but in us that the Church is injured. Let us take care so that our own failure may not cause injury to the Church.' Let the Church of God not be injured, then, by Priests who have so solemnly dedicated themselves to the ministry. Indeed, under the Bishop's authority let them faithfully seek to prevent others as well from committing this type of distortion."
The document returns to this theme in Nos. 58 and 59: grounding the priest's obligation to respect the liturgical text on the rights of the faithful to a truly Catholic liturgy and on the authentic meaning of liturgy itself.
No. 58 says: "All of Christ's faithful likewise have the right to a celebration of the Eucharist that has been so carefully prepared in all its parts that the word of God is properly and efficaciously proclaimed and explained in it; that the faculty for selecting the liturgical texts and rites is carried out with care according to the norms; and that their faith is duly safeguarded and nourished by the words that are sung in the celebration of the Liturgy."
No. 59 continues: "The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy."
What is important to consider in the case presented is not so much whether the additions involved are theologically correct -- they might well be -- but the fact that an individual priest takes upon himself the role of changing what the Church has established.
By praying in words of his own choosing, and not those chosen by the Church, he, in a sense, betrays the "we" of the presidential prayers which make him the Church's representative before God and obscures the faithful's right to join through his ministry in the prayer of the universal Church.
Such acts are probably often done with the best of intentions and even spring from pastoral motives. But they are objectively acts of theological egotism that transform the common patrimony into an individual's private domain.
As mentioned above, this does not mean that the liturgy is totally untouchable; however, any changes must be made ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Featured Today
- Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
- My Dad
- A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
- John Paul II as an Apostle of Mercy
- Embrace every moment as sacred time
- A Recession Antidote
- The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
- Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
- Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
- Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience