For the next five weeks the Gospel for the Sundays will be from St John, chapter six. Although this year, on Sunday 15th August, we will be celebrating the feast of the Assumption where the reading with be from St Luke.
I look forward to a prayerful reading of this chapter as it will provide me with the opportunity to reflect on the meaning, significance, beauty and centrality of this most wonderful gift of the Eucharist in my life and in the life of the church. I still recall the evenings in the late 50”s when I would meet in the sacristy with others to learn the Latin responses as part of my training to be an altar server. At the tender age of eleven, I went off to the junior seminary and in that year Pope John XIII called the bishops of the world together for a Council. In the first two years at seminary I served Mass in the Tridentine Rite which as you know was in Latin. Every morning each priest on the staff would celebrate Mass on a side altar with their own server while at the same time the whole school would be attending Mass celebrated on the main altar of the chapel.
One of the most important documents of the Second Vatican Council was Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This document was approved by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,147 to 4. Pope Paul VI promulgated it on 4 December 1963.
In the following year at the seminary we were following the norms of this document and celebrating the same Eucharist in a new way. One of the key strands of this document was the phrase we find in paragraphs 14. It spoke about “a full, conscious and active participation of the laity.”
Paragraph 48 tells us what this participation is not as well as what it is:
“And so the church devotes careful efforts to prevent Christian believers from attending this mystery of faith as though they were outsiders or silent onlookers: rather, having a good understanding of this mystery, through the ritual and the prayers, they should share in the worshipping event, aware of what is happening and devoutly involved. They should be formed by God’s word, and refreshed at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; they should learn to offer themselves as they offer the immaculate victim – not just through the hands of the priest, but also they themselves making the offering together with him; and, as each day goes by, they should be led towards their final goal of unity with God and among themselves through the mediation of Christ, so that finally God may be all in all.”
The reason I am writing about this today, as we begin the reading of the Gospel of John Chapter 6, is that there has been quite a lot of adverse reaction on YouTube and Twitter to the Holy Father’s motu proprio, “Traditionis custodes“, issued on Friday 16th July 2021 and effective immediately. It concerns
changes in the celebration of Holy Mass in the ‘Extraordinary Form,’ as it had been referred to in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s own 2007 motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. It is important to read not only the motu proprio but also the accompanying letter to Bishops.
What I find sad is that there are Catholics who don’t accept the present Rite of Mass because they think it is not as beautiful or full of mystery as the Tridentine Rite of my childhood. Therefore they seem to reject all that the Document of the Liturgy is trying to achieve.
Hopefully in the next few weeks we will allow John Chapter 6 to lead us to a deeper understanding of the Eucharist and be encouraged to make sure that the way we celebrate Mass at St Thomas of Canterbury is reverent and dignified.