First, the Liturgy

From the June 28, 1962 issue of Commonweal Magazine, a provocative call for liturgical reform by an organizer of the North American Liturgical Week recently held in Seattle in conjunction with the World’s Fair, imagining how liturgy might be celebrated 50 years from now.

By John B. Mannion

Of all the actions likely to be taken by the forthcoming Ecumenical Council, few will affect the Catholic people so directly and personally as the liturgical reforms. For most of us, our principal public contact with the Church is Sunday Mass. And indeed, this is as it should be, for the liturgy is “the chief duty and supreme dignity” of Christians, and takes precedence over any other religious activity—public or private, individual or corporate. For this reason the Mass should be our most meaningful Christian experience. That this is not the case is one of the several motive s which have prompted the liturgical reforms of recent decades. Pope Pius XI’s “outsiders and mute spectators” of 1928 have become Pope John’s “telegraph poles” of 1960.

A first for Seattle and most attendees: Mass facing the people.

Clearly the reforms instituted have not been adequate to the task of conveying to the people the true nature of liturgical worship and their role in it. Perhaps this is because the changes have been within the structure of the Roman liturgy as it was frozen in the sixteenth century.

To the man of the twentieth century, the Mass does not appear to be what it actually is: a formal proclamation of the Word of God, a sacrificial oblation re-presenting “in mystery” the redemptive work of Christ, and a community meal renewing the covenant—the pledge of eternal life and love—between the Father and His chosen sons. This threefold reality is not immediately and directly revealed by the words and actions of the Latin rite Mass, which fact has led to a growing realization of the need for further reform. Continue reading