LITURGY CORNER 9
with Fr. James
SELF-EXPRESSION OR SELF-SURRENDER?
Sometimes the Mass is boring; sometimes it just doesn’t click. Reasons vary. Perhaps a particular liturgy was especially inept and distracting. At other times we are tired and inattentive. Another factor may well be that our participation is a passive one, and not the “full and active participation” that the liturgy by its very nature demands of us. We may well approach Mass with an attitude of attending an entertainment rather than engaging in worship of the Father through the sacrifice of his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Is my attendance at this Mass more a matter of self-expression than an act of self-surrender to the divine will for me?
The same question can also be asked whenever we have responsibility for planning a liturgy. Therefore a general principle for liturgy planning is the fact that the Mass does not belong to us, but to the whole Church. As stated in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council:
Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop…Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority. (SC, n.22)
This is not because the Council desired to enact oppressive and legalistic strictures, but rather to express the truth that it is not up to us to tell the Church how to celebrate Mass; rather, it is up to us to listen to the Church to learn how better to celebrate the Mass. The General Instruction to the Roman Missal references the above passage from Vatican II and says, “the priest must remember that he is the servant of the sacred Liturgy.” (n. 24) So while we express our belief through the Mass, the Mass itself is an instrument for our salvation, not a tool for expressing our own personalities.