Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The "Truth" of the Liturgy

I have before me a church bulletin from a parish in my diocese. We read:

November is the month when we, as a church, remember and pray for all the members of our parish family who have died. This is a wonderful tradition since it is the means by which we maintain our spiritual bonds with our loved ones who have entered into the heavenly Jerusalem. The names on the All Souls Day envelopes this month were placed in a memorial book under the main altar, as a reminder to us that they are in the loving embrace of the Lord.
Somehow I missed the news that Heaven and Purgatory were (prematurely) conflated. The question then arises, Why appeal to God in prayer and mortification on behalf of the dead if they are already in the heavenly City? The eschatological confusion is only compounded when homilists studiously avoid mention of the ‘P’ word and opt for white vestments, instead of the traditional black, at Masses for the dead. (I wonder if the pastor’s homily today differed at all from what he preached yesterday.)

Pope Benedict XVI, in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of 2007, writes that the ars celebrandi entails respect, not only for the liturgical books, but also for the symbolic gestures of the liturgy, such as silence, movement, and the liturgical colors of the vestments (no. 40). I think I am on firm ground in saying that those who generally speak of reforming the reform would welcome the mandatory use of black (or at least violet) vestments in Masses for the dead, except perhaps in places where white is the traditional color of mourning (authentic inculturation). While there is no substitute for good preaching and catechesis, this “baby step” in a reform of the reform would at least have the effect of saying symbolically what many priests seem unwilling to say verbally. More on this in the forthcoming issue of Antiphon.

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