Pope Francis with participants in the course for liturgists Pope Francis with participants in the course for liturgists  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope: ‘A liturgical celebration that does not evangelise is not authentic’

Speaking to participants in a course for Diocesan liturgy officials, Pope Francis encourages liturgists to fight against “sloppy, neglected, poorly prepared” Masses, and warns against putting ritual ahead of the encounter with Christ.

By Joseph Tulloch

Pope Francis on Friday addressed participants in a course for Diocesan liturgical officials, organized by the Pontifical Institute of Sant’Anselmo.

In his address, the Pope stressed that liturgy is fundamentally about encounter with Christ, and encouraged reverent celebrations.

Christ, not ritual, at the centre of the liturgy

A key theme of Pope Francis’ address was that the “fruitful participation of God's people” ought to be prioritised, in order “to lead the people to Christ, and Christ to the people.”

Sometimes, he warned, there is a danger of putting ritual first, of “putting the rite before what it expresses”.

This approach, he said, leads to “beautiful rituals, but without strength, without flavour, without meaning, because they do not touch the heart and existence of God's people. It is Christ who makes the heart vibrate; it is the encounter with Him that draws the spirit.”

Quoting his recent apostolic letter Desideravo Desideravi, the Pope added: “A celebration that does not evangelise is not authentic.”

Restoring a sense of reverence

The Pope also stressed the importance of reverence in the Mass.

He suggested that, when they visit parishes, liturgists should “organise a liturgy that can be imitated, with adaptations that the community can take in to grow in liturgical life.”

In fact, he added, “to go to parishes and say nothing when faced with liturgies that are somewhat sloppy, neglected, poorly prepared, means not helping communities, not accompanying them.”

Part of this, the Pope underlined, is “care for silence”. Too often, he said, churches are noisy before and after the liturgy, but “it’s silence that prepares you for the mystery, that allows assimilation, lets the echo of the Word resonate.”

“Fraternity is beautiful,” he continued, “but it is the encounter with Jesus that gives meaning to our meeting, to our coming together. We must rediscover and value silence!”

Role of the master of celebrations

During his address, the Pope also reflected on the role of the master of liturgical celebrations, or “master of ceremonies”. This office, he said, is a diakonia, or service: the master of celebrations “collaborates with the bishops in the service of the community.”

Problems arise, he said, when the master of celebrations is at the centre of the liturgy.

While he should co-ordinate everything behind the scenes, the Pope said, “The presider is the one that presides, not the master of ceremonies. In fact, the more hidden the master of ceremonies is, the better. The less you see of him, the better.”

Pope Francis also discussed the teaching responsibilities of the master of celebrations, which include the liturgical formation of priests.

This role, he said, is of extreme importance. Quoting Sacrosanctum Concillium, the Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, he argued that it is necessary “to give first place to the liturgical formation of the clergy”, in order that they might then go on to form the laity in liturgical matters.

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

20 January 2023, 13:39