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Musical Musings: Liturgy

Redemptionis Sacramentum:

Liturgy of the Eucharist

by Vatican Information Service, April 23, 2004

VATICAN CITY, APR 23, 2004 (VIS) - Redemptionis Sacramentum, On Certain Matters To Be Observed Or To Be Avoided Regarding The Most Holy Eucharist, the document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, was presented today at a press conference in the Holy See Press Office by Cardinal Francis Arinze and Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, respectively prefect and secretary of the congregation. Also present was Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which collaborated in preparing this document.

The document consists of an Introduction, 8 Chapters and a Conclusion, divided into 186 paragraphs.

Chapter I, The Regulation of the Sacred Liturgy, speaks of the role of the Apostolic See, the diocesan bishop, the episcopal conference, priests and deacons in the regulation of the liturgy, drawing particular attention on "The Diocesan Bishop, High Priest of His Flock." Para 22 states: "The Bishop governs the particular Church entrusted to him and it is his task to regulate, to direct, to encourage, and sometimes also to reprove; this is a sacred task that he has received through episcopal ordination, which he fulfills in order to build up his flock in truth and holiness."

Para 24 add, "It is the right of the Christian people themselves that their diocesan bishop should take care to prevent the occurrence of abuses in ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the word, the celebration of the Sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and devotion to the saints."

Regarding episcopal conferences, Para 28 states: "All liturgical norms that a conference of bishops will have established for its territory in accordance with the law are to be submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the 'recognitio', without which they lack any binding force."

In the section on priests, Para 31 says: "...They ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions."

Chapter II is entitled The Participation of the Lay Christian Faithful in the Eucharistic Celebration. Para 36 notes that "the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical Priesthood, though they differ in essence and not only in degree, are order to one another, for both partake, each in its own way, of the one Priesthood of Christ."

Para 42 clarifies: "Nor is the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be considered a 'concelebration,' in the univocal sense, of the Priest along with the people who are present. On the contrary, the Eucharist celebrated by the Priests 'is a gift which radically transcends the power of the community'... The community that gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist absolutely requires an ordained Priest, who presides over it so that it may truly be a eucharistic convocation. On the other hand, the community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister. ... Accordingly, terms such as 'celebrating community' or 'celebrating assembly' (in other languages 'asamblea celebrante', 'assemblée célébrante', 'assemblea celebrante') and similar terms should not be used injudiciously."

On the question of altar servers, Para 47 states: "It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension. Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these. Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes. Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms."

Chapter III, The Proper Celebration of the Mass, highlights "The Matter of the Most Holy Eucharist" in Para 48: "The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition" and in Para 50 "The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances."

Para 52 underscores that "the proclamation of the Eucharistic Prayer, which by its very nature is the climax of the whole celebration, is proper to the Priest by virtue of his Ordination."

Para 59 affirms: "The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy."

Para 62 continues: "It is also illicit to omit or to substitute the prescribed biblical readings on one's own initiative, and especially to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God."

The instructions states in Para 64 that a homily is given by a priest, occasionally by a concelebrating priest or deacon "but never by a lay person."

At the moment of the sign of peace being extended before Holy Communion, says Para 72, "It is appropriate 'that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner.' 'The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration."

This Chapter concludes with Para 79: "Finally, it is strictly to be considered an abuse to introduce into the celebration of Holy Mass elements that are contrary to the prescriptions of the liturgical books and taken from the rites of other religions."

 Back to Liturgy Index

Part 2: Chapters IV - VII

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