I really dislike people who have an elitist attitude as the one displayed by Elizabeth Harrington in her article on Catholic Leader online. She offers suggestions on how to interpret liturgical documents. I will get to her suggestions is a moment, but from the first two sentences she clearly wants only people in positions of authority with Masters and Phds to interpret liturgical documents . She seems to forget that the real liturgist is not the person with letters after his or her name -- Peter seemed to do just find without his Masters in Theology. The real liturgist is the the little old lady who sits in the front pew week after week. Exactly how organic can the liturgy be if the laity have no role in its development?
According to Elizabeth Harrington the correct approach to understanding and interpreting such documents involves [My comments are in red]:
- Reading them with an open mind to discover what they are really saying and not relying on media reports or hearsay. [Instead of reading texts with an open mind. Let us read them with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church. In other words, read them like you are trying to get you and others to Heaven.]
- Looking at the overall thrust rather than zeroing in on selective bits that support one’s particular “hobby horse”. [She is almost right here. She is wrong in only looking at "the overall thrust". By doing that one misses the particulars that are found in the document. She is right is saying that it is wrong to only look at the specifics of a document. In other words, the person reading the document needs to read it in its entirety. Also, there can be no spirit of the law without there being an actual law. The spirit is based upon the literal. The spirit cannot exist independently of the literal law.]
- Putting them in the context of other liturgical and Church instructions rather than treating them in isolation. For example, liturgy documents must always be viewed through the lens of those liturgical principals so strongly espoused in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from Vatican II. [True, but you also have to know the development of the language used in such documents. That is to say, interpretation of any church document must be done in light of the prior papal or other documents from which it quotes, draws its language, and cites. You also have to keep in mind that if something is not mentioned in a document it does not mean that it is fair game for alteration or not considered important anymore. In regards to the development and placing the a document in context most people probably don't realize that the theology and language of Sacrosanctum Concilium is older than some expect.
- i. Leo XIII ->Mirae Caritatis (1902) “Spoke of the eucharist liturgy as the ‘font and most important gift’ of all God’s gifts.”
- ii. Piux X -> in his 1903 Motu Proprio on Church Music, he encourages “Active participation in the most sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the church” and that the liturgy “was the first and indispensable source of the true Christian Spirit.”
- iii. Pius XI -> Divini Cultus (1928) Pius called for more active participation in the liturgy, people should sing their parts of the mass in Gregorian Chant. Pius did not want passive on-lookers.
- iv. Pius XII -> refers to the liturgy as the “font and center of Christian piety” and “the chief action of divine worship.”
- Waiting for directives from the diocesan bishop or liturgy office before acting, or expecting others to act, upon new directives. Interpreting and implementing documents require the expertise of those with authority and training in theology, liturgy and canon law.[So now I need a Phd and specialized training in order to realize that I, as a lay person, no longer have permission to clean the vessels after the liturgy. My grandmother has no specialized training and never went to college, yet she has common sense enough to understand that kneeling portrays a different meaning than standing.]
- Considering who the document is written for and directed at. Confusion and hurt sometimes arise when documents intended for the guidance of diocesan bishops, not for the general public, are widely circulated. [So basically, Elizabeth is encouraging us, the laity, not to hold our Bishops accountable. Yet, as Christians aren't we called to hold each other accountable for our actions? Confusion and hurt arise when people don't do what they are supposed to do.]
- Using common sense when it comes to expecting instant compliance.[I'm not sure what she means by this, but implementation of any document must happen slowly and with precision. Too much change at one time is like yanking the carpet out from under people. Slow and steady.]
- Keeping fully informed about the issues by reading Catholic papers and liturgy journals. [You know, if people would only read the documents carefully, they might actually shed some light on the commentary].