Statement of the Catholic Hierarchy
on Liturgical Revival
To Our Clergy and Our People The Peace of Christ Be With You:
The great Saint Pius X prepared the ground for a liturgical revival. He issued directives for the restoration of Gregorian chants and a decree on frequent and early Holy communion.
Thus the Liturgical Revival was born: leading liturgists popularized the beauty of the liturgy, its tremendous value in Christian living, and the role of the faithful in it. They soon exerted a great influence on the masses of the faithful, many of whom responded enthusiastically.
There was nothing really new, however, in what the leaders of the liturgical revival proposed. They had merely rediscovered what the Church had taught and lived very intensely from the times of the catacombs to the first centuries of the Middle Ages. In those times the Liturgy gave the Christians a sense of community: they prayed as one and actively participated in a single common sacrifice.
The Mass was then much more simple in structure, with its essential parts easily recognizable and so the faithful also saw, believed, and lived what was essential. To them the Mass was also the great means to give thanks through Christ to the heavenly Father and to seek unity with Christ and with one another. So much did they live their life of grace in intimate relation with Christ in the Holy Eucahrist that they called themselves “the living.” The Readings from Holy Scripture, which the priests explained, were their basic catechetical nourishment, and through the Mass they were familiar with the whole Bible, the History of Salvation. Finally, the Eucharistic Sacrifice was their fundamental school of prayer; it taught them to converse with God in the same way as the whole Church did and thus the great prayer of the church became the inspiration of their personal prayers.
The Liturgical Revival, then, is for a return to the primitive forms of Christian piety. We in the Philippines may not remain strangers to it, particularly in the wake of the more recent documents emanating from the Holy See. On the contrary, we should join it with the vivacity and enthusiasm of a young dynamic Church, the more so that Divine Providence seems to have called us to the important role of being the beacon light of Christianity in the Orient.
Pius X, Pius XI and Pius XII emphasized the need for the faithful to take an active part in liturgical functions. They must not conduct themselves as mute spectators, say the Roman Pontiffs, but as active participants in the Liturgy.
The Faithful have their own part in the Liturgy, not a passive part like that of mere spectators of a drama, but an active part. A Christian has to live the life of the Liturgy and he participates in the Priesthood of Christ Himself. The Liturgy is an integral worship of Christ and His Members. So the intelligent participation of the faithful in the Liturgy is a need which springs from the very nature of Christian Liturgy which is an expression of the collective worship of the Christian community. No one is left without function or part to play.
The function as the laity in the Liturgy is not of the same nature and does not belong to the same level as that of the Priest. The Priest acts in the name of the people and goes to the altar as a minister of Christ, but superior to the people. The people do not in any way represent the person of the Divine Redeemer, neither is it a mediator between God and itself, nor can it enjoy any Sacerdotal prerogative.
The Instruction on Sacred Music and the Sacred Liturgy given by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on September 3, 1958, defines and regulates the active participation of the laity in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
We, your Pastors and the Shepherds of your souls, aware of the great spiritual benefits that will result from the proper implementation of the Instruction in general and of its reference to the participation of the laity in the Mass in particular, have jointly adopted some specific rules and regulations to be implemented in all our churches during the Mass on Sundays and Holidays of Obligation. These directives will be issued in the form of a booklet and will be distributed to all parishes and schools.
If these directives and measures are carefully and zealously followed, they will undoubtedly promote a greater and more intense spiritual life among you. They will enable you to “live the life of the Liturgy” which is the life of worship, and “to take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice so profoundly and so actively as to be most intimately united to the great High Priest” as Pius XII expresses it.
The Mass is the center and source of Christian piety. For any individual Christian it can only be so if he understands and makes it his own action, otherwise the salutary action of Eucharistic Sacrifice, will only pass before his eyes as a drama alien to his innermost feelings, a series of rites and ceremonies which he physically attends because it is his obligation to do so, but as something which may not intimately affect his spiritual life. A novena would for practical purposes do more to promote and increase his piety than this very center and source of Christian piety!
The Christian life is a bond, an exchange of love between the Father and His people. The Father gives Christ to His people as a manifestation of His love, and the people give Christ back to the Father in reciprocation, in gratitude and true love. The holy sacrifice of the Mass recapitulates this plan of the Christian life and the goal and purpose of active participation are to make it a living reality for man and society. The Mass will be a living reality to you, beloved faithful, only if you act the Mass and offer it together with the Priest. In that way, union with the Father, for which Christ prayed on the eve of His Passion, will also become a living reality in your souls.
Aside from an increase in supernatural life, this intelligent and active participation in the Liturgy on the part of the laity will also result in a wider and more profound understanding of Catholic Doctrine. The Liturgy is not only the public and official worship of the Church, it is also a school of Christian life. Pius X called the Liturgy Didascalia. Pius XI said: “The Liturgy is the most important instrument used by the Church in her teaching office.” Pius XII, in His closing address to the Liturgical Congress of Assisi in 1956, also affirmed: “However, it will be difficult to point out any truth of the Christian faith which in some way is not expressed in the Liturgy… This way the Church in her Liturgy distributes abundantly the treasures of the “deposit of faith”, the truth of Christ… and if the Hierarchy communicates to the faithful by means of the Liturgy the truth and grace of Christ, it corresponds to the faithful on their part to accept them fullheartedly and convert them into living realities.”
Liturgical prayer has always been a catechism of Christian Doctrine: not a catechism of many and very detailed questions or of subtle distinctions and long enumerations; but a catechism in which are proposed the fundamental truths of faith and in particular, those that have the character of “good tidings.” For this reason we can understand how there existed in the course of centuries a marvelous Pastoral Action which did not have a systematic catechesis, in which there was not much preaching and in which it was not yet possible to give instruction by means of the printed word. However, Christianity flourished full of life, precisely because its great truths were known and were made a living experience by means of the Liturgy.
There is no instruction that teaches so much, and is so authentic and perfectly adopted to the ordinary Christian as what is found in the liturgical prayers, readings, and rites. In those centuries of more faith, even if the majority of the faithful did not receive formal instruction, generally speaking they were much more instructed in the mysteries of our faith than most of the men and women of our day and generation.
In the Philippines the greatest problem of our Church is religious instruction. And it is a problem for which no satisfactory solution has yet been found. If in the past centuries the Liturgy has been found an effective means of religious instruction, there is no reason why it cannot be as effective today in our country if we only work to make our faithful understand and act and pray the Liturgy especially the Holy Mass.
We, therefore, appeal to all of you, our dearly beloved clergy and faithful, to implement effectively our desire in this respect. Meanwhile, receive Our paternal blessing which from Our hearts We impart to you, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Given in Manila on August 6, 1961, Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.
For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+JULIO R. ROSALES, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
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Statement of the Catholic Hierarchy on Liturgical Revival