Priests celebrating Mass should not be rigidly austere, mystical, overly slow, and excessively finicky, Pope Francis says in a new letter promoting the ‘rediscovery’ of the Eucharistic liturgy.
Neither should priests be exasperatingly creative, merely functional, rushed, sloppy, careless or superabundantly friendly.
Pope Francis published a new apostolic letter on the liturgy June 29 – the Solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul – nearly one year after he issued the motu proprio Traditiones custodes, restricting the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.
In his new letter the Pope said he wanted ‘to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration.’
Pope Francis’ Desiderio Desideravi is designed to protect the celebration of Mass from ideological influences. The Pope has described the letter as a meditation on the liturgy and one that strongly affirms the Vatican II reform of the Latin-rite Mass as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
‘With this letter I simply want to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration,’ Pope Francis wrote.
He does not want it ‘spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet,’ he added, ‘exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue’.
The beauty of the Eucharistic liturgy is not about ‘the search for a ritual aesthetic’ that focuses on ‘a careful exterior observance of a rite’ or ‘a scrupulous observance of the rubrics’.
Nor does Pope Francis wish for the Catholic Mass to be reduced to ‘a careless banality’ or ‘ignorant superficiality’.
The way communities live out of the Mass ‘is conditioned – for better or, unfortunately for worse – by the way in which their pastor presides in the assembly,’ Pope Francis says.
He lists models of inadequate presiding, such as ‘rigid austerity or an exasperating creativity, a spiritualising mysticism or a practical functionalism, a rushed briskness or an overemphasised slowness, a sloppy carelessness or an excessive finickiness, a superabundant friendliness or priestly impassibility’.
The liturgy must be rehearsed and carefully prepared so the faithful may participate in wonder at the sacrament when the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.
The Pope writes: ‘Let us abandon our polemics to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Let us safeguard our communion. Let us continue to be astonished at the beauty of the Liturgy.’
At the core of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter is the desire for the entire people of God, starting with the celebrants, to rediscover beauty and wonder before the liturgy, letting the liturgy itself ‘form’ those who participate in it, immersing them in what the Pope calls ‘the ocean of grace that floods every celebration.’
Pope Francis voices dismay in Desiderio Desideravi at the pushback Vatican II reforms, including liturgical reforms, still meet today.
The Pope has opened the Church and the Eucharist to divorced and remarried couples, people who have had abortions and, most recently, politicians who support abortion rights.
‘The world still does not know it, but everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb,’ Pope Francis says.