December 8, 1998
Dear Brother in Service to the Household of God:
As we enter into this new Church Year, we come upon the threshold to the new and Third Millennium. We, also, approach the two hundredth anniversary of Father Demetrius A. Gallitzin's arrival to these Allegheny Mountains which we call home. Beyond their being our home, we have been entrusted with the pastoral care of God's Household, which resides here. The legacy of the Reverend Prince is ours to preserve, nurture, and promote.
The purpose of my writing at this particular time is to acknowledge the very special role that you and I as ordained ministers have in the building up of the Church, Christ's Assembly of Believers. You and the others of our Presbyterate and Diaconate have my gratitude for the faithfulness with which you serve the Church. I write on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Patronal Feastday of our nation, because the solemnity brings to mind that this Diocesan Church acclaims Mary the Mother of God as its patroness, as well, although under the title of Our Lady of the Alleghenies.
We clergy have a responsibility to the Lord to preserve his Church in truthfulness. All that we do in our pastoral ministry, and all that the People of God receive and accept from that ministry, is brought to the celebration of the Mass. It is there that the Faithful, in all that they are and have, are intimately united with Christ. At those Assemblies, we have the privilege of presiding in the name of Christ in the presence of the Church. We have the duty of doing it well. We have the responsibility of preserving the Church's Liturgy in its authenticity.
In our effort to be effective instruments of the Lord, we err with the best of intentions at times. However, our guidepost must be the realization that the Liturgy belongs to the Church, which in turn belongs to Christ. As such, the Mass needs to be a unifying action within a particular Diocesan Church; and, indeed, in the Church as a whole.
Language and posture can serve to be either unifying or divisive. Allow me to consider language first.
The Mass needs to be at the same time the action of the one Church while reflecting the inclusion of the one people. The English language is one of the most difficult with which to achieve this purpose. It is a linguistic problem that all too often we have inappropriately made a liturgical one.
An important aspect to remember is that inclusive language is of two sorts. The so-called horizontal inclusivity uses terms that are intended to refer to both men and women as the people God intended to redeem and bring into his Reign. The so-called vertical inclusivity affects what we could call "God language" and often distorts Sacred Scripture, traditional Christian symbols, theology, and even the nature of the Church.
As of the First Sunday of Advent this year, we in the United States are allowed to use the new Lectionary for Sunday Mass. The bishops of our national conference have attempted in this new translation to be both faithful to God's message and to have it speak authentically to God's people. I encourage all of our parishes and institutions to put it into use as soon as possible, even though it is not mandatory to do so until next year.
Aware of the limitations of contemporary English, the revised translation of the Lectionary most faithfully speaks the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew scriptures as they have been proclaimed throughout the centuries. Therefore, it avoids any use of vertical inclusivity. All biblical translation must be faithful to the original language and the internal truth of the inspired text. The revealed word of God consistently uses a masculine reference to God.
God language reflects the dynamic mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. In the 1990 NCCB "Criteria for the Evaluation of the Use of Inclusive Language in Scriptural Translations", the bishops stated that in fidelity to the inspired word of God, the traditional biblical usage for naming the persons of the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to be retained. The trinitarian reality is based on the relation of Father to Son and of Son to Father, and the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the name of the Son.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that calling God "Father" refers to God as the first origin of everything [#239]. God is the transcendent authority. God is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. He is also Father by his eternal relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally, is Son only in relation to his Father [#240]. The Holy Spirit, at work since creation, reveals the truth of Father and Son [#243].
Replacing the title Father with "Creator", Son with "Redeemer", and Spirit with "Sanctifier" in public prayer of any sort is a loss of our trinitarian doctrine. Titles that do not imply a relation of origin do not preserve the distinction of subjects in God. The title "Creator" sets up no relationship between those Persons in God. (The Father is Creator; but, so are the Son and the Spirit. The Father and the Son also sanctify, along with the Spirit.) The title "Creator" implies a relationship between God and his creatures; but, there is no stated relationship within the context of the trinitarian formula. Nonetheless, such titles as "Creator", "Redeemer", and "Sanctifier" do express a relationship between God and us and have their proper place within the Liturgy and public worship. However, they are never to be a replacement for the names of the three Persons in the Trinity.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that God's parental tenderness is also expressed by the image of motherhood (#239). There is a magnificent reservoir of feminine imagery for God. God language in no way implies any superiority of the male over the female. Moreover, the transcendence of God should not be seen as triumphalistic, imperialistic, patriarchal, or monarchical. This mistaken interpretation is owed more to the late medieval concept of absolute and arbitrary power than to Sacred Scripture, Augustine, or Aquinas.
Nevertheless, the revised Lectionary for Sunday Mass has approximately 325 instances where the 1970 edition of Lectionary for Mass was changed. This was done to achieve a more faithful and appropriate conveyance of horizontally inclusive words or phrases found in the original Greek or Hebrew texts.
Liturgical and scriptural translation is an art and science. Translations are submitted to scholarly work before receiving the approval of the conference of bishops and the confirmation of the Apostolic See. Therefore, it is not appropriate for personal changes to be made to official translations of the Lectionary and Sacramentary.
When the Church gathers to pray, we express our oneness in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Church seeks to express its unity in Jesus Christ as we gather for public worship (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #47). We gather publicly to remember and celebrate our oneness in God (CSL #48). Liturgical services are celebrations that belong to the Church, the "sacrament of unity", namely the holy people united and ordered under their bishop (CSL #26).
In accord with Canon 846 of the Code of Canon Law, the liturgical books approved by the competent authority are to be faithfully observed in the celebration of the sacraments. Consequently, no one on personal authority may add, remove, or change anything in them. The Sacramentary and Lectionary are official texts of the Church. Neither vertical nor horizontal language is to be added, removed, or adapted. At the same time, the presider at Mass is most welcome to create his own introductions and invitations at appropriate times within the Liturgy (GIRM #11 and Appendix to the General Instruction for the Diocese of the United States of America #11).
Also, in this Diocesan Church, when the faithful gather for meetings, classes, or workshops, their prayer should always invoke the trinitarian God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Lord's Prayer, which is prayed often, is not to be altered. Neither are the Apostles' or Nicene Creeds to be changed.
Another area in Liturgy that needs to reflect unity involves movement and posture. A liturgical principle that needs to be preserved is the unity of the assembly gathered to worship [GIRM #20].
As regards the general prescription for the reception of Holy Communion, one may kneel or stand (Eucharisticum Mysterium #34 and Inaestimabile Donum #11). While the conference of bishops have not addressed communion posture, "local custom and varying circumstances" can determine that posture, as may the Diocesan Bishop.
Given the fact that "proper reverence" is determined by the Local Ordinary if not otherwise done by the conference of bishops, I share with you the following considerations. And, I make the subsequent determination.
When the Church speaks of receiving the Eucharist under both species, the understanding is that the communicant is standing (GIRM #244 c & d). In both Eucharisticum Mysterium (1967) and Inaestimabile Donum (1980), it is stated that when receiving Holy Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that when approaching in line, the communicants make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament. This show of reverence should be done so as not to interfere with the coming and going of other communicants.
In the United States, Catholics do kneel as a body prior to receiving the Eucharist. While this is not true in other countries nor directed in the Roman Sacramentary, American Catholics kneel while the presider presents the Sacred Species with the words: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." In practice, we do kneel before receiving Holy Communion.
Reverence is likewise shown by all in the assembly when joined in singing the communion song. The communion procession is highlighted as one of the central processions of the Mass. Extending one's tongue or presenting one's hand, as a throne to receive the consecrated host, is a show of reverence. The ancient sign of reverence and expression of faith is that shown by the "Amen" of the communicant as he/she receives the consecrated bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ. Reverence continues to be shown as all persist in singing the communion procession hymn until all in the assembly have received Holy Communion.
Should an individual of this Diocesan Church wish to make a further sign of reverence just prior to receiving Holy Communion, that sign is to be that of the sign of the cross. In any case, making the sign of the cross in silence should precede receiving Holy Communion rather than follow. Thus, in order to seek uniformity of movement and posture, I direct the sign of the cross to be the sign of reverence prior to the reception of Holy Communion.
in Liturgy is desirable as a sign of our unity in Jesus Christ. It expresses
our oneness in the Eucharistic Lord and of our reverence and love for the
Sacrament of the Lord's Body and Blood. This uniformity of word and movement
will enhance the expression of our liturgical celebration of unity in Christ
as we of the one Household gather around the one table and eat and drink
the one bread and cup that is Jesus the Lord.