Pontiff Gives Ideas to Improve Participation at Mass

Wonders If People Are Afraid of Detaching From the Media

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In his second postsynodal apostolic exhortation, released today, Benedict XVI offers seven practical proposals for promoting fuller participation in the liturgy.



"Verbum Domini," dated Sept. 30, feast of St. Jerome, was presented today at the Vatican. St. Jerome, legendary translator of the Bible, is the patron of Bible scholars.

The exhortation draws from the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which was held Oct. 5-26, 2008, at the Vatican. The theme of that synod was "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

"Verbum Domini" is divided into three parts and an introduction and covers themes including God the Father as source and inspiration of the word, sin as a refusal to hear the word of God, the "dark" passages of the Bible, and the importance of the homily.

Benedict XVI ranges from theological to practical in the document, which is available at the Vatican Web site in a 200-page edition.

Are they listening?

Among the practical themes is the section on "suggestions and practical proposals for promoting fuller participation in the liturgy."

The first of the recommendations involves "celebrations of the word of God."

The Pontiff noted a recommendation from the synod fathers that pastors should promote times devoted to such celebrations, "privileged occasions for an encounter with the Lord."

"This practice will certainly benefit the faithful, and should be considered an important element of liturgical formation," he said. "Celebrations of this sort are particularly significant as a preparation for the Sunday Eucharist; they are also a way to help the faithful to delve deeply into the riches of the Lectionary, and to pray and meditate on sacred Scripture, especially during the great liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter."

The Holy Father mentioned celebrations of the word as a particular benefit for communities without sufficient priests for regular Sunday and holy day Masses. And he cautioned against these celebrations being confused with the Mass.

The second recommendation involves the word and silence.

"The word, in fact, can only be spoken and heard in silence, outward and inward," the Pope affirmed.

But, he observed, "Ours is not an age which fosters recollection; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media."

Thus people must be "educated in the value of silence," the Bishop of Rome suggested. "Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. [...] Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence."

The Pope called for the liturgy of the word to be celebrated in such a way that favors meditation. "Silence, when called for, should be considered 'a part of the celebration,'" he said.

Getting their attention

Benedict XVI encouraged a solemn proclamation of the word of God, with outward signs such as carrying the Gospel Book in procession, or singing the Gospel on certain solemnities.

He gave consideration to practical matters such as church acoustics and the visibility and decoration of the ambo.

The Holy Father also reiterated Church law that Scripture may not be replaced by other texts. "It should also be kept in mind that the Responsorial Psalm is also the word of God," he noted, "and hence should not be replaced by other texts; indeed it is most appropriate that it be sung."

The sixth recommendation has to do with liturgical song. In this regard, the Pope observed: "As part of the enhancement of the word of God in the liturgy, attention should also be paid to the use of song at the times called for by the particular rite. Preference should be given to songs which are of clear biblical inspiration and which express, through the harmony of music and words, the beauty of God’s word. We would do well to make the most of those songs handed down to us by the Church’s tradition which respect this criterion. I think in particular of the importance of Gregorian chant."

Finally, the Holy Father made special mention of the visually and hearing impaired.

"I encourage our Christian communities to offer every possible practical assistance to our brothers and sisters suffering from such impairments," he exhorted, "so that they too can be able to experience a living contact with the word of the Lord."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-30942?l=english