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Vol. III, No. 9: December 1997/January 1998
Adoremus Holds Liturgy Conference

How to recover a renewed sense of the sacred in the celebration of the liturgy as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council was the theme addressed by speakers at the first liturgical conference sponsored by Adoremus.

The conference, attended by about 500 people, was held November 22, 1997 in suburban Los Angeles.

Featured speakers were Father Cassian Folsom, OSB , Director of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome; Scott Hahn , professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville; Duncan Stroik , associate professor at the Notre Dame University School of Architecture; and Father Joseph Fessio, SJ , of Ignatius Press .

" Heaven on Earth"

Scott Hahn provided a theological basis for liturgical renewal in his talk, "Liturgy as Heaven on Earth".

The norm for all liturgical worship, he said, is the worship of the saints and angels in heaven. But because of worldliness, people are unable to understand that the liturgy is truly "heaven on earth". Since Mass is where heaven touches earth, it is our entrance into the communion of Saints.

Quoting Cardinal Ratzinger, Hahn observed that Catholics do not attend Mass to feel a part of a community, but to be brought into union with the Body of Christ. It is from this union, realized at Mass, that believers are given the power to wage "liturgical warfare" against the evils of our time.

Restoring Reverence

Father Cassian Folsom, speaking on "Restoring Reverence to the Liturgy", emphasized the importance of external gestures in restoring reverence to the liturgy. The meaning of "active participation" at Mass, he said, is an interior participation of all the powers of the soul in the sacrifice of Christ, but this necessarily involves actions of the body. The sense of union of the body and soul has largely been lost in modern times, Father Folsom observed, and this loss has led to erosion of understanding that the soul expresses worship through the body. The goal of the Christian, he pointed out, is the resurrection of the body, not simply the immortality of the soul.

According to Father Folsom, the solution to the divorce of the body from the soul is proper liturgical formation. Catholics must learn to express their interior life in an appropriately exterior way. He stressed the importance of liturgical gestures, such as genuflecting, making the sign of the cross, use of holy water, striking the breast, and he described the meaning of such gestures, why they are important and how these physical actions are fitting expressions of worship.

Duncan Stroik, whose essay on the roots of modernist church architecture was published in the October edition of AB , addressed the group on "Environments for Liturgical Worship". The topic is particularly timely because of the many renovation and remodeling projects involving Catholic churches, and also because a committee of bishops and liturgists is currently at work on a new version of a 1978 statement of the bishops' liturgy committee, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship , which has governed most of these renovations.

In Professor Stroik's view, the extreme "functionalist" theory which has prevailed in both secular and church architecture for nearly 70 years is aesthetically limited. His own architectural work suggests alternatives to the long dominance of the modernist model. Creative use of historic elements in new church buildings, he believes, may help to recapture the transcendent vision of the Christian faith.

Father Joseph Fessio was the principal celebrant and homilist at the conference Mass. In his homily, Father Fessio explained that this Mass was celebrated principally in English because of the unfamiliarity of Latin to most Catholics. But, as Father Fessio also explained, the use of Latin in the liturgy is not only in full conformity with Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) , but the Council clearly intended that Latin would remain the language of the Roman Rite, and decreed that the faithful should be able to chant the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin and that Gregorian chant should be accorded "pride of place" in sacred music.

In an authentically reformed Roman Rite as intended by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, Father Fessio pointed out, the unchanging parts of the Mass -- the Ordinary (the Kyrie , Gloria , Sanctus , Agnus Dei ) and the Canon (known as Eucharistic Prayer I) -- would have been in Latin, but other parts such as Scripture readings would have been in the vernacular.

At the conference Mass, most of the liturgy was said in English, a layman read the Epistle and led the Responsorial Psalm. But Father Fessio and the concelebrants said Mass facing the altar (that is, with the people, not toward them). The Ordinary of the Mass was chanted by the people to a Gregorian setting, and sacred polyphonic music was sung by a choir (the Saint Augustine Voices) during Communion.

All sessions were audio taped by St. Joseph's Communications, PO Box 720, West Covina, CA 91753-0720. A complete set of all six tapes is available for $24.95 (plus $3.00 shipping and handling. CA residents add 8.25% tax, Florida residents add 6% tax).

(Chris Zehnder contributed information for this story.)

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