Next Sunday, September 4th, sees the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal. To coincide with that, we want to present some forthcoming publications that look more closely at the Mass in a clear yet inspiring way.
Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, who wrote the acclaimed CTS guide Understanding the Roman Missal, has authored a new guide (appearing later in September) for people in the pews, setting out, with the help of reflections from St Benedict, important points to remember and think about before and during Mass. A Simple Guide to the Mass begins by telling us how we can prepare for the liturgy and how significant our physical behaviour is:
The importance of physical behaviour
“Let us consider how we ought to behave in the presence of God.” (Saint Benedict). “A liturgical celebration is always a very serious action. It must be prepared and carried out with great care in its every detail.” (Pope Paul VI).
Care for external details must be accompanied by attention to internal dispositions. To be attentive to gestures and postures makes an important contribution towards creating that atmosphere of recollection which is felt by many to be lacking in our liturgy. Standing is a mark of respect. We stand to sing God’s praises and to pray for our needs and those of all peoples on the earth. Standing is also a sign of waiting in readiness for the Lord. To stand up is to give witness and make an affirmation; that is why we stand to profess our faith.
Kneeling is a sign of penitence and a gesture of supplication. It is a powerful symbol of adoration and of acknowledgement of our dependence upon the Lord our God, Creator of heaven and earth. It is a gesture which we find frequently in Scripture and it has an important place in the Liturgy.
The profound bow is a deep sign of reverence. A profound bow is made when passing in front of the altar and during the Creed. The bowing of the head is a sign of reverence. Sitting is a position for listening and learning, just as Mary of Bethany sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. We sit to listen to the word of God and to ponder it in our hearts in prayer. When we walk in procession we are reminded that we are the pilgrim people of God.
The text’s title contains the word “Simple” and that is a vital point to make; the new translation is also an opportunity to look again at the meaning of the liturgy, that all parts of it are there for a reason and they are reasons that are not difficult to grasp.
A Simple Guide to the Mass is available to pre-order from CTS and will be published on September 16th priced £1.95
Of related interest: