The Chattering Classes Are UsGEORGE WEIGEL
Catholics once had an intuitive understanding of sacred space.
2011 could be a year in which the liturgical catechesis enjoined by Vatican II as part of the reform of the liturgy actually takes place: if pastors and parish liturgy directors see the introduction of the new English translations that will become mandatory on the First Sunday of Advent as the occasion to do what should have been done 40 years ago, and equip the saints – who have too often devolved into the liturgical chattering classes – for their part in worship. That part was beautifully defined by the fathers of Vatican II in the chapter on the Holy Eucharist of the Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
The Church . . . earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers. . . . They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves.
That offering of self takes place through silence as well as through the "full, conscious, and active participation" the Council enjoined – a "participation," I might add, that was not envisioned as obliterating the distinction between behavior appropriate to the parish hall and behavior fitting for the body of the Church. Both our participation in the liturgy and our silence should reflect the distinctiveness of the sacred space that we are privileged to share when we come into church. If there is little discernible difference in our parishes between what happens in the narthex before and after Mass and what happens in the body of the Church during Mass, something is wrong.
Pastors and liturgical directors have a great opportunity this year to re-educate Christ's people in the nature of the liturgy. That education can be both direct and indirect: direct, by catechesis from the pulpit; indirect, by providing ample moments of silence within the liturgy. There is no reason why every available moment during Mass must be filled with speech or music; surely there ought to be moments of repose when all are allowed to listen for the "still small voice" of 1 Kings 19:12. Those moments, in turn, might help remind us that sacred space is not space for chatter.
George Weigel. "The Chattering Classes Are Us." Inside Catholic (January 18, 2011).
Reprinted with permission of InsideCatholic.com. The mission of InsideCatholic.com is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square.
George Weigel, a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on issues of religion and public life. Weigel is the author or editor of The End and the Beginning: John Paul II – The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, Against the Grain: Christianity and Democracy, War and Peace, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action, God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God, Letters to a Young Catholic: The Art of Mentoring, The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, and The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explore.
George Weigel's major study of the life, thought, and action of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (Harper Collins, 1999) was published to international acclaim in 1999, and translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, and German. The 2001 documentary film based on the book won numerous prizes. George Weigel is a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News, and his weekly column, "The Catholic Difference," is syndicated to more than fifty newspapers around the United States.
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