– Vol. VII, No. 3: May 2001
Vision for Eucharist the vision of liturgists
New directives distress Canadian Catholics
by Andrea Procher
In January 2001, the archdiocese of Toronto, Canada was presented with a liturgical document entitled Vision for Eucharist*. Though it may at first appear bland, its contents give much cause for concern.
"Vision" was prepared by the Archdiocesan Liturgy Resource Committee, some members of which have been openly critical of the Magisterium. The document is copyrighted by the Catholic Office of Religious Education (CORE), an organization known for its "progressivism", as is evident in its guide for preparation for Confirmation, Anointed for Mission.
Most distressingly, "Vision" is authorized by Archbishop Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic of Toronto, and is also accompanied by "Supporting Pages" and a "Commentary", which both contain many troublesome suggestions.
Jargon with agenda
The authors use language that clearly attempts to abolish the sense of the sacred and to redirect the attention of the faithful. The focus is turned from Christ and the mystery of His sacrifice to the gathering community and its participation in Eucharist. In place of "priest" is the word "presider". The congregation is always an "assembly"; the chalices and ciboria are "cups and containers". The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is simply "eucharist" (lower-case "e") or "Sunday celebration"; and the Body and Blood of the Lord are most often called "consecrated bread and wine".
Vision for Eucharist largely avoids the words "Catholic", "sacrament", "sacrifice" and "Church".
While many may disregard changes in usage, there is an agenda here. An article by Calvert Shenk, "The Jargon of Liturgists: Brain-Washing the Faithful", pin-points problems of innovation in Church vocabulary.
"Assembly", Shenk notes, "is designed to include all who ‘assemble’, including the priest. The intention is to eradicate the distinction between the celebrant, acting ‘in persona Christi‘, and the faithful who participate in the sacrifice analogically". The reason the priest is called a ‘presider’, Shenk observes, "is to de-supernaturalize Holy Orders".
Words such as "word", "eucharist", "church", he says, "become jargon when used without the definite article, `the’ [along with capitalization]…. The idea seems to be to eliminate the notion of the Eucharist or the Church as a specific definable entity. Whatever the user of the term would like ‘Eucharist’ or ‘Church’ to mean becomes its meaning". (Mr. Shenk’s article is available on the EWTN web site at http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/SMJARGON.TXT.)
Liturgical jargon is not the only problem with Vision for Eucharist.
Concerning the material for sacred vessels, the Commentary says, "There is no detailed legislation touching on the design and material to be used for the communion cups…. Glass is not excluded, provided it is of a sufficiently durable construction".
"Durable glass" is not only an amusing oxymoron the 1975 General Instruction of the Roman Missal calls for the material for Communion vessels to be "noble and solid" (290) as well as "worthy" (291). Since glass stemware is commonly used in North American households, is it really "worthy" material?
The new Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, released in July 2000, addresses this directly when it states that sacred vessels must be constructed "from noble metal" and repeats that "preference is always to be given to materials that do not break easily or deteriorate". (328)
Vision for Eucharist echoes other familiar liturgical trends that water down traditional Catholic concepts such as substituting praise for penitence. Vision says that during the penitential rite of the Mass, "care should be taken that the invocations are addressed to Christ … and that they are true acclamations (not an examination of conscience). Even with its penitential character, it should be remembered that `Lord (Christ) have mercy’ is historically an acclamation of praise to the one who has been merciful and saved us, rather than a cry for compassion".
The Committee evidently does not want people focusing on personal sins and their need for redemption.
There are other problems with Vision for Eucharist:
1) it insists that the tabernacle be placed "in a location apart from the place of celebration often in a separate or side chapel"
2) it narrowly interprets the meaning of gestures: "standing is itself a sign of reverence and respect; kneeling is traditionally a gesture of humility and repentance"
3) it unequivocally states that "the faithful are to receive communion from bread and wine brought forward and consecrated at that celebration" and,
4) it makes a barely-veiled pitch for removal of sacred images and cessation of traditional gestures of reverence: "while past generations expressed importance by multiplying symbols and gestures, today we have come to understand more clearly the simplicity of our tradition".
Vision‘s supporting pages and commentary are contradictory and confusing in places. For example,
"When larger gatherings or individuals unfamiliar with the parish are present, it may be necessary for the presider (or other minister) to offer a few words of direction before communion begins. This is not an appropriate occasion for pointing out who may or may not approach the Lord’s table for communion".
If not during the "few words of direction", then when, exactly, is a good time to point out who may and may not approach for Communion?
A passage on the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist blurs important distinctions:
In a way that is completely unique, the whole and entire Christ, God and man, is substantially and permanently present in the sacrament. This presence of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine ‘is called real, not to exclude other kinds of presence as if they were not real, but because it is real par excellence.’ (Holy Communion and Worship Outside of Mass §6). Each Sunday, the Christian community gathers to celebrate the presence of the risen Lord in its midst. This presence is manifest in a variety of ways: from the moment the community has gathered as sacred assembly, Christ is present; in the ministers who preside and serve; in the word proclaimed and explained; finally, in Eucharist, the presence that is not only called real, but is unique and abiding. It is to this presence that we usually assign the word `real’ not to lessen the others, but to make clear the centrality of the mystery of the Lord’s presence in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.
This passage on "realness" is confusing, at best. And what are we to make of "ministers who preside" when the document had earlier said, "other individuals share the priest’s ministry to the assembly, although they do not share his role as presider" ?
All the Vision documents are filled with empty liturgical clichés. Examples:
"The acclamation is the basic musical unit of the song of the assembly";
"The action of coming forward [to receive Communion] is meant to be a true procession the moment itself is a reminder of God’s people on pilgrimage".
(How unfortunate that a processional pilgrimage to the confessional rarely precedes the "pilgrimage" to Communion.)
One good suggestion for the adornment of churches during Lent and the Paschal season: "The entire church building will take on a Lenten array of stark simplicity and be lavishly decorated for Easter". Ironically, though, one doubts that some of our "worship spaces" could afford to get any starker.
In the end, it all comes down to a fundamental flaw. Vision for Eucharist and its companion documents are based on an agenda-driven interpretation of the liturgical norms in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. With the publication of the new Roman Missal imminent, and its Institutio already released, perhaps the Archdiocesan Liturgy Resource Committee chose the wrong time to publish its Vision. Or perhaps in their view it is the perfect time to pre-empt the Holy See’s new rules for the liturgy.
Andrea Procher is a 23-year-old registered nurse at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, Ontario. She was home-schooled (grades six to twelve) before attending Franciscan University, Steubenville.
*"Vision for Eucharist" can be downloaded on the Toronto archdiocese’s web site at http://www.archtoronto.org/ter/eucharist/vision.zip.