THERE was a time. and it was not so very long ago. when to be interested in the Liturgy was to he considered just a little "odd". And the kind of thing that the word "Liturgy" implied did somehow or other appeal to a certain strange type, who thought it great fun to wear very full surplices, to sing the divine offices of the Church note by note — unaccompanied, no matter how bad they were. by any musical instrument—and to stamp down hard on the simpler Catholic who liked a homelier, more spontaneous approach to Almighty God, and did not object to an English hymn now and then.
So it has come about that the real Liturgical Movement has had to push an awful lot of misconception out of the way. Because, you see, this genuine Liturgy of the Church is something very practical, very sensible. It appeals to our best instinct. If we take the trouble to examine it properly, it fulfils all that innate desire we have to give expression to our realisation that we belong to God.
There has never been a period in history when the Church's ceremonies were arbitrarily chosen and meaningless. One half of the purpose of ceremonial worship is to express by word. and perhaps even more by action, the Church's attitude of mind. And the other half is to communicate that attitude of mind to those who take part in it.
This is particularly true of the prayers and adtions of the Mass, and of the administration of the Sacraments.
The meaning has always been there for those who cared to look for it. Very many thoughtful men and women did indeed seek and find the treasures that the Liturgical books held for them. But they were hidden treasures. And ordinary folk with little time to study and no knowledge of Latin were losing a great deal of what was originally intended precisely for them.
Some priests, with a taste for such things, and perhaps also with greater realisation than others had of their pastoral value, succeeded in forming their congregations into very genuine liturgically minded people in the best sense of the words. But so many of the clergy did not share that taste and had not that realisation. Their time was better spent, they said, visiting the homes of the people, getting the children to school, and the parents to Mass.
The trouble has been, let us face it, that when the children have come to school we have not always known how to start teaching them their religion, and when the parents have been drawn into the Church they have had little to help them to understand 'what is happening there.
That must now be a thing of the past. The visiting, as a pastoral effort. must be continued. It is essential. I would say. But it must be supplemented by the use of the Church's own instruction and system of visual aid which is the Liturgy.
We who are responsible for the people in God's eyes have to study the means the Church has given us. And we have to use them to bring the knowledge of himself and his dealings with them to those he has placed in our charge.
The Liturgical revival must be presented as a practical, down to earth movement. It must neither be allowed to get into the exclusive hands of fanatics nor to be pushed aside as a passing fad by those who have not understood its meaning.
Inevitably changes are not to everyone's liking. But some change there must be if the Church is to meet the challenge of the age we live in. Time was, and not so long ago, when it was thought quite enough for the ordinary faithful to know that the priest at Mass renews the Sacrifice of Calvary, that Christ is present really and truly after the Consecration.
Let them think over these mighty facts. Let them follow the Latin of the Mass with a popular translation if they wished or the action of the Mass with such devotional aids as the "Garden of the Soul" or the "Key of Heaven"; or occupy themselves with a meditation on the Life and Death of our Lord, using their Rosary beads perhaps to help them.
Let no one dismiss all this as unenlightened or unworthy. Many a soul is in heaven through doing precisely these things regularly and well.
But the Church in present circumstances does want some thing more. She wants her children to take an active part in what is going on: to understand more of what is being said. And even those who, left to themselves, would prefer the old ways, must try to make an effort to follow the new ones.
Particularly. I suppose. there is a very big difference of opinion about the use of English, in the Mass especially. Latin is relatively a universal language. It unites us with the past. It links us with the other countries of the Latin Church. Somehow we are used to it. We like the sound of it.
All that is true; but again it is not just a group of faddists, not a number of misguided enthusiasts imagining that all will be well once the people can follow the words and know what it is all about. It is the considered judgment of the vast majority of the Bishops of the whole church that it will be a good thing for the laity to hear some of the liturgy in their own language.
And even if we don't like it too much, loyalty demands that we should accept the decision and do our best to make it succeed.
As to how it is to be done: the general principles were laid down in the Council; but it has been left to the groups of national bishops to apply them, each group to their own country according to circumstances and needs.
There will be different degrees of application in different regions. That is inevitable. I would say it is in every way desirable at this stage; since it furnishes opportunity for comparison. It also makes experiment possible.
We have to remember that we are in a transitional period. It would be a grave mistake to imagine that there is no room