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Saturday, 12 August 2006

Guéranger and liturgical participation

Guéranger's On the Holy Mass is a spiritual commentary on the prayers of the Mass. His love for the Roman Rite is evident throughout, as indeed we would expect: he spent much time persuading various dioceses in France to abandon corrupt local rites in favour of the Roman Rite.

At the end of the book is the Ordinary of the Mass. I decided to read through this once I realised that in addition to the text, there are some comments interspersed. However, I also noticed something that I believe is significant. The two columns are arranged as if they are original and translation. For parts of the Mass, this is indeed the case - for example the Gloria and the Creed. However for most of the texts, Guéranger does not give a translation but something which varies between a paraphrase and a spiritual reflection.

For example, the text of the Quam oblationem can be translated as follows: (let's just not bother with the old ICEL nonsense)
Which oblation we beseech You, O God, deign in every way, to bless, approve, ratify, make worthy and acceptable; that it may become for us the Body and Blood of Thy most beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Guéranger does not offer a simple translation of this but has:
Yea, Lord, this is the moment when this bread is to become His sacred Body which is our food; and this wine is to be changed into His Blood, which is our drink. Ah! Delay no longer, but bring us into the presence of this divine Son our Saviour!
He offers to the faithful a reflection and prayer suitable to their participation at the time that the priest is offering a prayer that is suited to his sacerdotal office.

Today, the faithful only have the text itself. It is read aloud so there is little space for personal reflection to assimilate the liturgical prayer to their particular needs. In many cases, too, the prayers are those of the priest who is offering the sacrifice in a particular way, rather than the faithful who are making a united but distinct offering.

Guéranger is rightly credited as the father of a great movement of renewal in which the faithful were encouraged to draw spiritual fruit from the liturgical texts themselves. The practical reforms of the Liturgy have included the audible (usually electronically amplified) recitation of most of the texts of the Mass and it is assumed that this means that people are participating more fully in the prayers. However, Guéranger himself did not simply offer the liturgical texts but a spiritual application of them.

The question of the silent recitation of the Canon is the subject of several comments by Guéranger which will be the subject of another post.
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