On Banners, Overhead Projectors and PowerPoint Displays

And More on Latin in the Mass

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ROME, JUNE 8, 2010 (http://www.zenit.org«>Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: It is a regular feature at Masses in Australia and New Zealand that children or artists make banners for decorating churches, especially for the different seasons and for special occasions, such as confirmations. Many parishes are now replacing overhead projectors with the words of the hymns, with computerized PowerPoint displays that allow for all kinds of graphics and backgrounds to be added. I have seen everything from small discreet icons to actual video clips of the entry into Jerusalem from Mel Gibson’s Passion during the Sanctus and worse. Are there any norms for visual displays in church, and in particular, the use of projected images during Mass? — J.B., Melbourne, Australia

A: There are few specific laws or even orientation regarding this aspect. But perhaps some of the principles formulated by the U.S. bishops’ document on Church art and architecture, «http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/livingstonesind.shtml«>Built of Living Stones,» might be of help.

With respect to the use of banners, the document says: «127. Fabric art in the form of processional banners and hangings can be an effective way to convey the spirit of liturgical seasons, especially through the use of color, shape, texture, and symbolic form. The use of images rather than words is more in keeping with this medium.»

This would at least indicate that tasteful and well-designed banners may have a place within the liturgy, even if the handiwork of children. Indeed, in one form or another, banners such as the symbols of confraternities and other Catholic organizations have long been used on solemn occasions such as Eucharistic processions.

Since the use of videos or overhead projections is such a novelty and is still a rarity, I have found almost nothing official on this theme. Some of the general principles on liturgical artwork in «Built of Living Stones» might help clarify the issue:

«The Role of Religious Art

«143. Art chosen for the place of worship is not simply something pretty or well made, an addition to make the ordinary more pleasant. Nor is the place of worship a museum to house artistic masterpieces or artistic models. Rather, artworks truly belong in the church when they are worthy of the place of worship and when they enhance the liturgical, devotional, and contemplative prayer they are inspired to serve.

«Components of True and Worthy Art

«146. Authentic art is integral to the Church at prayer because these objects and actions are ‘signs and symbols of the supernatural world’ and expressions of the divine presence. While personal tastes will differ, parish committees should utilize the criteria of quality and appropriateness in evaluating art for worship ….

«148. Appropriateness for liturgical action is the other criterion for choosing a work of art for church. The quality of appropriateness is demonstrated by the work’s ability to bear the weight of mystery, awe, reverence and wonder that the liturgical action expresses and by the way it serves and does not interrupt the ritual actions which have their own structure, rhythm and movement ….

«Materials of the Artist

«162. Artists choose materials with integrity because they will endure from generation to generation, because they are noble enough for holy actions, and because they express what is most respected and beautiful in the lives and cultures of the community. Materials, colors, shapes, and designs that are of short-lived popularity are unworthy ….

«163. Similarly, artworks consisting of technological and interactive media, such as video and other electronically fabricated images, may also be appropriate for sacred purposes. Subject to the same criteria of suitability as other sacred art, technologically produced works of art can point toward sacred realities even though they do not possess the more enduring form, color, texture, weight, and density found in more traditional sacred art.»

Thus, while No. 163 apparently leaves open the possibility of the use of technological aids, it does not elaborate upon the contexts in which these means may be used.

Personally I do not consider that the use of slide shows and videos during Mass is a legitimate option. It is said that a picture paints a thousand words, but even a picture must be interpreted using words, albeit mentally. Thus, these visual elements, instead of enhancing the rite, draw attention away from the liturgical action of participating in the rite itself.

For this reason I believe that No. 148 cited above, by stressing that liturgical art serve and not interrupt «the ritual actions which have their own structure, rhythm and movement,» is especially applicable in this case.

* * *

Follow-up: The «Adoro Te Devote»

Related to our comments on the Adoro Te Devote (see http://www.zenit.org/article-29371?l=english«>May 25), an Indiana reader had inquired about the use of Latin in vernacular Masses. He asked: «It was stated that Latin may be used for the common prayers of the Mass including the Kyrie. The Kyrie is Greek. Does this mean that the equivalent Latin may be substituted? Also, I have heard Latin being used for introduction to the readings when the readings, including the Gospel, were in English. Also, at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer (in English), I have heard Latin. Is this permitted?»

It is a common faux pas to forget that Kyrie Eleison («Lord, have mercy») is a Greek text within the Latin Mass, although it could also be legitimately considered — like blasé, chic, rendezvous and café in English — as a foreign import which has gained full citizenship. In this sense the liturgical Latin equivalent for Kyrie Eleison would be Kyrie Eleison. The Vatican occasionally uses different Latin invocations in some litanies and the prayer of the faithful but never in the Kyrie.

In general we can say that it is permitted to use Latin for the introduction to the readings. This is especially useful for international groups and allows everybody to sing the proper responses. The same could be said for other moments, such as the memorial acclamation, provided of course that most of the assembly is familiar with the Latin text.

The use of Latin for the doxology in vernacular recitation could be permitted to allow it to be easily sung, although the same melody usually works just as well for most vernacular translations.

As a general rule, however, multiple languages should not be used for the Eucharistic Prayer. If, for example, priests from several countries concelebrate for a congregation of one predominant language, then it would be preferable that Latin be used for the entire Eucharistic Prayer and the Our Father, with the rest of the Mass in the vernacular.

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