To know how to celebrate the liturgy, the sacred mystery of the Mass must be understood, says Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, who was one of the speakers at an international conference on Sacred Liturgy held this week in Rome.
The four-day conference, which concluded today, offered studies of Sacred Liturgy with the aim of promoting and renewing appreciation of liturgical formation and celebration, as well as its foundation for the mission of the Church. Organized by Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, France, the overarching theme of the gathering was approached within the context of the Second Vatican Council, 50 years on, and the many liturgical reforms that followed.
Sacra Liturgia 2013, consisting of more than 16 conferences and the solemn celebration of Mass in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite, was held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
In an interview with ZENIT ahead of the conference, Archbishop Sample, who delivered an address on the roll of the diocesan bishop as governor, promoter, and guardian of liturgical life, spoke on the bishop's responsibility to renew and reform the Sacred Liturgy at the diocesan level.
This role, he said, "involves his threefoldoffice as teacher, sanctifier and governor of the local Church entrusted to his pastoral care."
Archbishop Sample noted how this 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council provides the opportunity to revisit the council texts and re-examine its message with regard to the Sacred Liturgy. "We must be able to read again these beautiful teachings, but within a hermeneutic of reform in continuity, as Pope Benedict XVI called us to do. Much good has been accomplished, but there are shadows as well that have resulted from what I believe was a misinterpretation of the Council itself on the part of not a few. We need to be open and honest in our assessment of the fruitfulness of liturgical reform."
"By studying again the direction the Council Fathers gave," he said, "remembering the whole period that preceded the Council, we can, I hope, regain our bearings and steer the course of liturgical reform and renewal according to the true mind of the Council."
In the years following the council, the archbishop said, the poor catechesis and faith formation created serious challenges in directing the faithful toward a proper understanding of what the liturgy is about. "We are beginning to regain some ground in this regard," Archbishop Sample continued, "but we have a long way to go. My generation and those younger are simply not well catechized and formed in the teachings of the Church. Not only does this impact our fundamental understanding of the mystery of our redemption in Christ, but even more so how that mystery is celebrated and made present in the holy Mass."
"If we do not fully understand what is happening in the holy sacrifice of the Mass," he said, "we cannot properly understand how to celebrate the sacred liturgy."
When speaking of the true "full, active, and conscious" participation in the liturgy, called for by the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Sample said that this participation "must first be directed to this fundamental need for the faithful to understand the essential and intrinsic meaning of the Mass, helping them participate first on the level of the mind and heart."