Liturgy Must Be Popular

If liturgy means more than formalism, rubricism, and legalism, but rather is the church’s public worship, then the only approach that guarantees a faithfulness to liturgical tradition is to recognize it as being marked by a pastoral and popular character. Contrary to the clerical understanding of liturgy that marked the life of the church in recent centuries, [Pius] Parsch insists we must realize again that a “liturgy reserved exclusively to the priests” cannot exist.

Andrea Grillo, Beyond Pius V: Conflicting Interpretations of the Liturgical Reform, trans. Barry Hudock, Rev. Ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013), pp. 23-24. ISBN: 978-0-8146-6327-1.

Editor’s Note: Pius Parsch, born John Bruno Parsch (May 18, 1884 – March 11, 1954) was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Parsch was born in Neustift near Olmutz, Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic. He was given the name Pius when he entered the community of Canons Regular in Klosterneuburg Abbey. He was a leading figure in the Liturgical Movement, publishing the results of recent liturgical scholarship in popularly accessible books in German. Some of these were translated into English, including The Liturgy of the Mass (Herder, 1940), The Breviary Explained (id., 1952), and The Church’s Year of Grace (Liturgical Press, 1953). He promoted the “volksliturgischen” or “People’s Mass”. This early practice of the liturgical renewal was notable for celebration at a free standing altar with the priest facing the people (which he instituted at St. Gertrud Kirche), gothic vestments and an emphasis on the liturgical seasons rather than the calendar of the saints. These features were all permitted but uncommon prior to Vatican Council II. Parsch died in Klosterneuburg, aged 59.

The fundamental vision of Parsch can be summed up thus:

  1. The gathered assembly is a true “actor” of the liturgy whose presence is not simply “tolerated.”
  2. A truly living liturgy, which produces its normal effects, never happens independent of participation by the assembly.
  3. This participation is a corollary of the dogma of the mystical body and the consequence dogma of the universal priesthood.
  4. The Christian priesthood is only an image of the singular priesthood of Christ, which assumes “universal” form in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation and “ordered” form in the sacrament of orders.
  5. The faithful truly and sacerdotally offer the sacrifice of the New Convenant under the authority of the ordained minister.

Ibid., p. 24.

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Article by Andrew Doohan

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