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Consilium ad Exsequendam. Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia
Father Fontaine, a member of the. Consilium Liturgicum, comments on work under way towards adopting "the riches of a tradition..-, deeply rooted in the history of the People of God".
Jewish Roots of our Liturgy
The broad orientation of liturgical renewal set out by Vatican II and already put into practice through directives from the Holy See during the last three years, are well known. Great efforts'are being made by the "Consilium" and its 200 experts, to produce in the shortest possible time,liturgical books which will be both a simplification and an enrichment, which, while respecting lawful tradition, will respond to the most legitimate contemporary pastoral demands.
One wonders, though, whether this renewal will bring out the 'Jewish origins of our liturgy which is the expression of the New Alliance inaugurated by the cross of Christ. I do not think this is the aim of the "Consilium" experts, but it is certain that their work of restoration and of returning to the sources will bring into evidence the foundation of Christian liturgy and in this way, all that the "Church of God" (1.Cor,l:2) owes in this respect to the "Qahal Yahweh" (Nem.13:1). Within the limited extent of this article, it is impossible to make a complete review of the Jewish sources of our liturgy; suffice it to mention ,several areas in which the present renewal is at pains to adopt the riches of a tradition which is deeply rooted in the history of the People of God.
The Liturgy of the Word
The Council has emphasised the place that the Word of God must have in worship and in the life of Christians. The Liturgical Reform aims at restoring to its true place of honour, the Word of God, - proclaimed everywhere in the vernacular - in the first part of the Eucharistic assembly, as also in celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word, which have become increasingly frequent in recent years. The complete re-organisation of biblical readings in the Ordo Lectionum will give a more complete and more rewarding contact with the Divine Word; readings from the Old Testament are being restored for Sundays and holy days of obligation. The traditional scheme of the First Alliance is being increasingly reinstated: reading, psalm, homily and universal prayer (cf. Neh. 8:1-12; Lk.4:16-22, the daily Eighteen Blessings).
It is in the setting of the Paschal meal, and in the great Jewish tradition of "b'rakah", that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his apostles, which we renew in the Eucharist "until He comes again" (1 Cor. 11:26). From now on, the great Eucharistic prayer can be proclaimed aloud in the vernacular and the essential parts can be chanted, What is more, authorisation will most 'Probably be given for the experimental 'Us@ of four new eucharistic prayers which recall the most familiar themes of the early anaphora (St. Justin, St. Basil and others). .This will come closer to the-Jewish concept of "blessing" and its fundamental structure: admiring praise of God and 'His Works, anamnesis of His wonders, intercession for those who are praying, and a final doxology.
Since the restoration of con-celebrated Masses, the ritual of the breaking of bread, so rich in human and spiritual meaning in the Judeo-Chris-/ tian tradition, has regained its importance and place of honour. With the permission to communicate more frequently under both species, the meaning of the wine, and its signification as a festive element, have been re-discovered.(of. Prov. 31:27; Pe.104:15), the "Cup of Salvation" (Ps.116:13) which has become "the cup of blessing" (1 Cori10:16). "cup of the new and eternal alliance". Participation of the People
The active participation of "the holy people of God" in the liturgical action is shown among other ways by attitudes, gestures, acclamations and responses. In these different areas, the Church of Christ has adopted customs and vocabulary from the First Alliance. The liturgical renewal attaches great importance to these manifestations of "a royal priesthood" (cf. Ex.19:6; Apoc.1:6) and the clergy can find in the Old Testament texts and Judaic customs precious material for catechesis. Suffice-itin mention among others: standing, which is so natural in Jewish prayer;' 'the response Amen (cf. Deut.27:15-26; 1 Chr. 16:36; Neh.8:6; Ps.41:14...), the acclamation Alleluia (cf. Hallel psalms), the solemn chanting of the Sanctus (Is.6:31 'Ps. 118:25-26, customary during the liturgical procession of the feast of Tabernacles). Several greetings and invitations from the priest have a biblical origin, or are taken from Jewish liturgy: "The Lord be with you" (Ruth 2:4), "Let us give thanks to the Lord" -(Mishnah). If, as it is hoped, the ritual of the imposition of hands is restored to the priest's blessing of the congregation, another ancient tradition of Israel would be brought back to its place of honour.
Enough has been said to show that. the_ renewal actually being carried out helps us to find with greater facility many liturgical practices of Jewish worship, and through them the possibility of bringing these riches to life again for the benefit of all Christians,who are "spiritual descendants of Abraham our Father". Thus, the marvels of God which are brought to us are more assimilable, and we can better make thanksgiving to God, "for His great love is without end" (Ps. 136)
Gaston Fontaine, c,r,i.c. Rome, Secretariate of "Consilium"
The new Ordo Lectionum mentioned above is a marked improvement over the former. However, from the view-point of Judeo-Christian relations, several difficulties remain as is brought out in the following article.