I began a homily recently with the question of what makes for a good liturgy? What consistutes a well done celebration of the Mass?
Well trained servers? A prolific and dynamic homily? Music that is performed with acumen, skill and transcendence? Well trained and practiced proclaimers of the Word?
When someone walks out of the parish church, what should be their standard as to make them think: ‘Wow, that was a great Mass!’?
All of those things listed above are part of ‘it,’ but in reality they only reflect what ‘it’ is. In Pope Benedict’s mind, writing in The Spirit of the Liturgy , what makes for a ‘good liturgy’ is that when the person walks out of that parish church, his/her heart is closer to God: they have experienced the transcendent power of the Eucharist and that power has touched the soul, developing an even deeper longing for unity with God in Christ Jesus.
The difficulty, however, is how does one measure this ‘lifting of the heart to God’? From a purely tangible point of view, we can’t measure this as we can those other dimensions referenced above: we know when a reader proclaims well; but how was the Word of God received in the heart of those who heard?
As we approach the implementation of the revised translation of the words used for Mass, this mark of a ‘good liturgy’ was something that drove the translators to complete their task. The language was elevated so that it might assist in the heart’s ascent to the Divine. Certainly it will take some getting used to, especially for priests!, yet if this ‘end goal’ is realized, it will lead to Catholics helping to rebuild society in the shape of the Kingdom!
For a further reflection on this ‘end goal,’ Bishop James Conley, an auxiliary in Denver, has a further reflection over at Inside Catholic .