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Simplifying or Truncating?

There has been wide-spread enthusiasm for the new Pope, beginning with his surprising and possibly revolutionary choice of name. The simplicity of his style and the pastoral sensitivity of his homilies and actions have received much favorable comment.I have already posted, on this blog, excerpts from his homilies at the Chrism Mass and at the Easter Vigil, because I found them spiritually challenging and worthy of reflection. I also appreciate his emphasis on being Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Saint Peter, though he may come in time to appreciate more the implications and demands of being both.Moreover, if he prefers to live in the Casa Santa Marta rather than in the Vatican Palace and "walk to work" each day -- more power to him!Nor do I begrudge his rather minimalistic use of three readings from the Old Testament at the Easter Vigil. He had had a whirl-wind three weeks and deserved a good night's sleep before Easter Sunday Mass and an address "Urbi et Orbi."But what did startle and disappoint was the truncating of the first reading of the Vigil, so that it began with the "6th Day" of the creation narrative. It is not a question of a violation of a "law" -- seemingly the option is present, though I've never heard it exercised before.But that on the most solemn of nights, the high point of the liturgical year, we were deprived of the stupendous account of God's gracious creation of all things (the very passage intoned to such effect on the occasion of the first circumnavigation of the moon) seemed a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil.It was further disappointing in that the appeal Pope Francis made on the occasion of the Mass of Installation on March 19th to be custodians of the environment appeared undercut by beginning the first reading of the Vigil with the creation of humanity -- an anthropological reduction.If indeed, as has been reported, the Pope has been influenced by the great theologian, Romano Guardini, it may not be Guardini's "The Spirit of the Liturgy" which has left its mark on him.Update:Sandro Magister has just posted some reflections on Pope Francis' Way, based upon the autobiographical interview he gave to two journalists in 2010. It explains why, despite his love for music, he does not sing when he celebrates Mass. And, no, it has nothing to do with his being a Jesuit.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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I wonder why the author feels "deprived" of the entire Genesis reading. Is the television the place where we turn to hear the Easter scriptures proclaimed, or is it one's parish church?

Father, something tells me that your question has been both asked and answered. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I see Francis' wisdom in living apart from the Papal Apartments and maintaining a separate life saying daily Mass and giving simple short homilies for people a pastor would meet in an ordinary small parish. "This Tuesday morning, members of the Vatican Gendamerie attended the daily mass of Pope Francis at St. Martha's House. In a short sermon, the Holy Father discussed the gospel account of the meeting of the resurrected Christ and Mary Magdalene, a woman all of whose hopes had been shattered, and who was crying. Sometimes in our lives, Pope Francis said, tears are the eyeglasses that let us see Jesus. That's why we need to know how to cry. We need to ask the Lord for the gift of tears. "It's a beautiful gift" said the Holy Father "to cry for everything: for goodness, for our sins, for grace, for joy. Tears prepare us to see Jesus. May God give us the grace to be able to say that we have seen Him in our heart and to witness by our our life that: 'I live as I do because I have seen the Lord.'" (French only, sorry)

Pope Francis is 76 years old. That's almost *very old* if not extremely old. Very old bodies tire very easily. Old age simply doesn't permit one to do what one used to do without becoming exhausted. Easter Week is day after day of grueling ceremony. I can easily understand why the Pope would cut back -- he sees what keeping the extended ceremonies helped to do to poor Pope Benedict.

For a long, long time the official church has neglected the humanity of Jesus despite being technically correct acknowledging that he was fully human. One may whine about the terms high and low christology. But the appreciation of the humanity of Jesus is a long time coming. Francis of Assissi had Innocent III to contend with in rebuilding his church. Now he has a bishops of Rome who is one with him on that mission.

Ann,I already allowed that I could fully understand the reduction in the number of the readings, given the intensity of the past weeks. What I think should not be countenanced is the truncating of the first reading for the reasons I stated. I would hope that the liturgists in our midst would agree.

The first reading is one of the more familiar -- maybe most familiar -- readings in the Easter Vigil. I mean, how many Catholics ever hear anything from Baruch? And the opener is repetitive; it doesn't take a genius to figure out by the fourth day that God is going to see how good it is and that evening and morning are going to follow. Pope Francis may have had that in mind, and the thought is reasonable. That said, I'm sorry, too, that he missed the chance for a follow-up to the shout out he gave the environment on the night of his election. But I don't see the omission as ominous in any way.

Here's what the rubrics say. For pastoral reasons, the Old Testament readings can be reduced from seven to three, one of which must be Exodus 14 (the passage though the Red Sea). Even if the full set of seven Old Testament readings is used, the first reading from Genesis can be either the long form (gn 1: 12: 2) or the short form (1: 1, 26-31a)

20. in this vigil, the mother of all vigils, nine readings are provided, namely seven from the old testament and two from the New (the epistle and gospel), all of which should be read whenever this can be done, so that the character of the vigil, which demands an extended period of time, may be preserved.21. Nevertheless, where more serious pastoral circumstances demand it, the number of readings from the old testament may be reduced, always bearing in mind that the reading of the Word of god is a fundamental part of this easter vigil. at least three readings should be read from the old testament, both from the Law and from the prophets, and their respective responsorial psalms should be sung. Never, moreover, should the reading of chapter 14 of exodus with its canticle be omitted.24. after the first reading (on creation: gn 1: 12: 2 or 1: 1, 26-31a) and the psalm (104 [103] or 33 [32]).

Ann Olivier,"Pope Francis is 76 years old. Thats almost *very old* if not extremely old."Really? I think that 90+ years is *very old* if not extremely old.

I checked the video of the Vigil Mass. What was read was Genesis Chapter 1, verse 1 plus verse 26 through the first sentence of verse 31.That is the short form as described in the rubrics.

Ann, I just turned 76 2 days ago but do not feel "extremely old" and my friend, also 76, can run rings around me. My GF died at 100, as did my uncle in Dec., sharp as ever. My aunt just passed away at 98, so that leaves just one uncle, 99. Mom died young at only 93. Depends on the individual, I guess.

Margaret ==I didn't make myself clear. I would not call 76 "very old", though it is getting near very old. I'd say getting old usually begins around 80. I'd call "extremely old" somebody in their 90s. Individuals differ, of course, and I would expect that the boomers with their emphasis on good health and diet will do somewhat better than the older generations. But I have to say that the expression "old age isn't for sissies" now has meaning for me that it certainly didn't have when I was young. I have seen it in myself and in many very old family members -- beginning at age 70-75 or so strength can start to diminish rather rapidly even though the person has no one thing seriously wrong with him/her. Stamina becomes a thing of the past. Sorry to break the news if you haven't heard it before. Sigh. Of course, individuals do differ.I suspect it is genetic. My family does tend to live longer than average (into our 80s and 90s). But being alive and having stamina are often two different things. Some are chipper at those ages. Most are not. Sounds like your people live even longer than mine, though my grandmother did have two aunts who lived to 105 and 107. At any rate, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Pope's knees or balance or both are giving way. I saw him stumble on some steps that weren't very high. Bad sign, though that has nothing to do with how good his mind is.

Pope Francis is the oldest of 5 siblings, but 3 of them are already deceased, so that does not say much for his family's longevity.

'I also appreciate his emphasis on being Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Saint Peter, though he may come in time to appreciate more the implications and demands of being both.'Excuse me Father - don't you realise how arrogant that statement is? Are you seriously suggesting you have a deeper understanding of the Petrine office than Pope Francis?

Mark,I certainly did not mean it "arrogantly." I merely opined that whatever our notional understanding of a situation may be, our actual experience may reveal implications and demands that surpass our thoughts and expectations. I presume such is the case, for example, in being a parent. I may have some general sense of what is entailed, but the actual experience leads to all sorts of new realizations. Thus the Bishop of Rome recently appointed the new Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as he will have to do in many other instances.Those experiences will surely impact his understanding of his role and responsibilities.

I don't have a problem if the Bishop of Rome trims the number and length of Easter Vigil readings. Those reading have their full impact in a community that prays together weekly, if not daily, has an active catechumenate and mission in the world.To my understanding, St Peter's Basilica is not a parish church. Does St Peter's observe a weekly dismissal of catechumens or elect? Or does it attract pilgrims and clergy and other visitors. It's an entirely different ministry.And if we are to equate St Peter's to the typical cathedral parish, we can still differ with the pope's choices on the Liturgy of the Word, and discern to celebrate more fully in our own communities. I differed from the previous pope on fussy decorations and I still prayed for him and admired his books. I can disagree with this one and still admire his evangelical emphasis.

Quote from Francis in the Magister article linked in Fr.Imbeli's update:"In another passage of the interview, Bergoglio criticizes those homilies which should be 'kerygmatic' but end up speaking about everything that has a connection with sex. This can be done, this cannot be done. This is wrong, this is not. And so we end up forgetting the treasure of Jesus alive, the treasure of the Holy Spirit present in our hearts, the treasure of a project of Christian life that has many implications that go much further than mere sexual questions. We overlook a very rich catechesis, with the mysteries of the faith, the creed, and we end up concentrating on whether or not to participate in a demonstration against a draft law in favor of the use of condoms.

Following John Hayes, another repris of a theme about preaching (from the Magister article).Francis: "I am sincerely convinced that, at the present time, the fundamental choice that the Church must make is not that of diminishing or taking away precepts, of making this or that easier, but of going into the street in search of the people, of knowing persons by name. And not only because going to proclaim the Gospel is its mission, but because if it does not do so it harms itself. It is obvious that if one goes into the street it can also happen that one has an accident, but I prefer a thousand times over an accident-ridden Church to a sick Church.""If it does not do so it harms itself." That strikes me as what has been happening over the last decade or more. And while we all have to dig ourselves out of the hole, Francis and his bishops may have more labor intensive digging to do.

What language was the Vatican Mass in? Italian? I think it must be very hard to celebrate a Mass in a language that's not your own.

Irene,the orations and the Eucharistic Prayer are in Latin; the readings in different languages -- French, German, Spanish, Italian. The Pope preached in Italian, and, as Magister says: "he speaks Italian well. And he also understands the Piedmontese dialect of his family of origin."Peggy,if Francis follows custom, he will write the document based upon last October's Synod on the New Evangelization. This may be a foretaste: "going to proclaim the Gospel is its mission ... if it does not do so it harms itself."

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