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.
Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.