“Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father. Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members. From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n.7)
“The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper” (SC, n.10).
Yet in time, we have realized that situations beyond the ordinary can confront the worshipping community, making it impossible to be part of the assembly. Physical presence with a regular worshipping congregation at times may be impossible. It is for this reason that churches, religious houses and communities provide televised, broadcasted and live-streamed celebrations of the Mass and other liturgical celebrations, in an effort to reach out to those whose physical presence is impeded. Such media, when utilized properly, contributes to the promotion of evangelization, to spread and support the Kingdom of God (cf. Inter Mirifica, n.2). This includes celebrations of the liturgy using video conferencing applications.
This document of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cubao, therefore, aims to assist those responsible for the utilization of the different modern media in celebrating the sacred liturgy, most especially during extraordinary times. It is also to remind the Pastors of their duty ‘to instruct and guide the faithful, so that they, with the help of the same media, may further the salvation and perfection of themselves and of the entire human family’ (IM, n.3).
Because the use of modern media in the celebration of the liturgy, with its inherent lack of physical interaction, may lead to a certain passivity as spectators, it is imperative that attention and emphasis be given on the important elements that will engage the viewers as participants, identify themselves with a worshipping community and not as a sole spectator, and to be affected by the mystery being celebrated.
CELEBRATING THE MYSTERY
The Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy puts emphasis on the dignity of the sacred rites celebrated and broadcasted through modern media (cf. SC, n.20). Thus, to lead a good and effective broadcast of liturgies, we must first of all require ourselves of a good liturgical celebration. Pastors, ministers, liturgical animators, media managers must take the following principles as their priority:
- Lex orandi, lex credendi – The rule of prayer is the rule of faith. The community or any person pray according to their belief. The worship of the community manifests the faith we hold. External signs of respect and love involved in the worship such as gestures and responses is geared towards influence of the community’s faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (cf. Statement of the 20th National Assembly of Diocesan Directors of Liturgy, Sept 12-16, 2005). Therefore, the rubrics found in the liturgical books indicate how we should understand and deepen our faith. Careful observance of the rubrics must not be mere rubricism but a conduct expressing faith and reverence in the sacred liturgy, hence, in the presence of Christ. “To encourage the active participation of the people and to ensure that the celebrations are carried out as they should be, it is not sufficient for the ministers to content themselves with the exact fulfillment of their role according to the liturgical laws. It is also necessary that they should so celebrate the liturgy that by this very fact they convey an awareness of the meaning of the sacred actions” (Eucharisticum Mysterium, n.20).
- The directives provided by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal – The GIRM is the most important document in the celebration of the Holy Mass provided after the Second Vatican Council, by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.
- The full, conscious and active participation of the faithful – The Church desires that the worshipping community are led to full, conscious and active participation in the celebration of the liturgy by its very nature. Therefore, liturgical instruction and catechesis for the faithful must be promoted with zeal and patience (cf. SC, n.19) that will lead to a full understanding of faith. This instruction must find its starting point with the mysteries of the liturgical year and the rites and prayers of the celebration (cf. EM, n.15). Moreover, physical presence in an actual celebration of the liturgy is irreplaceable.
- The importance of the Homily – The constitution on sacred liturgy emphasizes the importance of the homily in the liturgical celebration. Both the liturgical documents and the Codex Iuris Canonici treats it as an integral part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended (cf. SC, n.65). In the broadcasted celebrations, additional highlight is given to the homily which nurtures Christian life.
- Music – The importance of music in the liturgical celebrations must be stressed even in televised, broadcasted and live-streamed masses through the internet, for through liturgical music, ‘prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem (Musicam Sacram, n.5).
- The liturgical environment – In the celebration of the Liturgy, even in broadcasted celebrations, the place must always be fitting for the celebration of the mystery of Christ. “Churches, therefore, and other places should be suitable for carrying out the sacred action and for ensuring the active participation of the faithful. Sacred buildings and requisites for divine worship should, moreover, be truly worthy and beautiful and be signs and symbols of heavenly realities” (GIRM, n.288). Therefore, extra care must be taken in choosing the place and furnishings (such as tables, cloths, et al.) used in the celebration of the liturgy.
- THE DIOCESAN BISHOP
“The bishop is to be considered as the high priest of his flock, from whom the life in Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and dependent” (SC, n.41). Thus, the diocesan bishop has the task of monitoring undertakings within the diocese concerning televised, broadcasted, and live-streamed celebration of the liturgy (cf. IM, n.20).
- LIVE BROADCAST
“Televised, broadcasted, and streamed Masses are to be celebrated LIVE. The intention of the utilization of such media is to allow the faithful whose physical presence is impeded to participate in the Mystery of Christ being revealed in real-time through the actual rite. The faithful’s participation in this mystery therefore must be actual, as the liturgy is celebrated. Nonetheless, we recognize the spiritual nourishment effected in people who watch recorded or digitally saved celebrations. Live telecast, broadcast, or streaming of the mass reflects the integrity of liturgical days and seasons and preserves the sacred character of the liturgical celebration. “It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private (SC, n.27).”
- DISTRACTIONS AND UNNECESSARY ELEMENTS
“In liturgical celebrations, the community should not be disrupted or be distracted from its common purpose” (EM, n.17). Unnecessary use of special effects to artificially enhance the liturgy (e.g., dimming of lights in particular parts of the mass, background music during the Eucharistic prayer, or incorporation of other images during the elevation) should not be done. Pastors, ministers, and liturgical animators who are responsible for the broadcast of the liturgy must strive after noble beauty than mere sumptuous display (cf. SC, n.124). Moreover, the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy straightforwardly states that “the rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation” (SC, n.34).
Multimedia must be utilized to aid the people in their participation in the celebration of the Liturgy, by projecting on screen the responses proper to the individual parts of the celebration. Choosing other elements to project during the televised, broadcasted and live-streamed mass, must be done with care so as not to disturb the continuity of the parts of the liturgy. The instrument must lead the attention of the faithful to the Lord present in the celebration, and not to draw much attention to itself.
- THE PRESIDER
When the priest celebrates the Eucharist, ‘he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he says the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ’ (GIRM, n.93). Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI emphasizes that “the primary way to foster the participation of the people of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n.38).
- THE MINISTERS
*All existing norms governing lay ministries must be carefully observed.
Safety protocols implemented in times of health crises must at all times be observed with care for self and others. Diocesan guidelines must be observed strictly. The parish priest will determine who may serve in times of health crises while adhering to the norms of the Diocese and the civil authorities.
The proclamation of the Word must be done in real-time, in the same liturgical space and in the same celebration of the mass being broadcasted, televised, or live- streamed. Recorded proclamation of the word that is played during the broadcast of the mass should not be done. The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form a fundamental unity, closely connected with each other forming one single act of worship (cf. CCC, n.1346, SC, n.56). Moreover, the Church venerates the Word just as she venerates the Body of the Lord, unceasingly receiving and offering to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body (cf. Dei Verbum, n.21).
There should be a clear distinction and between ministerial function and the participation of the faithful. In the absence of readers or lectors, the priest may proclaim all the readings.
- THE CONGREGATION
The faithful participating in televised, broadcasted or live-streamed masses must dispose themselves in the manner they do when participating in the celebration of the mass inside the Church. They are to observe the proper disposition, posture, gestures, responses, and singing that the celebration requires, for ‘the harmony of signs (song, music, words, and actions) is all the more expressive and fruitful when expressed in the cultural richness of the People of God who celebrate’ (CCC, n.1158). The faithful fulfill their liturgical role by making that full, conscious, and active participation, both internally and externally, which is demanded by the nature of the liturgy itself (MS, n.15).
Careful observance of the norms set forth by Musicam Sacram, Instruction on Music in the Liturgy must be taken into consideration. The principle of Progressive Solemnity may guide pastors on choosing the parts to be sung.
The purpose of these guidelines is to provide the fundamental principles which will guide pastors, liturgy animators, and media managers, to a good celebration of the liturgy. The use of media such as television, internet streaming platforms, and video conferencing programs in celebrating the liturgy must be understood as a response to an impediment to the physical participation of the worshipping community. The very nature of liturgy is the coming together of the body of Christ, the Church. In the celebration of the Eucharist, we find both the high point of the divine action of God sanctifying man and the action of humanity in glorifying God, through Christ (cf. GIRM, n.16).
Physical participation in the liturgy is irreplaceable. Embodied community cannot be replaced by a virtual community. When extraordinary situations, such as health crises, hinder the gathering together of the worshipping community, the church responds accordingly. The Church maintains that ‘virtual reality of cyberspace cannot substitute for real interpersonal community, the incarnational reality of the sacraments and the liturgy, or the immediate and direct proclamation of the gospel,’ but she recognizes as well that modern media also enrich the religious lives of users’ (Pontifical Council for Social Communications, THE CHURCH AND INTERNET, n.5).
Televised, broadcasted, and live-streamed celebrations of the liturgy are intended to allow the people to participate, though virtually, in an encounter with God. Spiritual nourishment may be obtained through these media when the celebration itself is given proper attention and concern, without compromising the sacredness, dignity, and meaning of the symbols, rites, and prayers. Care must also be taken so as not to give the impression that virtual participation is the ordinary way of worship. When circumstances permit, the worshipping community must gather together and resume the celebration of liturgy with the entire Church.