6.1. Brother Gabriel and the liturgy
158. Brother Gabriel’s entire life was marked by the liturgy. As a child, he already had a pronounced liking for the celebrations at which he assisted in the parish church; they touched him profoundly and he replayed them in his childish games. His biography states: “He began by simulating the religious ceremonies, ceremonies which he always greatly loved and which he tried to have his followers love.
159. In his apostolic activity, liturgical animation occupied an important place alongside Christian education and catechesis. He had understood this at 16 years of age; and he continued along these lines. He particularly liked to prepare the children to take part fully in the Eucharist for the first time. At the end of his life as he took stock of his existence he wrote: “He applied himself to give as much solemnity as possible to the first communion of children. He prepared them by a retreat for this event in which at the dawn of his life he had received the foundation and eternal life. I exhorted them to remember the anniversary of their first communion with fervour each year; I have always practised this myself.”
160. In the various versions of his Rule of Life, when speaking of the apostolic mission of the Institute, he always consecrated an important section to direct the Brothers in how to live the liturgy and animate it. He encouraged them to take up “such honourable and holy roles… with great sentiments of faith, with zeal for the glory of God, with edification for the people, with merit for their souls and with honour for their corporate body.”
161. His books destined for the faithful, for families and for schools contain always a part dedicated to the liturgy, under two aspects;
– introductions, advice, explanations of celebrations and invitation to participate;
– liturgical formulas (mass, office, etc.) which allow the faithful to participate effectively. His great goal was that the Christians should not be just simple spectators, but active participants who live what they are celebrating.
In his writings there are many random notes on church buildings, their decoration, rituals, ceremonies etc.
162. His mentality was formed from certain important socio-religious phenomena:
– The French Revolution. Gabriel was born into a revolutionary climate. He was influenced by “brave clandestine priests, persecuted and sometimes assassinated”; he deeply admired the catechist who collaborated with the missionaries and replaced those priests who were prevented from exercising their ministry freely; they explained the word of God, presided over the prayer, celebrated ‘white’ or ‘dry’ Masses.
– The Restoration. The treaty between the throne and the altar put the Church into a ‘Christendom’ mentality. He is impressed by the beauty and the splendour of the ceremonies.
163. Gabriel appreciates the perfect execution of the sacred rites; but for him the liturgy is not fundamentally external, it is much more. He values interior worship as being of the essence of religion. He writes that without the attitudes of adoration, thanksgiving, faith, hope, of charity which come from the mind and the heart, it is impossible to honour the divinity because, he reminds us: “God is spirit and those who adore him must offer him worship in spirit and in truth.” That is where external and visible worship must spring from, expressions of intimate feelings which must manifest themselves later, because ‘the human being is body and soul, interiority and exteriority’.
164. Brother Gabriel is also a ‘creator’ of liturgy: we can recount two examples:
– the rituals for the clothing ceremony, for profession etc.
– the feast of the Holy Family’
These two examples are well in tune with the founder’s basic preoccupation as founder of an Institute under the patronage of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, forming a family.
Gabriel is a ‘liturgical’ man, from the beginning of his life to its end.
6.2. Experienced and lived within a religious community
165. In the expression “liturgical animation” our Constitutions also include other roles: “decorate the holy altars” or “assist the priests in the ceremonies of worship” or “fulfil the humble roles of cantor and sacristans” which are at the heart of the taborinian charism. As our Constitutions say, the Brothers promote liturgical life, of which they are participants and animators. And they give us an essential motive: “The liturgy establishes the true way of Christian formation and assists full insertion in the ecclesial community.”
166. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy says that: “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.” As Brother Gabriel had very well understood, he who closely united school and temple, Christian education, catechesis and liturgical celebration! All our apostolic activity, Brothers and laity, must be nourished by a profound spiritual life; in this way our religious community and our Christian community will be a school of authentic evangelical and Nazarene spirituality. In this way, the spiritual quality of our life will be transformed into an attractive witness for our world which has need of absolute values.
167. In the liturgy we find, either personally or in community, the presence of the living Word incarnate. Our willingness to “give ourselves to others” makes demands of us:
– to close our windows and our doors so as to meet, in silence and meditation, the Lord who sees in secret and who allows himself to be found in the hidden life;
– to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in community, in this way prolonging the sacerdotal praise that Jesus addressed to his Father when he prayed these same psalms at Nazareth with Mary and Joseph;
– to participate in the Eucharist, the act which best expresses our religious and baptismal consecration, and the most perfect expression of liturgical worship;
– to share Lectio Divina with others as a source of growth for the Christian and the consecrated person.
168. Let us live intensely what we are: persons consecrated by a call from the Lord, who live by joyfully celebrating in the liturgy the meeting with Christ dead and resurrected. In this way, we can communicate to others that Christ is always present in the Church and in a particular way in the liturgical act. Communion with Jesus will lead us to celebrate his saving presence in the sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist, and to offer this beautiful message with joy to the young people and to all those to whom we are sent.
6.3. Start by understanding the signs and the sacraments
169. We meet God in Jesus Christ, the great sacrament, supreme mediator between the Father and us. Christ is the primordial sacrament of the Father. He continues to act in history through the Church which is “Sacrament of Christ”. The seven sacraments are situated within this context. They are actions which make Christ present by means of his body which is the Church. And in these actions (gestures and words), the Father’s will to have mankind share in his divine life, is incarnated through the action of the Spirit. If we seize the hand God holds out to us in each sacramental gesture, our encounter with the living God will take place.
170. So that our students and those catechising them may live the sacraments more deeply, we help them to:
– read the gestures, the material elements of the rites that we are using, discovering and appreciating the symbols;
– understand the words which accompany them in the celebration;
– grasp the profound theological meaning, the invisible sanctifying element, that the words convey;
– situate the sacraments in the history of salvation and understand the circumstances of this history in terms of the ‘today’ of the liturgy;
– choose creatively the most symbolically charged signs which best represent what the celebrating community is living: forgiveness, the Word, the offering, the sign of peace, etc.
– participate actively through word and gesture, and also by silent contemplation.
We pay particular attention to catechesis and the celebration of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, because of their importance as times of encounter with Jesus in the process of personal conversion, and openness to the Christian community. We also concentrate on the sacrament of Confirmation, especially when it is conferred after childhood; in fact it is very well adapted to the internalisation and growth in faith and an enlivening experience of a sharing ecclesial community.
6.4. Connecting personal experience and valuing the community dimension
171. The liturgical celebration brings together the reality of the Gospel message and the life experience of each person. Faith cannot be something added on, apart from life, but must be a light which illumines the whole of existence. In the liturgy the whole life of the person becomes a spiritual offering. Prayer is open to every problem, to every personal and social anxiety.
172. This is particularly so when important events are being celebrated such as marriage, the baptism of infants, first communion or confirmation of children or catechumens, blessing of the sick… These are situations in which people feel more impelled than ever to ask us the real meaning of life. We insert into the liturgical celebrations the aspirations, hopes, fears, anxieties and the needs of man in the concrete life of the participants. At the same time we highlight both the value of human life and transcendent meaning. We will appreciate the demonstrations of popular piety, especially when they are expressed in gestures and celebrations which are rooted in the traditions which speak of the life of the community (fetes, processions etc.).
174. We are in favour of the participation of everyone in the liturgy, especially of the young with their typical ways of expressing themselves, with due respect for the norms and the spirit of the celebration. Let us not separate this double reality from liturgical life: grateful acceptance of the gift the Lord has given us and commitment to expressing in our life what we have just celebrated.
6.5. Exercising the ministry of liturgical animation
175. If we are priests, as presiders of the celebration, we convoke in the name of Jesus. Christ has given us the power and asked us to do what he has done “in memory of him”. As ordained ministers we refer everything to Christ and the Church. As priests we symbolise the invisible: our ministry consists of making the sacramental presence of Christ present in the community.
176. But this does not mean that priests are the only ministers: this ministry belongs to the People of God and is also exercised by the liturgy team who prepare and animate the celebration, in complete union with the ordained minister. Being symbols of the invisible can also be expressed by others. Animating and presiding are services carried out on behalf of the community. The more numerous the ministries, ordained and lay, carried out in the community by different people, the clearer it will be that the Christian assembly is truly the People of God.
177. The Constitution on the sacred liturgy indicates that in the celebrations “each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy”. It solemnly declares: “Servers, lectors, commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function. They ought, therefore, to discharge their office with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by so exalted a ministry and rightly expected of them by God’s people”.
178. All, priests, brothers, laity, we offer ourselves with joy to serve the celebrating community, in carrying out the ministries to which we feel ourselves called. When circumstances demand it, let us be ready to preside at Sunday services in the absence of the priest. This service, as useful as it is delicate, we will exercise in the spirit, and according to the norms, set out by the competent church authority. Let us take up roles of responsibility in the animation of the liturgy; priests and brothers, let us encourage the participation of the laity. We will make them aware of courses of formation and awareness.
179. As laity, we carry out our ministerial role from three sources:
– Theological-sacramental: Ministries flow from baptism and confirmation;
– Ecclesiology: the Church is sacrament and ministry
– Pastoral: the fulfilling of the mission of the Church depends on all Christians, laity also.
6.6. Roles of the animator
180. The roles of the animator are not precisely defined; they are mentioned all the time by referring to other ministries. For example, the General Ordo of the Roman Missal, in chapter 3, presents the “Offices and ministries for the celebration of Mass”; in three different places it presents the offices and ministries of sacred order, the offices and acts of the people of God, and what is called the “special ministers”: acolytes, readers, psalmists, commentators, persons who welcome the faithful, and those who take up the collection.
181. The animator’s role could almost encompass the coordination of all the services. Let us note the most important of these:
1. Call together the people who are to take part in the services by creating a liturgy team to: – share faith together
– prepare the celebrations
– organise instructions, songs, collections, homily, times for the assembly to contribute.
2. Initiate formation for the different types of celebrations:
– celebrations of the Word
– paraliturgies for learning the attitudes required for liturgy
– different forms of community prayer:
– celebrations with symbols: water, light, bringing in the Gospel, the creed
– communal celebration of reconciliation, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
– contemplative and silent prayer…
– vigils for Christmas, Pentecost, Immaculate Conception, Holy Family, Br. Gabriel…
– other celebrations proper to the community
3. Encourage liturgical formation of the community by means of chats, expression, short sessions, showing power points or videos about signs and symbols…
4. Animate. The role of the animator is not to take all the responsibility, but to initiate and coordinate the initiatives, to channel the creativity, to support the ideas of others so that they can take concrete form. He animates the community so that they can carry out the services in a responsible and ministerial way. These services may be summarised as:
– the role of service for the good of the community and to assist its participation;
– the role of authenticity so that the words, symbols, rites, gestures and movements are used and received in their true sense;
– the symbolic role so that the community can set the direction of its vision and work always towards the reality symbolised.