Book review: At the Supper of the Lamb

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Article Reviews
By Paul Turner (Liturgy Training Publications, 2011)

One thing we can pretty much count on: The changes in the liturgy this Advent will be tough. But the process doesn’t have to be all blood, sweat, and tears. The more folks know about what’s ahead and why the changes are being made, the better off we’ll all be. Which makes resources like Father Paul Turner’s book, subtitled A Pastoral and Theological Commentary on the Mass, indispensible.

In an information-driven age, it’s not enough to alter something as fundamental as the Mass without clueing people in on what’s at stake. At the Supper of the Lamb could be a key player in a pastor’s repertoire. Its line-by-line dissection of the liturgy is not light reading, but priests, deacons, and liturgists should commit to devouring its contents. Liturgical ministers should be encouraged to join study groups to work through its parts, especially those affecting their particular service at Mass.

Active faith-sharing groups should promote this title for immediate engagement. Religious educators can use the fascinating historical elements of this text to offer nights of adult catechesis as a prelude to the changes—and repeat the nights during the first year of implementation. This will give the parish secretary something helpful to direct callers to as they lodge complaints and ask questions in the months ahead.

Many argue that tinkering with rituals is pointlessly frustrating. Turner offers compelling reflections on each adjustment. For example, the Order of Mass formerly stressed that the action begins “When the priest is ready.” Now the instruction reads that Mass begins “When the people are gathered.” Turner reminds us: “The people come together for a purpose. Furthermore, they are coming from someplace.”

We bring that someplace with us as we gather—and are bound to return there when “The Mass is ended.” Whether or not you agree with Turner on the value of each restored phrase, he does a handsome job making the case.

This article appeared in the December 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 12, page 43).