Liturgical language

Question: As a relatively recent convert, I find the unity expressed in Catholic liturgy uplifting. However, I am confused when some people change the wording of the response during the preparation of the gifts to, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of God’s name, for our good, and the good of all God’s Church.” Similarly, in the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer, some say, “It is right to give God thanks and praise.” Is there a local or preferential option at work? Or are some people adjusting the liturgy to fit their idea of what language should be used? 

William G. Kussmaul, Media, Pa. 

Answer: Generally, the motivation behind such changes is to play down the male-gender character of liturgical prayer. The outcome is that different people make different responses. This offends against the unity of the liturgy. 

No options are allowed in the liturgical regulations of the Church. The principles that undergird its liturgical life do not allow for personal additions, subtractions or adaptations. 

The question of the gender character of liturgical language has long been controversial. However, the male-gender character of liturgical language is embedded in divine revelation itself, as God is revealed primordially as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The language of God as he, him and his cannot be done away with. 

Existence of ghosts 

Question: Granted, after death we are faced with heaven, hell or purgatory; nevertheless, it seems to me that what we call “ghosts” do, in fact, exist. There is a biblical reference to the apostles seeing Jesus walking on water and thinking he might be a “ghost” (Mt 14:26; Mk 6:49). What is your opinion on this matter? 

Russell Pond, Nashua, N.H. 

Answer: I know perfectly sane and reliable people who have claimed to have seen ghosts. However, never having encountered (happily) a ghost myself, I have only a somewhat open mind on the question. 

The essential concept of a ghost is of a spirit wandering aimlessly and having no rest. The Christian idea of life after death is not of aimlessness, but of being directed either toward God (in heaven or purgatory) or away from God (in hell). 

The least that can be said is that ghosts do not play much of a role in Christian theology. 

Musical instruments 

Question: You have said that during the Second Vatican Council there was an official allowance of musical instruments other than the organ. Where did this occur? 

— Dawn Marie Holm, Hallock, Minn. 

Answer: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states: “The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, for it is the traditional musical instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up men’s minds to God and higher things” (No. 120). It continues: “But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, in the judgment and with the consent of the competent territorial authority. ... This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use; that they accord with the dignity of the temple, and that they truly contribute to the edification.” 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.