New General Instruction for Australia: Continuity and Change

New General Instruction for Australia: Continuity and Change

Last year, the Australian Bishops received notification from Rome that the Australian edition of the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal had been approved. The Bishops decided to implement the new instruction on Pentecost Sunday, 11th May 2008.

The General Instruction is like a map that guides the celebration of Mass. It assists those responsible for the celebration of the Eucharist by providing an explanation of the structure of the Order of Mass and the various ministries, furnishings and other requisites involved. The General Instruction is much more than a set of rules or rubrics however; it articulates the doctrinal principles behind how Mass is celebrated and explains why we do the things we do.

The overall content and purpose of the GIRM has not changed with this recent revision. There are several important aspects that were included in the previous edition but which we have not yet implemented fully. These include all the faithful receiving communion from the altar and not the tabernacle, incorporating times of silence into the celebration and the central role of singing.

The changes are few and most are relatively minor. There are two changes that will affect the assembly at the celebration of Mass from 11th May.

The first change concerns the posture of the assembly at the end of the Preparation of the Gifts. At present, the people remain seated while saying “May the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands …”. From Pentecost Sunday this will be said while standing.

Standing in response to the priest’s invitation “Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father” is a sign of our readiness to enter into the great prayer which will follow - the Eucharistic Prayer.

The second change is about how we come forward to receive Holy Communion. At present some communicants kneel to receive communion and different gestures of reverence, such as making the sign of the cross, are used after people receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Unity in gesture is a sign of our oneness in Christ, so from 11th May all communicants are asked to remain standing to receive communion and to make a simple bow of the head as they step forward to receive the consecrated elements from the minister. This gesture of inclining the head is the act of reverence to be used by all.

There are other changes in the General Instruction that might necessitate some parishes adjusting their procedures for the reception of Holy Communion by Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and other aspects of the celebration of Mass. Parish priests will inform liturgical ministers and others affected by the changes.

The new General Instruction emphasises the importance of respecting the altar and ambo. Only what is required for the celebration of the Mass may be placed on the altar: sacred vessels, corporal, purificator and Missal.

The readings, the responsorial psalm, and the Exsultet are proclaimed from the ambo and it may be used also for giving the homily and for announcing the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. The ambo is not the proper place for making announcements or appeals at Mass.


Elizabeth Harrington