"The celebrations of the Eucharist of the neocatechumenal communities on Saturday evening are part of the Sunday liturgical pastoral work of the parish and are open also to other faithful."Open also to other faithful
As with most church statements, a principle may be stated in a general sense but the practical aspect is left to local application. In this case, there seems to be some latitude in how the "open also to other faithful" is applied.
If the NCW liturgy is the equivalent of a Sunday parish Mass - as the Statute indicates by calling it "part of the Sunday liturgical pastoral work of the parish - then one could expect the schedule of NCW liturgies to be as public as the schedule of regular Sunday parish Masses.
However, this does not often appear to be the case, giving the impression that - despite the Statute - NCW liturgies are open by invitation only, which in fact makes them private.
It's easy to see how this particular point may have been a source of debate during the approval process for the Statute, and why there appears to still be an effort to keep the NCW liturgies as private as possible without violating the Statute.
The importance of the small community
The celebration of the Eucharist is the summit of the Christian life, and in the NCW, it serves an integral experiential function in the catechetical formation of its members (as it should with all Catholics, by the way). However, the other integral aspect of the NCW is the "small community" [Art. 13, Sec. 2]. By definition a "small community" must be closed, or at least admission to it must be controlled lest it no longer be "small".
Thus, the celebration of the Eucharist within the context of the small (closed) community is a critical element of the NCW, and one can see the tension between the stated desire of the Church that the Mass, every Mass, be an act of public worship, and the desire of the NCW to nurture its members within an intimate Eucharistic experience.
One can easily assume that there was some debate over this point during the approval process for the Statute, and one can also easily assume that the desire of the NCW to celebrate the Eucharist in a "small community" and yet not disobey the Church, is the reason for the "open" in principle but "closed" in practice nature of the NCW liturgies, or at least the appearance of it.
Liturgy with a difference
However, even if one were to attend the NCW liturgy, there would not be a feeling of belonging to the parish. There are some immediate and very large differences. First, the NCW liturgy is almost never celebrated in a church, the normal place for parish Masses, even if a church were available. Second, Holy Communion, the central communal act of the Mass, is distributed and received in a wholly different way.
There is also the different placement of the "sign of peace", but this difference isn't as jarring to the newcomer as the other two. There is also the issue of some very different music, but we won't address that here.
By the way, the "jarring" aspect of the NCW liturgy is most likely something members of the NCW would like newcomers, rightly, not to experience. This probably accounts for the reason the attendance of the general public at its liturgies is not normally encouraged by the NCW, preferring that there be a period of introduction to the NCW first.
Why not a church?
The reason most NCW liturgies are not celebrated in a church is because most churches have a dedicated altar in a sanctuary. NCW liturgies require the placement of a square table in the center of the celebrating community, and churches with immovable altars and pews do not facilitate this arrangement.
Thus we find the NCW liturgies celebrated in parish halls, homes, and other spaces that are more easily modified to accommodate the unique arrangement of the furniture in an NCW liturgy. There is also the desire to create an intimate worship experience as per the "small community" aspect of the NCW and obviously cavernous churches do not lend themselves well to that experience.
It should also be noted - though it is not referenced in the Statute - that the desire of the NCW to celebrate the Eucharist in small groups and intimate spaces is consistent with the general desire to resurrect the Church model as it was experienced in the early centuries of its existence, when the Church was yet an underground community of believers.
In our next post
In our next post (on this subject) we will address the placement of the "table" and the manner of distributing and receiving communion.
NOTE: If anything stated here is incorrect, you are encouraged to submit the correct information and we will post it. Other than the Statute, information about the NCW, especially neutral information, is hard to come by and we're doing our best with what is available. Thank you for your understanding.
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