The Holy Mass in the media

Maciej Szczepaniak
The Holy Mass in the media. Sources to the history of the Church
Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Theology, Poznań, 2021, 421 pages
ISBN 978-83-66399-53-2

The world has accelerated. Already the radio brought about a revolution in communication between people when the signal traveled through space in almost no time. Television and then the Internet, a network of computers reduced to the size of small portable phones or watches, increasingly „communicative” and „intelligent” – this is a sequel of the same story of broadcasting, which is sowing by dispersion, spreading a multidirectional signal to a wide audience. In this world, the ability to emit and receive signals significantly raises the comfort of life and the human person’s capacity to communicate.
Can theology, being an attempt to reflect rationally on the truths of faith and to reinterpret them in the context of ever-changing historical and cultural circumstances, keep up with these changes? Do concepts that developed over the centuries befit a world that has accelerated so much? Can we say that the liturgy, using discernible signs which express the worship of God and sanctify man, no longer needs the actual presence of the faithful in the temple, and „works” bringing grace and sanctification to its participants through a social networking site?
Today, mass media are one of the primary sources of our experience of the surrounding world. We respond to the media reality as if it actually was a real, objective world. If the media have become our natural habitat, can there also be a place for religious experience in this „world”?
The present monograph offers a reading of the historical context of the theological response to the new phenomenon of liturgy mediated by the media. A general introduction to the whole volume is followed by 112 source texts, each preceded by a short introduction of its own. The
sources comprise texts from the decrees of the Congregation of the Holy Office to the statements of popes, bishops and theologians. They allow the reader to get acquainted with the negative opinion of the Holy See on the broadcasting of the Holy Mass, i.e. the Vatican pronouncement of “non expedire” – it is not expedient, which caused surprise not only in the United States. The source texts show a breakthrough in the reception of radio broadcasts in ecclesiastic practice, give many valuable tips to those responsible for the implementation of the transmission project, touch on issues related to television and Internet broadcasts. They provide an insight into the sometimes chaotic and multidirectional response of the people of the Church to new media phenomena that ranges from admiration to opposition. Above all, however, they are a reason to reflect on the essence of the Eucharist and on the media reproduction of events. They remind us that it is only within the community which lives out the liturgy experience in a way appropriate to the individual signs that the sanctification of man is realized.
Listening to and watching the liturgy, or even virtually „touching” the interior in which the sacred rites take place, does not make us actual participants and does not mean partaking in an act of worship, in the Mass, which is a feast and a sacrifice. Live broadcast of the Holy Mass remains a religious experience, a prayer, and an act of desire.

Keywords: broadcasts of the Holy Mass, radio, television, the Internet, liturgy