Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Josef Pieper and Liturgical Life and formation

I mentioned in my review of the 2003 CIEL proceedings, recently released in English, a paper given which spoke of Josef Pieper, the German Catholic philosopher who died sometime around 1997 if memory serves.

Josef Pieper is an incredibly rich Catholic thinker. Some of his works have been published by Ignatius Press, but most of them by St. Augustine's Press. One might ask, what has a philosopher to say about the sacred liturgy? A great deal.

We've been blessed with an increase in the Catholic philosophical community contributing to the liturgical question. Dr. David Berger has done it with Aquinas in his recently translated book, and Fr. Jonathan Robinson (a native philosopher himself) has also done it in his. These are important contributions.

I am increasingly convinced (not that I was never convinced before, being a philosophy graduate myself) that a good philosophical underpinning and an ability to critically analyze and think about "first principles" is fundamentally, even crucially important for theology generally, not excluding liturgical theology. Of course, the fact that the Church has made the study of philosophy mandatory as a pre-cursor to theology in seminary formation says much about this on its own, with no epiphany about it required.

Josef Pieper doesn't speak as directly upon the matter as the likes of a Berger or Robinson whose purpose is explicit, but when one reads Pieper's works, you are struck by their applicability to the liturgical life of the Church and to living the liturgical life generally.

We've been talking lately about expanding the basis or our liturgical and theological formation, thus I wanted to raise this as yet another supplmentary angle. Now, most primarily being pursued by some of our readers here in the light of the Rule of St. Benedict. This is crucial and do not set that project aside if you've undertaken it! But for those who have time for both, or who want to take it up after the initial reading of the Rule (though the Rule is something that would be good to read each day for life!), I would highly recommend you also consider reading these works as a kind of philosophical formation on the nature of life and liturgy.

1) Leisure the Basis of Culture

Honestly, I think this is a must read. The book is published as two essays, one being the actual essay of the title of the book. This in particular should be read and gets into fundamental issues of anthropology and the philosophy of education. It can quite profoundly tie into a number of matters, not excluding the sacred liturgy.

2) In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity

Also a great book, which looks at the nature of feasts and festal days. Needless to say, this has a strong co-relation to the idea behind holy-days and genuine feasts -- as compared to crass commercial feasts and secular "holidays". This can very strongly tie into the concept of the liturgical year.

3) In Search of the Sacred

It's been awhile since I saw this work, but from memory, it is the most explicitly liturgical work of Pieper. This one is published by Ignatius Press.

4) Happiness and Contemplation

I haven't had the opportunity to read this work as of yet, but the role of contemplation is touched upon by the Rev. Dr. Rodheudt and certain ties into the issue of silence and listening as a form of profound activity. I'm certain this work will likely be important for these considerations.

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