Monday, October 31, 2005

Aquinas and the liturgy

I am about four chapters into David Berger's book, Thomas Aquinas and the Liturgy (published by Sapientia Press, and also sold by Ignatius Press) and I am suitably impressed with the work thus far.

The book tackles, so far, a matter I've often lamented. Namely, there seem to be a certain sort of good and faithful Catholic out there who is fighting for orthodoxy in the form of catechesis, but it can at times seem to be an orthodoxy that is lacking in understanding of the importance of orthopraxis -- lacking in understanding of the importance of the sacred liturgy. By this I simply mean that some might think that the liturgy, or at least the form of the liturgy, is not all that important, as say compared to theology, philosophy, or apologetics. All incredibly important and necessary things. Things that seem more objective and important than liturgical aspects which seem to change or vary from rite to rite thus making them seem far more subjective. But is that conclusion so?

Berger examines the question from the perspective of Aquinas, probably the single best representative of the strong academic and intellectual tradition of Catholicism. Berger sets out to show the importance and authority that the liturgy had for Aquinas. He demonstrates how often Aquinas appeals to the liturgy, the practice of the Church, as an authority for his own argumentation. Or how he notes that where a principle is at odds with practice, it is the principle which must shift. This of course is all ultimately balanced off by the authority of the Church.

In a nutshell this book seems to be heading in a direction which is a good antidote for some of our colleagues whom, while so in love with the Faith, have not yet seen the importance which the sacred liturgy has as part and parcel of that Faith.

Actually, it seems to me that it begs the question, if the liturgy is the source and summit of our Faith, and if the Fathers, Doctors and St. Thomas himself understood the primary and fundamental importance of the liturgy, and if one fails to likewise see its central importance and necessity, is there not something lacking in this kind of orthodoxy?

My sense is there is, but I say so with the deepest empathy for those whom have not yet sensed this. Given the current state of the liturgy in most parishes and how it has been subjectified in practice, is it any wonder it hasn't been receiving the emphasis and attention it deserves?

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