Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The New Oxford Movement? Easter 2007: Cosmic Liturgy Course

NLM: It struck me that there is a great deal of intriguing liturgical activity coming out of Oxford these days. Back in 1996 we had the Centre for Faith and Culture host the Beyond the Prosaic conference. I'm not certain what may have happened since then in Oxford, but in 2005 we had the Ever Directed to the Lord conference, hosted by the Society of St. Catherine of Siena, whose proceedings should hopefully be in print in the latter part of the year or early next. Forthcoming in September will be the CIEL Conference in Oxford at Merton College. Now, I bring to you information of a course to be offered at Oxford in 2007, dealing with the topic of Cosmic Liturgy, hosted by the same organization that brought us the Beyond the Prosaic conference.

I'm fascinated by the nature and level of activity here. Historically we've had the "Liturgical Movement" from whence we now talk about the need, and I daresay it is already a reality now proceeding, of a "New Liturgical Movement". Likewise, there was the "Oxford Movement" within the Anglican communion; that movement by which the likes of Newman, Pusey and others sought a restoration of Catholic liturgics and thought to Anglicanism. While the analogy is admittedly imperfect because of the ecclesial variances, it seems to me nonetheless, with the evident Catholic liturgical renaissance going on in Oxford, we can almost speak of a "New Oxford Movement" -- but in this case a new, and truly Catholic Oxford Movement.

Here is the information on the upcoming conference:

The Cosmic Liturgy

A residential short course for Easter 2007 St Benet’s Hall, Oxford

In 1996 the Centre for Faith & Culture organised a conference in Oxford on the “reform of the reform” movement within Catholic Liturgy. Its closing statement, the “Oxford Declaration on Liturgy”, was widely quoted. The conference gave birth to a book, Beyond the Prosaic.

Since that time, the movement to restore among Catholics a genuine liturgical sensibility, spirituality and form has gathered momentum and authority. But there is still a burning need for people to be taught what the Sacred Liturgy is and why it is important. The Liturgy is not merely some kind of group event in which you sing a few songs, say some responses, listen to a reflection and go home.

The proposed five-day course, an educational retreat in the heart of Oxford studying the meaning of the Liturgy, is designed to help Catholics to rediscover or better appreciate the following things:

1) The vertical dimension of the Liturgy (and the Church herself) as containing at its heart the sacrifice of the Cross, joining earth to heaven.

2) The sacrificial dimension of the sacred Liturgy, tied to a greater sense of the meaning of Holy Eucharist, the Christian priesthood, etc.

3)The eschatological dimension of the Liturgy, as a making present of eternity in time, an actual drawing up of the mundane into the realm of the divine.

4) The relationship of the external forms of the Liturgy to catechesis, to interior formation and disposition. The place of beauty, structure, symbol, cosmic orientation, language and music in divine worship.

5) The Liturgy as something received, something objective, and not something we are can engineer. The essential role of tradition as a vehicle for the Holy Spirit and the organic development of liturgy and community.

6) The intrinsic relationship of contemplation to action, of love for God to love for neighbour, in the Liturgy itself. The nuptial anthropology that makes Mass the consummation of a wedding between divine and human nature.

Out of this course, with the experience of a beautiful Easter Liturgy, and some training in the use of the Divine Office and Gregorian Chant, will come refreshment of spirit and a renewed energy to serve God in the world.

What better time to study the Liturgy than the end of Lent and the three sacred days of Easter? Pope Benedict says of the Easter triduum that it is “the fulcrum of the whole liturgical year. Aided by the sacred rites of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the solemn Easter Vigil, we will relive the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. They are propitious days to reawaken in us a more intense desire to be united to Christ and follow him generously, conscious that he has loved us to the point of giving his life for us ... Let us dispose ourselves, therefore, to celebrate the Easter triduum taking up St. Augustine’s exhortation: ‘Consider now attentively the three holy days of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of the Lord. From these three mysteries we realize in the present life that of which the cross is symbol, while we realize through faith and hope that of which the burial and resurrection is symbol.’” (12 April 2006, reported by

The main reading for this course is The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI (written as Joseph Ratzinger and published by Ignatius Press in 2000). But we will also look at some other important writers, including Maximus the Confessor. For “Maximus presents the Church, and the sign that she imprints on the world, in the largest and most open terms possible. The Church lies in the midst of the natural and supernatural cosmos like a source of light that sets all things revolving around itself; in that she represents everything symbolically, she also is an effective guarantee of the transformation of the whole universe. The liturgy is for Maximus more than a mere symbol; it is, in modern terms, an opus operatum, an effective transformation of the world into transfigured, divinized existence. For that reason, in Maximus’s view ... the liturgy is ultimately always ‘cosmic liturgy’: a way of drawing the entire world into the hypostatic union, because both world and liturgy share a christological foundation.” (From Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy, p. 322.)

This course is still under development. Further details will be posted when available, but it would help if you could give us advance notice of your interest.

Please watch this website for updates and further information: Cosmic Liturgy

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: