Monday, October 23, 2006

Ten Days in Oxford at St. Benet's Hall: Cosmic Liturgy

[It should be noted, as its been asked before, that "cosmic liturgy" is not a new-age reference. Rather, it is a patristic reference to the idea of the liturgy as an icon of heaven on earth. This course should be fantastic, and Easter will come upon us quick. I would highly recommend that if you can make it, it would be most worthwhile.]

A residential retreat/ short course for Easter 2007

3rd – 12th April 2007 at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford
Vivian Boland OP, Stratford Caldecott,
David Clayton, David Fagerberg,
Alcuin Reid, Adrian Walker
Connie Lasher and others

The worship of the Church is not the liturgy of a human religious society, connected with a particular temple, but worship which pervades the whole universe and in which sun, moon, and all the stars take part.... The Church is no purely human religious society. The angels and saints in heaven belong to her as well. Seen in this light, the Church's worship is no merely human occasion. The angels and the entire universe take part in it. – Erik Peterson


Total for ten days: £950. Students with ID: £600

En suite rooms and standard rooms are charged at the same rate, on a first-come first-served basis. However it may be possible to reserve an en suite room for an extra charge of £15.

We can offer a reduction £5 per day on rooms of any type to those who share their accommodation.

Please note that rooms do not have air conditioning, and the Hall does not have wheelchair access. Accommodation is upstairs.

All payments must be made in sterling. Bank details can be supplied on request. Payment by credit card is unfortunately not possible at this time.
Please apply for registration form to


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.1 The conference gave birth to a book, Beyond the Prosaic. Since that time, the movement to restore 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.
Over Easter 2007 we are offering an educational and spiritual retreat in the heart of Oxford to study the meaning of the Liturgy, drawing on Pope Benedict’s book The Spirit of the Liturgy. The intention is to promote a deeper personal engagement with the Easter Liturgy in dialogue with the Orthodox. The retreat will help us rediscover or better appreciate the following things:
The vertical dimension of the Liturgy (and the Church herself) as containing at its heart the sacrifice of the Cross, joining earth to heaven.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 (Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday)? 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.)


Recommended texts will be read privately and together during the first week of the retreat, which is dedicated mainly to prayer and meditation in preparation for Easter. More seminars will be offered in the second half of the retreat, as we unpack and deepen our experience of Easter.

The main background reading for this course will be The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI (written as Joseph Ratzinger and published by Ignatius Press in 2000).2 A second important book for our reflection will be Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (Ignatius Press). Fr Corbon was a Greek-Catholic priest who contributed greatly to the writing of the fourth part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and his book is one of the richest meditations on the Sacred Liturgy available in English. Participants are advised to bring copies of both books with them on the retreat.

We will also look at some other important short texts, especially the Mystagogy of Maximus the Confessor. Here the most important readings will be photocopied for those who do not possess them at the beginning of the course. They are, (1) “The Church’s Mystagogy”, pp. 181-225 of Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings, in the Classics of Western Spirituality series, and (2) H.U. von Balthasar, “The Synthesis of Three Acts of Worship”, pp. 314-331 of Cosmic Liturgy (Ignatius Press).

"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." (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy, p. 322.)

See also The Christian Meaning of Time, by David Fagerberg (

Students will be encouraged to attend the Triduum Liturgy at the nearby Oxford Oratory, or the Orthodox Easter Liturgy on Canterbury Road.

THE SPEAKERS (in alphabetical order)

Vivian Boland OP, Master of Students at Blackfriars, Oxford, will be speaking in Holy Week about spiritual warfare, the subject of his forthcoming book in the CTS “Deeper Christianity” series.

Stratford Caldecott, editor of Second Spring and author of The Seven Sacraments and Understanding the New Age (CTS) will be presenting and discussing material from his next book, The Twelve Gates: Entering the Liturgical City.

David Clayton, artist and director of ResSource Ltd., will be talking about the role of the imagination in the spiritual life, and a new method for integrating the Daily Prayer of the Church with everyday life.

David Fagerberg, a faculty member in the department of theology at the University of Notre Dame, is the author of The Size of Chesterton’s Catholicism and What is Liturgical Theology? as well as The Christian Meaning of Time (CTS). See

Connie Lasher is the Director of the new John Paul II Center for Theology and Environmental Studies, at St Joseph’s College in Maine. See

Alcuin Reid is the author of one of the most important recent books on the liturgy, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, and the editor of Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger, the proceedings of the 2001 Fontgombault conference.

Adrian Walker is Associate Editor of Communio and formerly taught at the John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family in Washington DC. He currently lives in Germany.

NB. For regular updates visit

Online resources for background reading

Liturgy as Icon by David W. Fagerberg is at

Salvation as Transfiguration in Maximus by Adam A.J. DeVille is at

Maximus on Knowledge selections are at

The Rites of the Church by Aidan Nichols OP is at

The Liturgy of the City Streets by Paul Grenier and Tim Patitsas is at

Sacred Signs by Romano Guardini is at

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