Monday, January 24, 2011

Some Pillars of a New Liturgical Movement (And For Catholic Life and the Parish Generally)

People, whether the lay faithful or parish priests, often consider how we might pursue a new liturgical movement both individually and corporately. More generally, there is a consideration of how we might go about revivifying Catholic life, identity and the parish. Here are a few pillars which are important for a new liturgical movement and whose place in Catholic life is generally testified to by the Church as well as her tradition.

I. The Mass

First and foremost, we should understand and promote the centrality and importance of the Mass. It should be celebrated well, with reverence and beauty, and be given a clear priority in parish life. It should be a point of focus. Let all renewal and revivification of Catholic life begin here -- and from a parish perspective, it is that point which all will come into contact with. It is the solemn, public worship of God, offered to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.

"...the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10)

"... people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year - in fact, forever. The church's teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man's nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God's teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life." (Pius XI, Quas Primas)

"'The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows.' It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1074)

II. The Divine Office

After the Mass comes the Divine Office, breviary or Liturgy of the Hours. The Divine Office also forms a part of the liturgical prayer of the Church. It is something which should be fostered and encouraged both as part of parish life, and also in day to day life. The praying of the Office also brings with it the benefit of a close contact and familiarity with the psalms and with the liturgical year.

"The Breviary should be the ladder on which the soul mounts to heaven. As the seasons of the year have their effect on nature, giving the trees growth and blossom and fruit, so too the Church year with its course of feasts and seasons should affect the soul. Through contact and "exposure" to the Church year, our soul matures for heaven; no book offers more contact with the life of the Church's liturgical year than does the Breviary. With this prayer book, moreover, the Church accompanies us through the day, and for each hour of the day she gives us a sword and a shield to spread and defend the kingdom of God in our soul: all this accomplished by the marvelous arrangement of hourly prayers." (Pius Parsch, Why Pray the Breviary?)

“ is greatly to be desired that they [the laity] participate in reciting or chanting vespers sung in their own parish on feast days. We earnestly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, to see that this pious practice is kept up, and that wherever it has ceased you restore it if possible. This, without doubt, will produce salutary results.” (Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 150)

"...the Liturgy of the Hours 'is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father.' The Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God. In it Christ himself 'continues his priestly work through his Church.' His members participate according to their own place in the Church and the circumstances of their lives: priests devoted to the pastoral ministry, because they are called to remain diligent in prayer and the service of the word; religious, by the charism of their consecrated lives; all the faithful as much as possible: 'Pastors of souls should see to it that the principal hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and on the more solemn feasts. The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1174-75)

"The divine office, because it is the public prayer of the Church, is a source of piety, and nourishment for personal prayer. And therefore priests and all others who take part in the divine office are earnestly exhorted in the Lord to attune their minds to their voices when praying it. The better to achieve this, let them take steps to improve their understanding of the liturgy and of the bible, especially of the psalms." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 90)

III. Sacred Scripture and Lectio Divina

Familiarity with sacred scripture, the Old and the New Testaments, is an important aspect of our Faith. Sacred Scripture is the Word of God and as St. Jerome wrote, ignorance of it is ignorance of Christ. Further, a familiarity with salvation history is important, including for a new liturgical movement. We should read scripture, familiarize ourselves with its passages and with its stories, meditate upon it, and understand it through the light of the Magisterium; we should further study and familiarize ourselves with biblical typology.

"...I urge you to become familiar with the Bible, and to have it at hand so that it can be your compass pointing out the road to follow. By reading it, you will learn to know Christ. Note what Saint Jerome said in this regard: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" (PL 24,17; cf Dei Verbum, 25). A time-honoured way to study and savour the word of God is lectio divina which constitutes a real and veritable spiritual journey marked out in stages. After the lectio, which consists of reading and rereading a passage from Sacred Scripture and taking in the main elements, we proceed to meditatio. This is a moment of interior reflection in which the soul turns to God and tries to understand what his word is saying to us today. Then comes oratio in which we linger to talk with God directly. Finally we come to contemplatio. This helps us to keep our hearts attentive to the presence of Christ whose word is "a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Pet 1:19)." (Benedict XVI, Message to Youth for 2006 World Youth Day)

"I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced of it - a new spiritual springtime." (Benedict XVI, Address to International Congress commemorating 40th anniversary of Dei Verbum, 16 September 2005)

"God is the author of Sacred Scripture. 'The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.' 'For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 105)

IV. Mystagogical Catechesis

Mystagogical catechesis is particularly important in relation to a new liturgical movement.

"The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one's life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate. Given the vital importance of this personal and conscious participatio, what methods of formation are needed? The Synod Fathers unanimously indicated, in this regard, a mystagogical approach to catechesis, which would lead the faithful to understand more deeply the mysteries being celebrated. (186) In particular, given the close relationship between the ars celebrandi and an actuosa participatio, it must first be said that "the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well." (187) By its nature, the liturgy can be pedagogically effective in helping the faithful to enter more deeply into the mystery being celebrated. That is why, in the Church's most ancient tradition, the process of Christian formation always had an experiential character. While not neglecting a systematic understanding of the content of the faith, it centred on a vital and convincing encounter with Christ, as proclaimed by authentic witnesses. It is first and foremost the witness who introduces others to the mysteries. Naturally, this initial encounter gains depth through catechesis and finds its source and summit in the celebration of the Eucharist. This basic structure of the Christian experience calls for a process of mystagogy which should always respect three elements:

"a) It interprets the rites in the light of the events of our salvation, in accordance with the Church's living tradition. The celebration of the Eucharist, in its infinite richness, makes constant reference to salvation history. In Christ crucified and risen, we truly celebrate the one who has united all things in himself (cf. Eph 1:10). From the beginning, the Christian community has interpreted the events of Jesus' life, and the Paschal Mystery in particular, in relation to the entire history of the Old Testament.

"b) A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite.

"c) Finally, a mystagogical catechesis must be concerned with bringing out the significance of the rites for the Christian life in all its dimensions – work and responsibility, thoughts and emotions, activity and repose. Part of the mystagogical process is to demonstrate how the mysteries celebrated in the rite are linked to the missionary responsibility of the faithful. The mature fruit of mystagogy is an awareness that one's life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated. The aim of all Christian education, moreover, is to train the believer in an adult faith that can make him a "new creation", capable of bearing witness in his surroundings to the Christian hope that inspires him."
(Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 64)

"In the patristic period properly, catechumenal formation was realized through biblical catechesis, based on recounting the history of salvation; immediate preparation for Baptism by doctrinal catechesis, explaining the Creed and the Our Father which had just been handed on, together with their moral implications; and through the phase following the sacraments of initiation, a period of mystagogical catechesis which help the newly baptized to interiorize these sacraments and incorporate themselves into the community." (General Directory for Catechesis, 89)

"The historical character of the Christian message requires that catechesis attend to the following points: [...]
– it should situate the sacraments within the history of salvation by means of a mystagogy which " the great events of salvation history in the 'today' of her liturgy"; reference to the historico-salvific 'today' is essential to such catechesis, and thus helps catechumens and those to be catechized "to open themselves to this 'spiritual' understanding of the economy of Salvation...'"
(General Directory for Catechesis, 108)

"Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ ( It is "mystagogy." ) by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the "sacraments" to the 'mysteries.'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1075)

* * *

One might give this the acronym of MOST: Mass, Office, Scripture, Teaching Mystagogy.

Someone might ask, what of the traditional devotionals? Evidently these most certainly do have a place in Catholic life, and can also be extensions of a new liturgical movement, though they must be understood properly in relation to the liturgy, which they are secondary to:

"The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc. These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church, but do not replace it. They 'should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some way derived from it and lead the people to it, since in fact the liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them.'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1674-75)

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