Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Fundamental Misunderstanding of the Nature of Catholic Liturgy

Catholics today might sometimes be struck by the passionate conviction of the younger generation of Catholics who are fighting for the cause of the Sacred Liturgy. It is as if we are fighting for dear life, in a struggle to the bitter end, against our mortal enemies. The reason is simple: we are doing exactly that. It is no exaggeration to say that there is a fundamentally false view out there, very popular nowadays, as captured in this paragraph from Whispers from the Loggia of November 24:
The office’s [i.e., Congregation for Divine Worship’s] new mission is likely to hew closer to Francis’ own liturgical approach—as one op summarized its principles: “Go by the book. Don’t make a fuss about it. And remember that liturgy’s always a means to an end—not an end in itself.” 
That’s the error in a nutshell: the liturgy is a means, not an end. I don't know who Rocco's "op" was, but I sure hope he isn't your bishop or pastor. The worst day that can dawn for any Catholic is a day on which the priest celebrating the Mass takes it into his head that what he's doing is just a means to some further end.

On the contrary, voicing centuries of unbroken tradition, the Second Vatican Council declares “the Eucharistic sacrifice” to be “the source and culmination of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11), with Sacrosanctum Concilium expanding on this point:
The liturgy, “through which the work of our redemption is accomplished” (Secret, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost), most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. … Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work [of the liturgy] wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. … From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree. … [T]he 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.
All the work of the Church stems from and is ordered to the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. If we do not get this right, we will get nothing right; all of our work will be compromised, even poisoned. If, however, our house is in order, our worship solemn, reverent, beautiful, edifying, and nourishing, giving great glory to God who deserves all our adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and supplication, then the rest of the Church’s mission can flow freely and irrigate the world, like water rushing down a mountainside.

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