Liturgical Adventures

The following article appears on Catholic Online, and it’s posted here just to remind us that the development of the Ordinariate liturgy isn’t the only thing going on in the liturgical life of the Church. Of course, you already knew that…but it’s good for us to remember that the millions of Catholics who use English as their primary language of prayer will be seeing some pretty dramatic changes in just a few months. If they can do it, those of us who will be adapting to whatever changes come in the Ordinariate liturgy can certainly adjust, too. It’s all part of the great adventure of being Catholic!

Revised Roman Missal Presents a Moment of Grace for the Whole Catholic Church
By Deacon Keith Fournier

"Worship cannot come from our imagination: that would be a cry in the darkness or mere self-affirmation. True liturgy supposes that God responds and shows us how we can adore Him. The Church lives in His presence – and its reason for being and existing is to expand His presence in the world." (Pope Benedict XVI)

The implementation of the Revised Roman Missal is an opportunity for the whole Church to be authentically renewed.

CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) – As the implementation of the Revised Roman Missal draws near the entire Catholic Church is presented with an invitation to rediscover the heart of Catholic worship and be changed in the encounter. There is a Latin maxim that addresses the centrality of worship in the life, identity and mission of the Catholic Church; "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi".

The phrase in Latin means the law of prayer ("the way we worship"), and the law of belief ("what we believe"). It is sometimes written as, "lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi", further deepening the implications of this truth – referring as well to the "law of life". How we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live.

The Church has long understood that part of her role as mother and teacher is to watch over worship, for the sake of the faithful and in obedience to the God whom she serves. How we worship not only reveals and guards what we believe but guides us in how we live our Christian faith and fulfill our Christian mission in the world.

Liturgical Worship is not an "add on" for a Catholic Christian. It is the foundation of Catholic identity; expressing our highest purpose. Worship reveals what we truly believe and how we view ourselves in relationship to God, one another and the world into which we are sent to carry forward the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.

How the Church worships is a prophetic witness to the truth of what she professes. Good worship becomes a dynamic means of drawing the entire human community into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. It attracts – through beauty to Beauty. Worship informs and transforms both the person and the faith community which participates in it. There is reciprocity between worship and life.

The Revised Roman Missal more completely captures the spirit of the original language and restores a depth and beauty to the Sacred Liturgy. The implementation of this revision is an opportunity for an authentic renewal of liturgical worship, which is the very heart of our Catholic faith.

In Australia, the revisions to the Liturgy were implemented last Pentecost. An article entitled "Australian parishes positive on new Mass translation" confirmed what I expected would happen. It began with these words "The new translation of the missal was used at Australian Masses for the first time on Sunday, and won praise from a priest of almost six decades and another who has just celebrated his first Mass." The article was adapted from a fuller article on the subject which appeared in "the Australian" entitled "New translation of liturgy launched to mass applause"

It continued, "Father Norris, ordained in Rome in 1955, and who said mass in Latin for his first 10 years as a priest, found the new version much easier. So many priests and people felt let down in the late 1960s – not by the loss of the Latin or the fact that the priest had to face the people, but because so much richness was lost," said the parish priest of St Kevin's Geebung, on Brisbane's northside.

"The new text will have a transformative effect, invoking a strong sense of the sacred because it is "so different from everyday speech and will turn people's minds and hearts to the mysteries of the faith". Father Morgan, one of five priests ordained in Sydney on May 20, said young priests and mass-goers he met were "nothing but positive" about the translation. "The difference between the two translations is incredible, with the new one being so rich and beautiful," said Father Morgan, who elected to use the new translation for his first mass at St Christopher's Holsworthy in southwestern Sydney."

I have spent decades in ecumenical work. Perhaps that explains why I find it odd that right when so many of our Christian friends in other confessions and communities are searching for a deeper encounter with the beauty of the Lord in formal liturgical worship; for sign, symbol and mystery, for a connection with the ancient Church in her divine worship, some parts of the Catholic Church are discarding the very treasures that make her formal liturgical worship so beautiful, full of mystery and so compelling and attractive to those seeking a deeper experience of worship and Christian life.

Sadly, what may have begun as a sincere effort to simplify – itself an invitation into beauty when properly achieved – often devolved into a form of liturgical minimalism. The liturgical minimalism I speak of begins when you enter what is sometimes called the "worship space" of some contemporary church buildings. There are very few symbols anywhere. There are few if any icons or images reflecting the heavenly touching the earth, drawing the worshipper into a transcendent encounter with the God who we receive in the Most Holy Eucharist and in whom we are invited to live and move and have our being.

I am not a "traditionalist" Catholic, although I understand and respect those who are. I am just a Christian who chooses to live my faith in its fullness, as a Catholic. I love the Tradition, with a capital "T". I am a "revert", drawn back to that fullness of Christianity that is dynamic, orthodox, faithful Catholic life and practice. I have respect for my brethren who are Protestants in each of their various confessions and communities. However, I am not one, by choice. I do not want a Protestant looking church building or a stripped down Catholicism whose worship seems more protestant than Catholic. I do not want barren liturgy and symbol-less Catholicism.

Over the last two decades, some who purported to be liturgical experts too often stripped away the richness and the depth that draws so many to the treasure that is Catholic worship and life. Their numbers and influence are dwindling. The Catholic seminaries that are full (and their number is increasing) are filled with candidates who want the vibrant, symbolic, faithful, richly liturgical, devout fullness of Catholic faith and life. The movement toward dynamic, symbolic and beautiful Liturgy is not about going "backward" but forward and toward eternal worship.

The ecclesial movements are flourishing, drawing men and women who also want the fullness of Catholic worship, faith and life in all of its rich beauty. The new Catholics, coming into full communion from other Christian communities, are flocking to the "dynamically orthodox" and faithful Catholic parishes. The symbols are coming back into our sanctuaries and new ones are emerging.

There was a movement called Iconoclasm ("Image-breaking") in the eighth and ninth centuries in the Eastern Church. It became a full scale heresy. The term has come to be associated with those who rejected icons, but it speaks to a contemporary problem, liturgical minimalism and the loss of the sense of the Sacred in our Churches. Icons are meant to put us in touch with the transcendent mysteries of our faith.

I pray with icons and have for many years. I cherish their liturgical role in the Eastern Church. In fact, one would never find an Eastern Church, Catholic or Orthodox, without icons. The contemporary "iconoclasts" are those who seek to de-mystify Christian faith, life, worship and practice. They are not the future of the Catholic Church but the past.

There are some who think that the symbols of our worship, our faith and our life are a problem. While they strip our sanctuaries and make our liturgical experiences barren, they think they have helped us by somehow making the faith more 'relevant", "meaningful" or "contemporary". They are sadly mistaken and have done the Church and her mission a disservice.

They fail to grasp that, by nature and grace, human persons are symbolic. Man (and woman) is created in the image of God, and is a divine icon. Jesus Christ is the Icon of the Father. Symbols touch us at a much deeper level than words or emotive or affective participation can. They touch us at the level where authentic religion and deep worship truly begins. It is there where we hunger the most for God.

On April 15, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Bishops of Brazil in Rome. He told them that the Eucharist constitutes "the centre and permanent source of the Petrine ministry, the heart of the Christian life, source and summit of the Church's mission of evangelization. You can thus understand the concern of the Successor of Peter for all that can obfuscate this most essential point of the Catholic faith: that today, Jesus Christ continues alive and truly present in the consecrated host and the chalice."

He warned the Bishops that "Paying less attention at times to the rite of the Most Holy Sacrament constitutes a sign and a cause of the darkening of the Christian sense of mystery, such as when Jesus is not the centre of the Mass, but rather a community preoccupied with other things instead of being taken up and drawn to the only one necessary: their Lord".

The Pope continued "If the figure of Christ does not emerge from the liturgy, it is not a Christian liturgy. As Blessed John Paul II wrote, "the mystery of the Eucharist is 'too great a gift' to admit of ambiguities or reductions, above all when, 'stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet'."

Toward the end of these remarks Pope Benedict summarized the heart of Liturgy, "Worship cannot come from our imagination: that would be a cry in the darkness or mere self-affirmation. True liturgy supposes that God responds and shows us how we can adore Him. The Church lives in His presence – and its reason for being and existing is to expand His presence in the world."

"Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. Lex Vivendi". As We Worship, So we will believe and so we will live. The implementation of the Revised Roman Missal is an opportunity for the whole Church to be authentically renewed.

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

10 thoughts on “Liturgical Adventures”

  1. Many fora discourage "attaboy" posts, but let me say that I have read Fr Deacon Fournier's writings for some years. I find him much more often spot on than not, and here to this, all one can say is, "amen!"

  2. Con someone please clarify this for me? My understanding was that the Missal of Paul VI was not revised (except for the periodic addition of feast days, etc.), but simply that the translation was improved. This new translation of the same (unrevised) Missal is what will be introduced this Advent. Is that not correct?

    1. Regarding the Latin, the texts are mostly the same as that of the 2nd edition. There are, however, some additions found in the 3rd edition. Notably, there is a provision for a longer Pentecost Vigil, particular Vigil Masses for the Epiphany and Ascension, "Prayers over the People" for all days in Lent (which can be seen as restoring a particular character of the traditional Lenten liturgy, though I should add that they are optional on weekdays), etc. A Mass for the Gift of Human Life, long desired by Card. O'Connor, will be available in the U.S. Singing of the Epiphany Proclamation is strongly encouraged, as is the Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession (the U.S. edition will also include the Christmas Proclamation). So, while this edition substantially retains what was in the former, there are plenty of extras texts added in. Of course, it will "feel" quite different, just because of the difference in the style of translation.

  3. Father Timothy-
    I believe you are somewhat correct. The Missal of Pope Paul VI in Latin is not re-done but the lousy, English translations are being redone. Having seen the PPVI Mass in Latin according to the Rubrics is a beautiful thing. If it achieves the same beauty in the new English translation as in the Latin it will have a profound effect on the Latin Church.

  4. > If they can do it, those of us who will be adapting to whatever changes come in the Ordinariate liturgy can certainly adjust, too. It’s all part of the great adventure of being Catholic!

    What an interesting and contemporary take on Roman Catholicism. Once the religion that did not change, where one passed on what one received, we are now the Church of incessant tickering where nothing is too sacred to be changed at the whim of any ole ecclesiocrat.

    Don't like a Psalter dating to the fourth century? No problem we got Sarto on that! Don't like A Holy Week with ancient even Apostolic ceremonies? Pacelli's your man! The Mass just not doing for you? Let's have a chat with ole Montini! The Most Holy Rosary's layman's Psalter of 150 just too clerical for you? Wojtyla's got the cure! Finally learned the responses to the New Mass? Papa Ratzi will keep you on your toes with some fresh material!

    Ah, well, at least the Latin Novus Ordo is staying the same (as others have pointed out) for all three parishes in the world that regularly offer it (add citation).

    Morality just too static for you? Well apparently we've always played a bit loosey goosey with that one (see Noonan).

    Anyway, to all who have jumped aboard to Barque with us recently…welcome aboard and brace yourself for a topsy-turvey ride with many bumps, bruises, and, of course, changes ahead! To those contemplating jumping aboard, pack some dramamine :-)!

    1. Ben:

      As a Traditionalist Catholic, I can certainly sympathise with some sentiments in your comment, but must wholeheartedly agree with Father Phillips that the way we express our faith does change.

      But here we must be very careful to operate with a scalpel, and not with a hammer – all change must be organic, and must strenghten, rather than obscure, the dogmas entrusted to our Church.

      The past forty years have seen changes that need correction, which is what our Pope is accomplishing now. To borrow an image from astronomy: the orbit of the Ordinary Form of the Mass is being adjusted, so that it's no longer such an exaggerated ellipse, but a more orderly circle. The net result will be more stability, better focus on the Center of the orbit, and the return of organic growth.

    2. Dear Ben

      Your text is full of inacurracies. The first of all is the idea thats the Mass hasn't changed at all between the first centuries and Pius XII's reforms of the Holy Week services.
      This idea is utterly false. Lets browse throught the history of the Western liturgy:
      First, many local uses of the Western Mass coalesced between the IIIth and VIIIth centuries. These local rites (Sarum, Gallican, Teutonic, Ambrosian, Mozarabic…) were extremely different, as they had each a different Canon.
      Then, during the reign of Charlemagne (VIIIth C), the Roman Canon was imposed on all these local uses, as well as some customs imported from the East, such as the Kyrie.
      The Middle Age then brought to the Mass many prayers, used ad libitum as private devotions of the Priest (some of these were thereafter included in the Tridentine Mass), and some practices such as the reading of a last Gospel at Mass (wich at that time was also chosen ad libitum by the celebrating Priest).
      The council of Trent then codified all this regarding the Roman use in the Roman Missal, but authorized the venerable other local uses to survive in most of the Catholic world.
      It is only in the XVIIIth century that the local rites were strictly codified by local councils and synod (such as the new Missale Parisiense, published for the Parisian rite in 1738).
      Last but not least, the end of the XIXth century brought the disparition of most of these local uses and the imposition of the Roman rite on all the Western Catholic world (with the exceptions of the dioceses of Milano and Lyon) by the Liturgical movement.
      As you can see, our forebearers had also frequently "their" Mass changed in the past! This is not a new thing in the Church, but marks its organic development.

      Another inacurracy is to say that the Novus Ordo is celebrated in Latin in only three parishes in the world. There are, in France only, more that 50 places were the Mass of Paul VI is celebrated in Latin. See the websites of the Communauté St Martin or of Argentan Abbey for more information.

      + PAX et BONUM

  5. Ben, our Catholic religion doesn't change, but the way it is expressed has undergone many changes throughout history, and there are tremendously diverse expressions side by side in the various rites. Even the Extraordinary Form of the Mass experienced changes and additions over the years.

    It's not a matter of "anything goes" — rather, it's a matter of understanding that lawful authority is just that… lawful authority. Such authority can make changes in our liturgical expressions.

    1. "It's not a matter of 'anything goes' — rather, it's a matter of understanding that lawful authority is just that… lawful authority. Such authority can make changes in our liturgical expressions."

      Precisely, Father; and one might add . . . and authority always has made changes from the beginning.

      The Gospel of John has a quite different take on events and their meaning than Mark's gospel though the author must have had Mark to hand.

      "In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." ( J.H. Newman, Development of Christian Doctrine)

      1. To clarify a bit further re. the Newman quotation above may I quote a blogger, Anglian Pentarch, writing about the hermeneutic of continuity and its importance vis a vis changes in expression and texts which relay the deposit of faith"

        "There are times when some people seem to treat this comment [about change] with praise or hostility, treating is as though it were a catch-all statement in favour of frequent change, and as though Newman were in favour of change for its own sake or to be 'relevant'. Few citations of this famous sentence include the preceding one: 'It changes with them to remain the same.'

        Newman is referring to Christianity on its long journey through the ages, and what he is getting at is not that the Church has to change to become different, but that it has to change to be the same."

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