Father Z writes “urgent” liturgy post

Whenever Father Z writes about Pope Benedict XVI’s contribution to saving the liturgy (save the liturgy; save the world, he says) through Summorum Pontificum, I want to ask, “What about Anglicanorum coetibus? and our Ordinariates’ Divine Worship: the Missal?”

He has an “Urgent” post up  on Pope Benedict’s preface to the Russian edition of his collected works.  He writes:

For years I have contended that if we do not revitalize our sacred liturgical worship, every initiative we undertake as a Church will wither and face.  Everything we do must start in worship and must be brought back to liturgical worship.  We must reorder our efforts, prioritize if we truly want renewal.

This is one of the reasons that I pound my head on my desk when I read about conferences about “New Evangelization” that lack a strong liturgical component (other than the de rigueur vanilla Novus Ordo Mass with concelebration with some bishop or other for the attendees).

Booked to attend the third New Evangelization Summit here in Ottawa in May, I find I do not entirely agree with Father Z that “every initiative we undertake as a Church will wither and fade. ”  I think renewal needs every possible effort to appeal to as many different Catholics as possible, some who are not ready to be reached through traditional liturgy.  Whether it’s through evangelistic appeals through preaching the Gospel and inviting people to ask Jesus into their hearts (don’t knock it—because it can be the beginning of a fruitful journey for people); or through revival of Marian devotions such as the Rosary, consecration to  Jesus through Mary and so on, we need every possible arrow in the quiver. But back to the post on liturgy.

Father Z then goes on to quote from his translation of the preface Pope Benedict’s words.  Here’s part of it:

In the years following the Second Vatican Council, I became aware once again of the priority of God and of the divine liturgy. The misinterpretation of the liturgical reform that was widely diffused in the Catholic Church led to putting in the first place more and more the aspect of instruction and of one’s own activity and creativity. Man’s “doing” almost led to forgetting God’s presence. In this kind of situation, it becomes ever clearer that the Church’s existence lives from the proper celebration of the liturgy and that the church is in danger when the primacy of God no longer appears in the liturgy and, therefore, in life. The most profound cause of the crisis , which has disturbed (sconvolto – “upset, shocked, ‘freaked out’”) the Church, rests in the obscuring of the priority of God in the liturgy.  All of this brought me to dedicate myself more extensively than in the past to the theme of the liturgy because I knew that the true renewal of the liturgy is the fundamental condition for the renewal of the Church. The writings that are collected in the present volume XI of the Opera Omnia were born on the basis of this conviction.  But, in the final analysis, even with all the differences, the essence of the liturgy in the East and in the West is one and the same.  And so I hope that this book can help also the Christians of Russia to grasp in a new and better way the great gift that is given to us in the Sacred Liturgy.

Your thoughts?


2 thoughts on “Father Z writes “urgent” liturgy post

  1. I think Fr. Z’s point was not that “every initiative we undertake as a Church will wither and fade,” but that they will wither and fade “if we do not revitalize our sacred liturgical worship”. And I think this is true. Other good works, from New Evangelization conferences to pro-life action to working in a soup kitchen, are likely to fail or fade away if they are not grounded in deepened prayer and spirituality, first and foremost within the sacred liturgy. They are the seed falling on rocky ground, springing up quickly then withering away because there is no depth to the soil. That is why in all of these other kinds of activities, it is important that there is a liturgical component, and that this liturgy is not dumbed down but reaches up.

    That doesn’t mean that every Catholic conference need be accompanied by a Solemn High Mass with a choir singing Palestrina – as you say, some people simply aren’t there yet – but don’t let it be dumbed down with praise ditties. Why not sing the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei at Mass? Have Taize songs in Latin instead of cheesy pop music? Celebrate Compline Divine Worship style, or Ukrainian Catholic style? These kinds of events would also be a great opportunity to expose a wider Catholic audience to the treasures of the Anglo-Catholic liturgical tradition found within the Ordinariates by having an Ordinariate priest celebrate Mass according to the Divine Worship Missal or perhaps having an Ordinariate parish choir sing Anglican plainchant or hymns from the English Hymnal.

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  2. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Anglican patrimony is fine scholarship. The following paragraph from the late Dom Gregory Dix (The Shape of the Liturgy, A&C Black Ltd., London, Second Edition, 1945 (Reprinted 1986), p.xi) caught my attention when I first read it a couple decades ago, bringing a strong conviction that fixing the celebration of the liturgy in our parishes is an urgent priortity. This quotation retains the emphasis, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the original text.

    The intricate pattern of local variety overlaid on the unchanging apostolic core of the rite is the product of history. It is the proof that the christian liturgy is not a museum specimen of religiosity, but the expression of an immense living process made up of real lives of hosts of men and women in all sorts of ages and circumstances. Yet the underlying structure is always the same because the essential action is always the same, and this standard structure or Shape alone embodies and expresses the full and complete Eucharistic action for all churches and all races and all times. The action is capable of different interpretations, and the theologies which define those interpretations have varied a good deal. But they can vary only within certain limits while they interpret one and the same action. Whenever and wherever the Eucharistic action has changed, i. e. whenever and wherever the standard structure of the rite has been broken up or notably altered, there it will be found that some part of the primitive fulness of the meaning of the eucharist has been lost. And — in the end — it will be found that this has had equally notable results upon the Christian living of those whose christianity has been thus impoverished. It may sound exaggerated to link comparatively small ritual changes with great societal results. But it is a demonstrable historical fact that they are linked; and whichever we may like to regard as the cause of the other, it is a fact that the ritual change can always be historically detected before the social one. To take two cardinal instances: there is an analysable relation between the non-communicant Eucharistic piety which begins in the fourth century and certain obvious weaknesses and special characteristics of the christianity of the dark and middle ages, which first shew themselves in the fifth century. There is again a clear relation between, on the one hand, certain special tendencies of Latin eucharistic piety in the middle ages which come to full development in the sixteenth century all over the West, and on the other that post-renaissance individualism, first in religion and then in living, which has such outstanding consequences upon the general situation of Western society in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    ‘Nuff said!


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