Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: As We Worship, So we will Live
Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
There is a Latin maxim that addresses the centrality of worship in the life, identity and mission of the Church; “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”. The phrase in Latin literally 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 - how we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live. The law of prayer or worship is the law of life. Or, even more popularly rendered, as we worship, so will we live…and as we worship, so will we become!
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.
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 it 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.
Last week, a working document on the celebration and centrality of the Eucharist was released to the public. The document is entitled “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church." It will be used by the Bishops who gather for the upcoming global Synod on the Eucharist in October. This Synod will conclude this year that has been especially dedicated to the Eucharist.
Some press reports concerning this document were quite negative. They presented it as though it were an effort on behalf of what they referred to as “the Vatican” to “clamp down” on Catholics in their worship. Nothing could be further from the truth. In preparation for this pivotal global gathering of Bishops, the Church is, at this critical time in human history, addressese the centrality, beauty and heart of Eucharistic worship. As mother and teacher, she is continuing her mission of guiding the faithful into the fullness and beauty of true and pure worship, by giving clear instruction concerning the “Divine Liturgy” or “the Mass”, which is the summit of all Catholic worship.
Some press reports focused on some elements of the document that grate against this relativistic age. They attempted in their reporting to make the document seem “mean” because it reaffirmed what the Catholic Church has taught for two thousand years. There are two particular examples that appeared in most of the critical reports. The first concerned the insistence that when anyone participating in the Eucharistic celebration goes forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, they must fully embrace all that the Catholic Church teaches. Yet, that is simply what it means to be in “full communion” with the “magisterium”, or teaching office. The second concerns the documents’ reaffirmation of the need for people to be free from serious or mortal sin before receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. That is simply reminding the faithful of what has always been taught.
There is nothing new in these two affirmations. They are rooted in the Bible and have been reaffirmed in all Church Councils. If someone is in a state of serious sin, the Church offers the fullness of forgiveness in Jesus Christ and the means to find complete reconciliation. Then, they are welcomed back to the table. If someone does not accept the teaching of the Catholic Church, for example on the inviolable dignity of every human life, then coming forward to receive the Sacrament of full communion is wrong and disingenuous. They are not in “full communion” and should not receive. Of course, the Church provides ample opportunities for that person to come to understand the truths that she protects and proclaims. Once that teaching is embraced, that person can come back to the table.
The document mentions some other issues that seem to be “hot buttons”. Last Sunday I was greeted by a priest friend who, though he had not even read the document, critically complained about its “insistence on using Latin”. All the document does is to encourage the use of Latin in international liturgical celebrations in order to emphasize the universality of the Catholic faith. It also encourages the ...
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