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Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: As We Worship, So we will Live

Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

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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1 - 5 of 5 Comments

  1. Patti Day
    1 year ago

    I was brought to your blog when I did a google search on the words "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivende". I didn't learn Latin in my youth, but have lately been drawn to its beauty. It says much in only a few words. So being here anyway, I read the rest of the piece and found it very timely. I had to look again when I read about the synod topic in October being about the Eucharist. I looked back at the date this was written, almost ten years ago. Here we are once more looking forward, or maybe not, to the synod in October on the family. The issues you raised regarding the liturgy are as relevant today as then, even more so. It is so past time for reformation of the celebration versus populous; so past time to catechize the faithful in how and when to partake, or to not partake, of the Holy Eucharist.

  2. Maryellen Jones
    2 years ago

    I appreciate articles like this. I was hoodwinked by the 'Liturgical specialists' of the Vatican II changes. Our church did a renovation, in which the Tabernacle was moved away from the Sanctuary. Because I was not properly catechized, I saw no problem with it. I did come to see that the new placement was actually offensive, causing public traffic past it in order to reach the entrance to the social hall.

    People coming to funerals (non-Catholics) had no idea what 'that thing' was, and even our parishioners failed to genuflect or make the sign of the cross, giving due reverence to Lord residing in the Tabernacle. They walked right past it without any acknowledgement of the Lord's holy presence. The Priest never corrected anyone, or taught us to reverence the Lord in the Tabernacle.

    (I am a revert) May the Lord bless you in educating the people of God. We need more of your kind.

    4 years ago

    jUST FINISHED READING YOUR VERY INTERESTING ARTICLE. I attend an interfaith Bible study group and quite often I'm put in the position of being the Catholic apologist! I'm happy to explain some of our Catholic beliefs but I'm not always well versed on all of the issues. some of my protestant brothers have a negative attitude regarding Liturgy and all of the devotions Catholics participate in.
    I try to tell them that it's their lack of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the eucharist that is the root of their dis-belief but it's going to take time! and a lot of prayer.


    Joseph F. Coralluzzo
    Butler, New Jersey

  4. Dr Russell Berry
    6 years ago

    The Clergy of the Roman Catholic Church has long been guilty of the mortal sin of not educating itself - or doing so badly and heterodoxly - and signally of failing to educate the laity. The result of this centuries' old sin has been the infiltration into the Clergy of Modernism and Modernists and the neccessary corruption of Doctrine, the insidious evidence of which we have seen since Vatican II. Tolle Missam tolle Ecclesiam - the neo-Protestants who re-jigged the Cranmerian eucharistic service and foisted it upon the Church as Paul Vi's 'Mass' knew very well that to destroy the Mass was to destroy the core beliefs of the Church. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi - who can possibly doubt it, now?

  5. Samson Gandhi
    6 years ago

    Deacon Keith Fournier resonates my feelings. Recently, I preached in a church totally devoid of any traditional symbols. The high-tech music system, audio-visual equipment were mind-blowing. When my time came I felt I had to give a performance to match. Take the centre stage and blow their minds. I found it very difficult to draw the 'audience' into an act of worship. I felt we were worshipping the technology and the what I call the worship jockey. Yes, I agree with the author and I do pray and hope that our worship will move in the direction of God.

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