Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: As We Worship, So we will Live
memorization of some of our common prayers in Latin for the same reason. I think it is a great direction. I will never forget my journey back to my Catholic faith. I was deeply influenced by the story of a young Thomas Merton which he recorded in “Seven Storey Mountain”. He traveled to the Churches in Europe and always heard, no matter what Nation he was in or what language they spoke, “Credo”. This helped to draw him into the Catholic Church. There is a beauty to this universal worship language and what it symbolizes that will never lose its value.
The document also addresses the decline in sacred music, suggesting that parishes consider using Gregorian chant and other forms of beautiful sacred music instead of the more “profane” music that have taken their place at the Divine Liturgy. It cautions against priests becoming "showmen"- thus drawing attention to them-selves, encouraging them instead to demonstrate the dignity of their office in presiding over the Divine Liturgy. It reaffirms the importance of the experience of the Sacred in the sanctuary and suggests that the tabernacle should have a prominent place and not be shunted off to a corner.
I welcome this document. I hope that the final document to which it points, which will be issued after the Synod in October, is even more direct. The Church is desperately in need of such direction. I live and serve in a Diocese that needs both the direction and the correction that this document provides. The liturgical worship, in at least some of our parishes, has been devastated by some of the worst trends that have weakened the worship of the contemporary Catholic Church.
Having spent decades in ecumenical work, 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 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.
Along with moving the tabernacle out of the sanctuary, the renovation “experts” in too many Dioceses moved many of the symbols of uniquely Catholic worship, practice and expression out of the sanctuary. What the faithful are forced to accept in its place is pitiful, the bad fruit of what one writer aptly referred to as changing “Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces”. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The basics are still there, thank God. The Word is still proclaimed from what still resembles an Ambo. There is an altar, although it is often stripped down and has little of the grandeur befitting the eternal sacrifice made wonderfully present in the timeless mystery re-presented at every consecration in every Mass.
The priest still wears vestments; even though they sometimes seem to have such a casual nature to them that one does not quickly grasp why he even wears them, or the connection that they bring between the eternal heavenly liturgy and the beauty of the worship of the Holy Church throughout the world. They sometimes seem so “ordinary” that one can fail to discern that they speak symbolically, crossing the span of more than two thousand years and reaching back into the temple worship.
Then there are the “rubrics”, the rules, the norms, of the liturgy. Sometimes, they are simply discarded. More often they are marginally followed. What a shame. The extraordinary depth and beauty of the Divine Liturgy is the heart of Catholic worship. It is an invitation to enter into the heavenly mysteries and participate in the very life and love of a God who gives Himself to us. There at the altar, “in persona Christi”, the celebrant mediates the gift of heaven, the mystery hidden from the ages…and there we encounter the Lamb of God, slain for us. At that moment all the angels of God bow in profound reverence and we are invited to join them!
Why all this minimalism?
The minimalism begins when you enter the “worship space” of some contemporary church buildings. There is absolutely no sign or symbol anywhere. There are no icons or images reflecting the heavenly touching the earth, drawing you into a transcendent encounter with the God who we receive and in whom we are invited to live and move and have our being. The “worship space” is filled with people conversing about the week - no screaming mind you, but nothing that sets it apart as the place where God will manifest Himself and give Himself away, body, blood, soul and divinity, to we who are mere mortals invited into His throne room. The tabernacle is often in a separate small nondescript room outside of the “worship space”.
I am not a “traditionalist” Catholic, although I understand and respect those ...
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