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

7/16/2005 - 10:40 AM PST

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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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1 - 5 of 5 Comments

  1. Patti Day
    4 months 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
    5 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
    5 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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