Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: As We Worship, So we will Live
I am just a Catholic Christian; a “revert”, drawn back to the fullness of Christianity that is dynamic, orthodox, faithful Catholic life and practice. I have the utmost respect for my brethren who are Protestants in each of their various confessions and communities. However, I am not one, by choice. I do not want a Protestant looking church building or a stripped down Catholicism whose worship seems more protestant than Catholic. I do not want barren liturgy and symbol-less Catholicism.
Too many “experts”, those who think they “know better” have taken the richness, the depth that draws so many to the treasure that is Catholic worship and life. Their efforts will not endure. Their numbers and influence are dwindling. The Catholic seminaries that are full are filled with candidates who want the vibrant, symbolic, magisterium following, richly liturgical, devout fullness of Catholic faith and life. The ecclesial movements are flourishing, drawing men and women who also want the fullness of Catholic worship, faith and life in all of its rich beauty. The “new” Catholics, coming into full communion from other Christian communities, are flocking to the “dynamically orthodox” and faithful Catholic parishes. The symbols are coming back and new ones are emerging.
There was a movement called Iconoclasm ("Image-breaking") in the eighth and ninth centuries in the Eastern Church. It became a full scale heresy. The term has come to be associated with those who rejected icons, but it speaks now to a broader contemporary problem. Icons are meant to put us in touch with the transcendent mysteries of our faith. I pray with icons and have for many years. I cherish their liturgical role in the Eastern Church. In fact, one would never find an Eastern Church, Catholic or Orthodox, without icons. The contemporary “iconoclasts” are those who seek to de-mystify Christian faith, life, worship and practice. They are not the future of the Catholic Church but the past.
They actually think that the symbols of our worship, our faith and our life are a problem. While they strip our sanctuaries and make our liturgical experiences barren, they think they have helped us by somehow making the faith more ‘relevant”, “meaningful” or “contemporary”. They are sadly mistaken and have done the Church and her mission a disservice. They fail to grasp that, by nature and grace, human persons are symbolic. Man (and woman) is created in the image of God, and is a divine icon. Jesus Christ is the Icon of the Father. Symbols touch us at a much deeper level than words or emotive or affective participation can. They touch us at the level where authentic religion and deep worship truly begins. It is there where we hunger the most for God.
“The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church" is a good beginning. We need much more. I sincerely hope that in its final document the Synod gives clear, specific direction that exposes the liturgical abuses and minimalism that have crept into the sanctuaries and helps us to build a future of beauty in our Liturgical life. It is time for a reform of the reform.
Too many times, directions like those found in this document are painted as “backward”. Those who write and speak to the need for authentic liturgical reform are often ridiculed. For example, I have a dear priest friend who celebrates one of the most reverent and beautiful Masses one could ever experience. He was recently called “retro” by a colleague in a meeting of the liturgical committee of our Diocese. In fact, he and his approach are the future. The directions that have been given to the faithful in this document point us to the future and not to the past. All one has to do is read the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, or Revelation to John, to see where we are all headed in worship. Beautiful Liturgy is not a thing of the past but the path to our future.
In closing, one of the specific recommendations in this document concerns the placement of the tabernacle. It is time to acknowledge that the moving of the tabernacle out of the sanctuary has been an abysmal failure and was a huge mistake. Along with the Tabernacle, it is time to bring back the signs and symbols of our worship, and to create new ones that are truly beautiful because they participate in the beauty that is true worship. Fill the walls of our sanctuaries with the beauty of icons bringing heaven to earth. Bring back reverence, transcendence and beauty to the presidency of the priest and the responses of the faithful in the Divine Liturgy. In so doing, we will all be changed and, we will change the world.
“Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”. As We Worship, So we will Live
Deacon Keith Fournier is a Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia who has been married for thirty years. A graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law, He served as a human rights and constitutional lawyer for twenty five years. He currently serves as the Senior Editor for Catholic Online and is a Contributing Editor of Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports. His latest book, “The Prayer of Mary: Living the Surrendered Life”, from Thomas Nelson Publishers, will be available in book stores at the end of the month
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