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

7/16/2005 - 10:40 AM PST

(Page 3 of 3)

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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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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