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Amidst Our Liturgical Differences…

…which should not exist, for we receive the liturgy, and do not create it, it is worth pointing out something we can all agree on: Liturgy itself is awesome. I did an amateur covering of this fact a while back, defending liturgy with three points.

1. That Everyone uses a liturgy.

2. That liturgy is essentially universal and wonderfully democratic.

3. That the Liturgy is a gift.

I’d like to think that those three post are decent ‘primer posts’ for discussion on the Liturgy, as I realize I may be leaving a lot of people out with the whole Just Say No to Your Traddy/Modern Labels! thing. For all of you who’ve already read those, read C.S. Lewis!

no big deal, just another studly lewisian picture.

It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain — many give up churchgoing altogether — merely endure.

Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value.And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best — if you like, it “works” best — when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about the worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the questions “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

  • Sacrosanctum Concilium

    If the liturgy is a “gift,” as you say and we do not “create” it, then you must not have learned that the Novus Ordo was a creation of the Consilium in the late 1960s.

    • Anonymous

      A creation of the Church yes, as guided by the Holy Spirit, and thus not simply the work of human hands, correct?

      • Sacrosanctum Concilium

        No, it was the work of human hands. It jettisoned the traditional Latin Mass and imposed the work of a committee upon the members of the Church. You might want to read some of the scholarship on this issue before you assume … e.g., Alcuin Reid, Klaus Gamber, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, among others.

        • Marc

          Ah, so the Catholic Church has lost the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

        • Jay E.

          It was the work of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. If the NO is the work of human hands, so is the TLM. The Church has full power to change the liturgies in this manner.

          • Bryan

            The mass was instituted by Jesus Christ. Created by Him. It then evolved over the centuries. The Church is organic. We don’t do revolutions.

            That which is timeless should be a rock that weathers the erosion of time, not a ship that gets blown any which way the winds of culture direct Her.

          • Jay E.

            I’m not sure what you’re saying in response to me here. No one was suggesting the Church being “blown any which way the winds of culture direct Her”. I would say, in the analogy of the ship, the Church is blown any which way the Spirit directs Her.

            Certainly the Mass was instituted by Jesus Christ, and certainly it evolved over the centuries. And the N.O. is a change that the Church, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, has made. Just as other previous liturgical changes made by the Church.

      • Bryan

        The liturgy has always undergone organic development. Many things were altered since Trent, but the Novus Ordo is without a doubt something that was ‘made’, not developed. Even the many changes implemented in the 1960s (good or bad) leading up to the Novus Ordo can be seen as just minor ‘tweaks’.

        The liturgy is a gift from God, not something that can be created by man.

        I really love this blog, but maybe this immense topic requires more research.

        • Marc

          absolutely it was something that was made. The reality is we don’t even know what was made, so immediately corrupted was the NO by bad translation and “interpretation”. But the Novus Ordo itself was made, and is valid, because it was made by the Church, who is guided by the Holy Spirit. That is the sense I mean it to be a gift.

  • Faith Hough

    First of all, I’ve just finished reading a couple dozen of your posts after finding this blog through a link. It’s so refreshing to find a faithful Catholic who can so aptly combine insight, charity, and common sense–thank you for that. As an artist, your comments on art, beauty, and truth are particularly appreciated.
    Regarding this post and recent posts: when I was a student at Franciscan U. a few years ago, I often tried to gently remind my colleagues that the labeling and arguing that surrounded the Liturgy was annoying at best and sinful at worst. I think the devil delights in finding a source of unity–the Mass itself–and infusing it with dissonance over the details. Because people like to argue.

  • http://makemeatree.com/ Kayla

    I don’t really have a problem with the liturgy itself, but I’m not fond of this argument. While it does make sense that novelty may distract, long familiarity often becomes too routine and people still aren’t paying attention as they should. We become church robots.

    Of course, I say this as someone who grew up Lutheran and is now going through RCIA. Maybe I just lack the attention span for the liturgy and for rosaries and adoration and things of that nature. I’ve just seen too many people falling asleep in church or reciting the creed or the Lord’s prayer in monotone. You can tell when people are and when they’re not invested in the mass or in their faith.

    Besides, novelty, or new things, different things, often mean growth, which is essential to faith.

    Again, I see the purpose of liturgy for the most part, but to strictly adhere so much might be equally problematic to changing things.

  • Jay E.

    Well said from Lewis. But then… he IS Lewis…. :D

    • Marc

      true dat… ( :

  • SC

    When you say, “Amidst our liturgical differences, which should not exist, for we receive the liturgy, and do not create it…” I completely agree that liturgy is received by us from the Divine Master and is not something we create. But to say that liturgical differences should not exist is something quite perplexing to me.

    If you mean violations to the liturgy that has been given to us, be it violations in the Novus Ordo Mass, violations in the Tridentine Mass of the Roman Church or violations in the Divine Liturgies and Holy Offerings of the Eastern and Oriental Churches, then I don’t think it is appropriate to call them “differences,” but instead to strictly label them as “violations.”

    That being said, if you are referring to the very fact that there are different forms of liturgy as in Tridentine Mass or Novus Ordo Mass of the Roman Church or Divine Liturgies or Holy Offerings of the Eastern and Oriental Churches, then I believe you are gravely wrong in saying that these different forms of liturgy should not exist. And if this is the case then I would ask you to kindly allow me to bring to light the following.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

    “From the first community of Jerusalem until the parousia, it is the same Paschal mystery that the Churches of God, faithful to the apostolic faith, celebrate in every place. The mystery celebrated in the liturgy is one, but the forms of its celebration are diverse. ” (CCC 1200)

    “The mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by its expression in any single liturgical tradition. The history of the blossoming and development of these rites witnesses to a remarkable complementarity.” (CCC 1201)

    “The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church’s mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture: in the tradition of the “deposit of faith,” in liturgical symbolism, in the organization of fraternal communion, in the theological understanding of the mysteries, and in various forms of holiness. Through the liturgical life of a local church, Christ, the light and salvation of all peoples, is made manifest to the particular people and culture to which that Church is sent and in which she is rooted. The Church is catholic, capable of integrating into her unity, while purifying them, all the authentic riches of cultures.” (CCC 1202)

    “The celebration of the liturgy, therefore, should correspond to the genius and culture of the different peoples. In order that the mystery of Christ be “made known to all the nations . . . to bring about the obedience of faith,” it must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled: It is with and through their own human culture, assumed and transfigured by Christ, that the multitude of God’s children has access to the Father, in order to glorify him in the one Spirit.” (CCC 1204)

    “In the liturgy, above all that of the sacraments, there is an immutable part, a part that is divinely instituted and of which the Church is the guardian, and parts that can be changed, which the Church has the power and on occasion also the duty to adapt to the cultures of recently evangelized peoples.” (CCC 1205)

    All that being said, I agree with you on your latest post, that if we complain about certain VIOLATIONS – for mere DIFFERENCES in liturgical form are not complain worthy – in the liturgical form being celebrated and experienced, then the first thing we must do is to pray abundantly for an end to these violations and for the unity of the One, True, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

    May God bless you and Heaven consume you.

    • Marc

      Absolutely correct, I should have said something like “Amidst our labeling” or something to that effect. It isn’ the differences that are bad, it’s the thought “I am a traditional Catholic”, or “I am a charismatic Catholic,” and thus we are different. No, you are both Catholic, and you – like every Catholic – need recieve the liturgy at it is.


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