CBB Review – Liturgy and Personality

liturgy_and_personality_spotlightIf you have never heard the name Dietrich von Hildebrand or had the opportunity to read one of his books, you are missing out on the thought of one of the leading Catholic philosophers of the 20th century. You also may not realize than he was one of the first in Germany to challenge Hitler and his concept of National Socialism that eventually morphed into Nazism. That topic was covered extensively in the book  My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich which I reviewed in 2014. That book was one of the first releases of the Hildebrand Project, a group committed to bring von Hildebrand’s text back into print and translate them from German to English.

Recently the Hildebrand Project released a new edition of Liturgy and Personality, originally published in 1932. Alice von Hildebrand, Dietrich’s widow writes in the forward, “In this book, Dietrich von Hildebrand shows how the Liturgy (when it is approached with the proper attitude and prayed reverently) brings about a profound development, transforming even a modest personality into a great one.”

The book is a short read coming in at just 150 pages. However, it is powerful and has always been one of the most beloved writings of von Hildebrand. The book is divided into eleven chapters each leading the reader to the realization that the Liturgy, shapes a person’s personality. What is the liturgy? He explains it as such:

“Opinions are divided as to the extent of the meaning of the word “Liturgy.” Some apply it to all the divine services performed by a priest in the service of the Church, including Mary Devotions, the Stations of the Cross, and other special services, as well as the Holy Mass and the recitation of the Divine Office. Others restrict it’s scope, as we shall restrict it in this study, to the Holy Mass, which is liturgy in the highest sense, to the Divine Office, and the administration of the sacraments and sacramental.”

The book moves forward with Deitrich defining just how the Liturgy forms and shapes a person. This occurs after, and only when, we as practitioners in the Liturgy allow ourselves to be open to the Spirit. He also goes on to explain that the purpose of the Liturgy is not our formation. Rather, the purpose of the Liturgy is to praise God, our formation comes as an aside or perhaps more so a bonus to us in return for our praise and thanks giving.

Liturgy and Personality is rich and deep. In saying that however it is approachable. Dietrich von Hildebrand brings the returning into a closer understanding of the liturgy. He illuminates the liturgy’s value and shows the reader the true intimacy the liturgy creates between God and us. To praise God is to love Him and to worship Him is to live in His light. When dwelling in the light of God how can one not be formed in the image of God? Take up and read this impressive little volume and rekindle your love of the liturgy.

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