On Saturday I had the luck to visit Aiken, South Carolina to lead a day seminar on the foundations of liturgy for the people and servers of the parish of Our Lady. One of our new priests, Fr Jeff Kirby is the parochial vicar there, assisting Fr LeBlanc. It was great to be given such a warm welcome by two of our best priests in the diocese.
There was an excellent turnout. My first talk was a Bible study on the Mystery of Sacrifice. This takes us through the Old Testament–explaining the ancient reasons for a sacrificial system of worship, and showing how it evolved and developed within the Jewish history of redemption. The Lamb of God becoming the primary image of sacrifice. The talk then goes through the New Testament images of sacrifice in Christian worship, and concludes with a reminder for sacrifice to continue to be the primary image for the celebration of Mass.
The second talk is a New Testament Bible study on the word ‘mystery’. We go into the background of the mystery religions of the ancient world, and how St Paul picks up this image and uses it to discuss the incarnation. The lecture then explores how the ‘mystery’ is administered by the apostolic Church according to St Paul’s teaching in Romans and Ephesians. It then goes into the comparison of ‘mystery’ and ‘sacrament’ and shows how our worship is meant to reveal and conceal the mystery of the incarnation.
Both of these principles of worship are far more emphasized within the Biblical account and the worship history of the Hebrew people and the Christian Church than the idea that worship is ‘the people of God gathered around the table of God for a fellowship meal.’ While this idea is not incorrect, and not alien to the New Testament, or the Hebrew tradition, it is always subsidiary and complementary to the much larger and more important themes of sacrifice and mystery.
However, the ‘family meal’ image of Christian worship has somehow predominated in recent Catholic liturgical thought. This has affected everything. It affects how we celebrate Mass, how we build our churches, how we dress, who are the servers, what we choose for music, etc etc etc.
Moving forward to a fuller understanding of the roots of Catholic worship within the concepts of sacrifice and mystery will help all our people to move forward with the reform of the reform, and doing so with a good solid Bible study from a former fundamentalist should give some Catholics some good old fashioned surprise.
A DVD of these talks will soon be available on my updated website. If you would like me to visit your parish to conduct one of these seminars, drop me a line.