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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Case Against Bad Liturgy

From the esteemed Catholic News Service comes an article that really brings home the point about the rammifications of bad liturgical practices.

Bad liturgies lead to weakened faith

His Emincence, Raymond Cardinal Burke, does not mince words in his acute diagnosis of a problem that continues to fester in the Church.  According to the article:

If we err by thinking we are the center of the liturgy, the Mass will lead to a loss of faith," said U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, head of the Vatican's supreme court.

Cardinal Burke further added that:

"(L)iturgical abuses lead to serious damage to the faith of Catholics."

Unfortunately, he said, too many priests and bishops treat violations of liturgical norms as something that is unimportant when, in fact, they are "serious abuses."

The Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, his Eminence, Antonio Cardinal Canizares Lloera, further drives home the point in the article:

Cardinal Canizares said that while the book's title is provocative, it demonstrates a belief he shares: "Participating in the Eucharist can make us weaken or lose our faith if we do not enter into it properly" and if the liturgy is not celebrated according to the church's norms.

...Cardinal Canizares said that at a time when so many people are living as if God did not exist, they need a true eucharistic celebration to remind them that only God is to be adored and that true meaning in human life comes only from the fact that Jesus gave his life to save the world.

Sadly, both Cardinals correctly diagnose the seriousness of the situation plaguing the Church today.  In some cases, we have turned the liturgy into some free form exercise in creativity.  There seems to be a "false sense" of liberty that permeates throughout certain circles.  Redemptionis Sacramentum cautions against such notions:

7.]  Not infrequently, abuses are rooted in a false understanding of liberty. Yet God has not granted us in Christ an illusory liberty by which we may do what we wish, but a liberty by which we may do that which is fitting and right.18 This is true not only of precepts coming directly from God, but also of laws promulgated by the Church, with appropriate regard for the nature of each norm. For this reason, all should conform to the ordinances set forth by legitimate ecclesiastical authority.
There also appears to be the notion that somehow over emphasizes the "community" and what it is doing as opposed to who the real Actor of the liturgy is:  Christ, the high priest.  Although I have quoted his address at the 2008 Gateway Liturgical Conference on numerous occasions, the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjinth still hit the proverbial nail on the head:

For him (the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI), “the real ‘action’ in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God Himself. This is what is new and distinctive about Christian liturgy: God Himself acts and does what is essential” (ibid, p. 173).

This kind of participation in the very action of Christ, the High Priest, requires from us nothing less than an attitude of being totally absorbed in Him. Says the cardinal “the point is that, ultimately, the difference between the actio Christi and our own action is done away with. There is only one action, which is at the same time His and ours — ours because we have become ‘one body and one spirit ‘with Him” (ibid p. 174).

Active participation, thus, is not a giving way to any activism but an integral and total assimilation into the person of Christ who is truly the High Priest of that eternal and uninterrupted celebration of the heavenly liturgy.
So, why all of the commentary today about bad liturgy?   Cardinals Burke and Canizares-Lloera made their remarks at a press conference launching the debut of a new book by Fr. Nicola Bux, a priest who serves as a consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Office of Liturgies for the Supreme Pontiff.  His book, released only in Italian, talks about the importance of maintaining fidelity to the Church's liturgical norms and how that relates to the faith of the people.

Fr. Bux, for his part, makes some very pointed observations.  According to the CNS article:

Father Bux said that too many modern Catholics think the Mass is something that the priest and the congregation do together when, in fact, it is something that Jesus does.

"If you go to a Mass in one place and then go to Mass in another, you will not find the same Mass. This means that it is not the Mass of the Catholic Church, which people have a right to, but it is just the Mass of this parish or that priest," he said.

What he said certainly rings true.   In fact, it is something that my father laments on a regular basis.   The Church gives us her instructions to follow.  There are some who will argue that thiere is too much emphasis on the rules to the point that we become Pharisaical.  I read this a lot on the Catholic Answers Forums.  Sadly, it's also been told to me that Rome "writes rules" that are not relevent to the "worshipping assembly."  My response is that the Church is the New Israel.  Just as God the Father spent no little time dictating to Moses the form and manner in which He was going to be worshipped by Ancient Israel, Jesus, who is both the new Moses and the fulfillment of all of the prescriptions of Ancient Israel's cultic, sacrificial worship, dictates to the Church, the New Israel, the manner in which the Holy Sacrifice is to be carried out.  Furthermore, Jesus' problem with the Pharisees had nothing to do with sacrificial worship.  His issue was the fact that the Pharisees were imposing priestly practices on the people and giving these almost the same weight as the 10 Commandments.

I hope that this book will be translated into the English language.  This book would certainly help in fostering a renewal of liturgical catechesis that is, in may places, sorely lacking. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this excellent article. I hope your own experiences of the Liturgy improve. God bless.