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Wednesday, June 1, 2011


  1. Liturgy is public prayer.
  2. Liturgy is communal prayer.
  3. Liturgical prayer is regulated by the church.
  1. Liturgy is more a gift from God to the Church than an offering to God from the Church.
  2. Liturgy exists to strengthen communal support for personal Christian living.
Role of the Assembly
  1. The assembled believers are themselves the ones who are praying, the ecclesia.
  2. Christian liturgy is an exercise of the priestly office of the baptized.
Implications (from the role of the assembly)
  1. The members of the assembly should learn the importance and fullness of their roles in liturgy.
  2. The elements of the liturgy should be comprehensible to the assembly without explanation.
  3. All of the members of the assembly should be supported in actively participating in all the liturgical elements not specifically requiring a ministry expertise.
  4. The assembly needs to be prepared by its ministers before complications or variations are added to a liturgical service.
Nature of Ritual
  1. Liturgical prayer involves ritual, whose positive effects are supported by repetition over a lifetime.
  2. The primary role of liturgical music is to unify the prayer of the assembly.
  3. Ritual music is based on the repeated use of melodies and texts, which assists the assembly's participation in song.
General Guidelines
  1. Liturgical preparation is based on the text of the church and must support its flow and climaxes.
  2. Christian liturgy is based on Scripture and should use vernacular translations of Scriptural texts rather than paraphrases in prayers and songs.
  3. The texts of the liturgy and the Scriptures have priority over musical expression.
  4. Liturgy needs to be prepared with the size of the assembly in mind.
  5. Liturgy needs to be prepared with the nature of the prayer place in mind.
  6. Liturgical celebrations, even of a particular congregation, vary in formality depending on the occasion and the size of the assembly.
Role of Ministers
  1. Liturgical ministers, ordained or not, are called to serve and support the praying of the assembly.
  2. Things should not be added or expanded in the liturgy for the gratification of the tastes or demonstration of the talents of the ministers.
  1. Unity in liturgy does not require uniformity in performance.
  2. Beauty in liturgy is an element of acculturation and varies among societies, classes, and places.
  3. Elements of the liturgy require craftsmanship of noble simplicity rather than artistic expression.
  4. The essentials of any liturgical service need to be distinguished from accretions and protected.


  1. So I took your invitation and made my critique. This will probably sound a little like I'm telling you off, but really, this was fun as hell. I need to get back to school.


    [I would propose some mention of offering or, more preferably, sacrifice. More on this in the “Purpose” section]


    [Hrmm… There can’t be this sort of separation of gift from/to. While the gift of God is infinite, being, in fact, all that we are and possibly could offer, we are called to offer back to God all that we are. This is the issue of the rich young man – he could not sacrifice and offer all he had to God and so went away sad (there’s much more than anti-materialism packed into that story).

    If offering and gift is seen in purely functional terms or ideas, such as aiding or completing he who is being offered to, than you’re completely right. God needs nothing more to be complete. But if that is the case, why did God even bother with the Mosaic Law of sacrifice? There’s something more here. It is the fittingness – one does not give because the other is in need, but because one loves the other. Thus we are called to offer to God as fully as we are capable – to offer in the same kind, though radically less degree, as God.

    I would also be leery of making the personal-communal dichotomy. We are always living in communion – communion with the Saints and Angels and, though harder on this side of the veil, with each other. Thus liturgy is not simply there to support our personal Christian living, but to manifest the fullest experience of Christian living (no limiting to personal or communal). This is why liturgy is much more than the Mass, but is optimally to be prayed throughout the day in the various hours. Never is our sacrifice to God to be halted, for he never stops in giving us all that we are.]

    Role of the Assembly

    [The high-priestly office of Christ is also involved. It is because of Christ that humanity can exercise a priestly office. This is also why there is always a priest involved, one who is to so allow the priestly character to overtake Him that it is no longer he but Christ who offers the sacrifice of himself as the Head of and in unity with the assembly, the Body.

    Thus it is the ecclesia with Christ who are praying, through Christ, to the Father.]

    Implications (from the role of the assembly)

    [What is the definition of comprehensibility? Should it be obvious to anyone who walks in the door? Does the comprehensibility take time, perhaps much time? Is this comprehensibility purely rational?

    I have no issue with this, but find the comprehensibility is often limited to on the surface understanding, which tends to imply that the most simple and obvious is the best way to go. This tends toward a kind of puritanical minimalism that ultimately makes the liturgy into some utilitarian.]

  2. Nature of Ritual

    [I would also say that ritual, most especially music’s, purpose is to beautify. It must always be remembered that liturgy takes a step out of this world into the next. The book of Hebrews speaks of the heavenly sacrifice being offered and Revelation reveals the divine praise always being sung in the realm eternal. Thus on earth, adornment is not for the sake of man, but a manifestation of the earthly liturgy’s participation in the Divine Liturgy.

    This is why actuoso participatio is best translated as active participation rather than actual. The liturgy requires all, Priest and priests, to offer the sacrifice and receive communion with the divine life. This offering, however, is not simply done with outward actions but by inward disposition and inward action. Thus the mute, blind, crippled old man may be better actively participating, through his reflection upon the liturgy going on about him and his inward offering, than the spy, beautifully voiced, and actually participating minister so focused on being a part of everything he forget to pray.

    This isn’t an excuse to leave the people out. Music which does not manifest the beauty of God to the people and thus does not call the people to prayer (this is done not only through their understanding and is often done by its witness to glory than its intelligibility), is nothing but a sweet sounding gong.

    All this to mean that ritual is not merely an assist. It is integral. Liturgy without ritual is dead.]

    General Guidelines

    [Hell yes.]

    Role of Ministers

    [The ministers do not only serve and support the praying of the assembly, but lead it as well. The priest is necessary, for he leads the people. The priest needs the people, for he needs the Body of Christ, and the people need the priest, for they need Christ as Head.]


    [I haven’t found this variety of beauty thing to hold water. It’s often put forth as a kind of defense that beauty is whatever one’s society, class, or place define it, but I’m not so sure of that. I think beauty is much simpler than that: a manifestation of God’s glory. To an extant, this happens very differently in different cultures, but is not a matter of taste. It is how God has manifested in that culture. God and action in the world is still the standard and not man’s tastes. The Roman rite has a very different form of beauty than the Eastern and Oriental rites. One could use large sweeping ideas like “proclamation of the word” or “consecration” for the shared ideas but these ideas, when separated from how they are incarnated, are just ideas.

    The so-called accretions are the incarnation of these ideas, thus every rite will have its own. The essentials one speaks of are not a kind of basic form which what each culture likes is put upon. The essentials are basic ideas that require a culture to manifest them.]

  3. ”This will probably sound a little like I'm telling you off, but really, this was fun as hell. I need to get back to school.”

    Well, at least you have not called me any names or tried to put me into some category which I have not claimed. The only reason comments are moderated is to delete such things before they pollute discussions and turn them into arguments.

    The other side of the coin is that I should be able to respond to different points of view.

    Real discussions, trying to understand differing points of view and support one's own in the face of differences is indeed, for those of us with certain kinds of minds and personalities, “fun as hell.”
    Definition is for all liturgy, not the Mass
    Note that I used the word “more”. The point is to get away from emphasis on what we do, especially away from “doing our best” and move the focus on what God does.
    What we are called to offer back is what we do in the living of our lives much more so than in the church service.

    The Mosaic law of sacrifice is a very different concept than Christian liturgy. These are concepts here which deal with the specifically and narrowly liturgical factors in prayer decision making.
    What I was trying to say was that liturgy is different from other kinds of prayer specifically in being communal and that experiencing membership in the earthly Christian community in this way has a particular value for the individual seeking to follow Jesus as a way of life.

    When you say that the “ liturgy is not simply there to support our personal Christian living, but to manifest the fullest experience of Christian living” you are supporting my point. Manifesting the experience of Christian community, which is the only way of Christian life, communal not individual, is a primary function of liturgy. That is why those who want to go to liturgy and pursue personal prayer are demonstrating that they do not understand the full extent of Christian prayer and community. One may meditate on “me and Jesus” but that is not essentially what Christianity is about.

    I would say that the prayers throughout the day are not themselves liturgical, but that they are supported by our liturgical prayers which raise our awareness of existing in community, in the body of Christ and not just as an individual in relationship with God.
    In liturgy, there is not always a priest involved, especially not in Liturgy of the Hours. Remember, that I am trying to distinguish specifically liturgical principles which can then be applied to individual liturgies.
    ”I have no issue with this, but find the comprehensibility is often limited to on the surface understanding, which tends to imply that the most simple and obvious is the best way to go. “

    There is no denying that such an error is often made. The opposite error is that something can be understood with sufficient catechesis. If it takes a lot of explanation, it is not conducive to participation. Things which require analysis and meditation need different presentations than the liturgy. On the other hand, the implications of the simple acts of the liturgy can be very conducive to further meditation.

  4. I do not think that ritual is about beauty. I do not think that beauty is a liturgical value. Note my support of “noble simplicity”. I think that beauty is a cultural value, not a liturgical value.

    I think that applying one's artistic imagination to showing in liturgical prayer some concept of the so called “divine liturgy” is to misunderstand the symbolic content of those Scripture passages. My entire set of principles are for the human working out of liturgical prayer in its own specifically liturgical terms. To add imitation of something heavenly is to change the definitions and the objectives. The objectives of heavenly "liturgy", so-called, are oriented to heavenly beings, not humans.

    See my statements of liturgical purpose and of the basic role of music.

    I think that artists have claimed too much ownership of liturgy and that artistry is similar to clericalization in taking liturgical prayer out of the hands of the people.
    ”the spry, beautifully voiced, and actually participating minister so focused on being a part of everything he forget to pray.”

    This is a very real problem, one which I have had to deal with personally. Yet, I think it relates to the difficulty in seeing the need for art and beauty in liturgy.

    It is competence we need, rather than artistry, again “noble simplicity” seems to fit. Oratorical skills applied to proclaiming Scripture rather than for drawing attention to one's mastery of the skills.
    “I would also say that ritual, most especially music’s, purpose is to beautify. ”
    “All this to mean that ritual is not merely an assist. It is integral. Liturgy without ritual is dead.”

    I do not see how these two statements connect.
    Role of Ministers
    Why do you think leadership is not included in service and support of the assembly? I mean leadership as in leading the singing, for example.

    I do not think the priest has the role of “Christ as Head”. That too presumptuous for the role of leader of the praying assembly.
    You will have to make a stronger case for your acultural definition of beauty for me to go along. I do not follow either what connection you are trying to make to the various Christian rites.

    Accretions are the multiple layers of added expression for the basic contents of a rite. The problem is that the church almost never deletes anything from a rite. Instead the cultural expressions of the rite for succeeding generations pile up on the base like accretions on a cave floor. One can find the beauty there, but one can also find the accretions to be obstructions.

    What is valuable and appropriate in one time and culture is not necessarily valuable or even appropriate for a different generation or different continent and especially not for people with differing levels of literacy or different concepts of government. These cultural realities mean that the things from the intervening past obscure the original composition.

    The clarity of liturgical action, the rhythm of the ritual, can be obscured by too many words or too many gestures for example. Each one may make sense in itself, but the totality loses clarity.

    Similarly, some good elements in the liturgy may be in such places that they interrupt the flow of the Eucharistic celebration. Getting something into the service or making a theological statement about the service may interrupt the underlying ritual action.