Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Few Quotes on the Liturgy

The following is excerpted from and article on Catholic News Service. Cardinal Arinze is the Vatican’s top liturgist.

Cardinal Arinze said the main challenge facing his congregation is to encourage a spirit of prayer, which must grow out of faith. He said bringing people to Mass regularly is essential, and it hinges largely on two factors: catechesis and high-quality, faith-filled liturgies.

Celebrating Mass well involves lay ministers, but primarily the priest, who sets a tone through every word and gesture, the cardinal said.

"Suppose a priest comes at the beginning of Mass and says: 'Good morning, everybody, did your team win last night?' That's not a liturgical greeting. If you can find it in any liturgical book, I'll give you a turkey," Cardinal Arinze said.

Likewise, a priest has to preach well, making sure that his homily offers theological and scriptural enlightenment, and not merely verbal "acrobatics" to show off how many books he's read, he said.

The cardinal said that if done well Sunday Mass will not be experienced as a heavy obligation, but as a spiritual banquet, a celebration appreciated by the faithful who are hungry for spiritual nourishment and want to adore God.

"You should not need a commandment to enter such a banquet hall," he said.

I think I like this guy. His comments seem to bode well for some real improvements in the services endured experienced by most Roman Catholics. (The Eastern Catholic churches never went over the liturgical cliff the way so many Latin Rite churches did. Go to a “modern” Latin Rite church, then go to Our Lady’s Maronite – it will blow you away.) It also bodes well for Episcopalians (ECUSA), since the 1979 Rite II communion service is very much a Lite Beer version of the Roman Novus Ordo mass. If they copied the abuses, maybe they’ll copy the corrections.

Lex orandi, lex credendi. “The rule of prayer is the rule of belief” or, as the perpetrators authors of modern liturgies might phrase it, “if we control the liturgy, we can get them to believe whatever we want.”

Bad liturgy makes for faulty beliefs, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to see that. Show me a church that has gone theologically squishy, and I’ll show you a church where the service and the preaching have departed from historical Christian norms. Good liturgy, on the other hand, makes for orthodox belief. St. Francis uses the old 1928 Episcopal Prayer Book. I’m no big fan of Elizabethan English, or of hanging on to the old for its own sake. But when I first came there from a 1979 Rite II ECUSA church, the theological differences in the prayers were glaring. And you can see those differences reflected in the eyes of the parishioners as well. Hey, hey – A-Rin-Zey! Go, Cardinal!