The most carefully crafted language in our culture tends to be poetry. And poetry at its finest moments subverts our best attempts at hiding from reality... The poetry of liturgy has just this power. The liturgy contains words that have been shaped and crafted over the centuries. It is formal speech. It is public poetry. As such it reaches into us to reveal not only the unnamed reality of our lives but the God who created us... But even when the words of the liturgy are not literally biblical words, the words, like all truthful words, work on us over time, like a steady, unrelenting stream slowly reshapes the banks of a river. The words do something to us even when we're not paying attention.
Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation.
Pope Benedict XVI
The liturgy is the place where we wait for Jesus to show up. We don't have to do much. The liturgy is not an act of will. It is not a series of activities designed to attain a spiritual mental state. We do not have to apply will pressure. To be sure, like basketball or football, it is something that requires a lot of practice-its rhythms do not come naturally except to those who have been rehearsing them for years. On some Sundays the soul will indeed battle to even pay attention. In the normal course of worship, we do not have to conjure up feelings or a devotional mood; we are not required to perform the liturgy flawlessly. Such anxious effort... blind us to what is really going on. We do have to show up, and we cannot leave early. But if we will dwell there, remain in place, wait patiently, Jesus will show up.
There is however, one reason why the arts so rarely accept a mission that IS within the power of the Church to alter. In the past, the densest or richest location of baptised art has been the Liturgy. The sacred use of the arts in the liturgical setting has provided inspiration for artists engaged in producing artworks for contexts outside the Liturgy, for consumption beyond the limits of the visible Church. In the modern West, the Muses have largely fled the liturgical amphitheatre, which instead is given over to banal language, poor quality popular music, and, in new and re-designed churches, a nugatory or sometimes totally absent visual art. This deprives the wider Christian mission of the arts of essential nourishment. Where would the poetry of Paul Claudel be without the Latin Liturgy? Or John Tavener's music without the Orthodox Liturgy? Where would be the entire tradition of representational art in the West without the liturgical art of which until the seventeenth century at least remained at its heart? We need today to summon back the Muses to the sacred foyer of the Church, to be at home again at that hearth.
Aidan Nichols O.P.
When your soul is pricked by compunction and gradually changed, it becomes a fountain flowing with rivers of tears and compunction. If any one of you ever happens to communicate with tears, whether you weep before the Liturgy or in the course of the Divine Liturgy, or at the very time that you receive the Divine Gifts, and does not desire to do this for the rest of his days and nights, it will avail him nothing to have wept merely once. It is not this alone that at once purifies us and makes us worthy; it is daily compunction that does not cease until death.
Symeon the New Theologian
There's a very generous donation in the parish's future if you make this fast. Ten minutes, at the most." Frowning, the man fumbled open his liturgy. "There's an established rite, Your Grace. Marriage must be entered into with solemnity and consideration. I don't know that I can rush-" "Ten minutes. One thousand guineas." The liturgy snapped closed. "Then again, what do a few extra minutes signify to an eternal God?" He beckoned Amelia with a fluttering, papery hand. "Make haste, child. You're about to be married.
There's a very generous donation in the parish's future if you make this fast. Ten minutes, at the most." Frowning, the man fumbled open his liturgy. "There's an established rite, Your Grace. Marriage must be entered into with solemnity and consideration. I don't know that I can rush--" "Ten minutes. One thousand guineas." The liturgy snapped closed. "Then again, what do a few extra minutes signify to an eternal God?" He beckoned Amelia with a fluttering, papery hand. "Make haste, child. You're about to be married.
The intention of Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the Mass, was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy - but what is curious is that Paul VI did that to get as close as possible to the Protestant Lord's supper... there was with Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or at least to correct, or at least to relax, what was too Catholic, in the traditional sense, and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist Mass.
Once more, the joyful character of the eucharistic gathering must be stressed. For the medieval emphasis on the cross, while not a wrong one, is certainly one-sided. The liturgy is, before everything else, the joyous gathering of those who are to meet the risen Lord and to enter with him into the bridal chamber. And it is this joy of expectation and this expectation of joy that are expressed in singing and ritual, in vestments and in censing, in that whole 'beauty' of the liturgy which has so often been denounced as unnecessary and even sinful. Unnecessary it is indeed, for we are beyond the categories of the 'necessary.' Beauty is never 'necessary,' 'functional' or 'useful.' And when, expecting someone whom we love, we put a beautiful tablecloth on the table and decorate it with candles and flowers, we do all this not out of necessity, but out of love. And the Church is love, expectation and joy.
Receiving the Eucharist means adoring Him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with Him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself.
Pope Benedict XVI
For what concerns diversity of rites in the sacred liturgy, the Apostolic See has always made its position clear: not only it does not condemn diversity, but it eagerly and willingly grants to each nation the right to keep and preserve the legitimate customs and traditions of its forbears.
Pope Leo XIII
Leaders are for calling people to their better angels, for helping guide them to a kind of sterner, more mature sense of what we need to do. To me, Reagan's brand of leadership was what I call 'a liturgy of absolution.' He absolved Americans almost in a priestly role to contend with sin. Who wouldn't want that?
The mystery of the Holy Night, which historically happened two thousand years ago, must be lived as a spiritual event in the 'today' of the Liturgy," the Pope clarified. "The Word who found a dwelling in Mary's womb comes to knock on the heart of every person with singular intensity this Christmas.
Pope John Paul II
In relation to the earth we have been autistic for centuries. Only now have we begun to listen with some attention and with a willingness to respond to the earth's demands that we cease our industrial assault, that we abandon our inner rage against the conditions of our earthly existence, that we renew our human participation in the grand liturgy of the universe.
I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it, not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree.
Our wise old church...has discovered that if you will act as if you believed belief will be given to you; if you pray with doubt, but pray with sincerity, your doubt will be dispelled; if you will surrender yourself to the beauty of that liturgy the power of which over the human spirit has been proved by the experience of the ages, peace will descend upon you.
W. Somerset Maugham
There were positive things about the church, that is, in the European cultural sense, the architecture, the liturgy, the music, the art, such as it was, the stations of the cross in the church, the tradition, and the atmosphere of awe and mystery in the mass. The atmosphere of miracle, one of mainly mystery, that's what fascinates me.
The nation, like the church, has its visible symbols and insignia, its parchments engrossed with the revealed word, its dogmas, hymns, liturgy, holy day celebrations, its early Fathers, prophets and martyrs, its priesthood and its lay sodality, its myths of sacred genesis and apocalyptic crises, its world-saving mission and its missionaries.
Our Children no longer learn how to read the great book of Nature from their own direct experience, or how to interact creatively with the seasonal transformations of the planet. They seldom learn where their water come from or where it goes. We no longer coordinate our human celebration with the great liturgy of the heavens.
Even though the discples were not aware of it, the presence was with them while they were reviewing the scriptures together on the road. Henceforth, we will catch only a fleeting glimpse of it -- in the study of sacred writings, in other human beings, in liturgy, and in communion with strangers. But these moments remain us that our fellow men and women are themselves sacred; there is something about them taht is worthy of absolute reverence, is in the last resort mysterious, and we will always elude us.
Good Christian liturgy is friendship in action, love taking thought, the covenant relationship between God and his people not simply discovered and celebrated like the sudden meeting of friends, exciting and worthwhile though that is, but thought through and relished, planned and prepared - an ultimately better way for the relationship to grow and at the same time a way of demonstrating what the relationship is all about.
Good Christian liturgy is friendship in action, love taking thought, the covenant relationship between God and his people not simply discovered and celebrated like the sudden meeting of friends, exciting and worthwhile though that is, but thought through and relished, planned and prepared -- an ultimately better way for the relationship to grow and at the same time a way of demonstrating what the relationship is all about.
N. T. Wright
A verse of Scripture in the morning, may become a blessing for all the day. It may sing in the heart as a sweet song, from morning until evening. It may become a liturgy of prayer in which the soul shall voice its deepest needs and hungers-amid toils, struggles, and cares. It may be a guide through perplexing tangles, Gods voice whispering cheer, a comforter breathing peace in sorrow.
You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. . . . Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough.
You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion... Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough.
I am worried by the Blessed Virgin's messages to Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a Divine warning against the suicide of altering the Faith, in Her liturgy, Her theology and Her soulI hear all around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the true Faith of the Church, reject Her ornaments and make Her feel remorse for Her historical past.
Pope Pius XII
This worship, given therefore to the Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, above all accompanies and permeates the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy. But it must fill our churches also outside the timetable of Masses. Indeed, since the Eucharistic mystery was instituted out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship. And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament, both when we visit our churches and when the sacred species are taken to the sick and administered to them
Pope John Paul II
Since Moses was in Egypt land, Gods people have been struggling for justice while singing freedom songs. Theology can be clarifying. A good sermon has its place. But nothing is more essential for the life of faith in a community than liturgy that invites us to sing the freedom songs that are sung around the throne of God. Brother Ken Sehested is a song leader in that great cloud of witnesses. Receive his words as gift-and keep singing.
It's like this when you fall hard for a musician. It's a crush with religious overtones. You listen to the songs and you memorize the words and the notes and this is a form of prayer. You attend the shows and this is the liturgy. You're interested in relics - guitar picks, set lists, the sweaty napkin applied to His brow. You set up shrines in your room. It's not just about the music. It's about who you are when you listen to the music and who you wish to be and the way a particular song can bridge that gap, can make you feel the abrupt thrill of absolute faith.
It's like this when you fall hard for a musician. It's a crush with religious overtones. You listen to the songs and you memorize the words and the notes and this is a form of prayer. You attend the shows and this is the liturgy. You're interested in relics -- guitar picks, set lists, the sweaty napkin applied to His brow. You set up shrines in your room. It's not just about the music. It's about who you are when you listen to the music and who you wish to be and the way a particular song can bridge that gap, can make you feel the abrupt thrill of absolute faith.
Repetition and familiarity work. What is repeated becomes familiar, and this becomes a part of us. Our own culture understands this, but alas, not always the church. Far too many equate ritual with spiritual dryness. True, ritual and liturgy can be dead-even using the terms can raise hackles-but only when the significance and power of those rituals are forgotten. Spiritual death is not a property of ritual itself. To the contrary, ritual has always been and will always be a means of securing for future generations the power and reality of the gospel." (Peter Enns, Exodus, page 262).
We need Goddess consciousness to reveal earth's holiness. Divine feminine imagery opens up the notion that the earth is the body of the Divine, and when that happens, the Divine cannot be contained solely in a book, church, dogma, liturgy, theological system, or transcendent spirituality. The earth is no longer a mere backdrop until we get to heaven, something secondary and expendable. Mater becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity. Earth comes alive and sacred. And we find ourselves alive in the midst of her and forever altered.
Sue Monk Kidd
Over the years, my church gave me passage into a menagerie of exotic words unknown in the South: "introit, " "offertory, " "liturgy, " "movable feast, " "the minor elevation, " "the lavabo, " "the apparition of Lourdes, " and hundreds more. Latin deposited the dark minerals of its rhythms on the shelves of my spoken language. You may find the harmonics of the Common of the Mass in every book I've ever written. Because I was raised Roman Catholic, I never feared taking any unchaperoned walks through the fields of language. Words lifted me up and filled me with pleasure.
Abba is not Hebrew, the language of liturgy, but Aramaic, the language of home and everyday life ... We need to be wary of the suggestion ... that the correct translation of Abba is 'Daddy.' Abba is the intimate word of a family circle where that obedient reverence was at the heart of the relationship, whereas Daddy is the familiar word of a family circle from which all thoughts of reverence and obedience have largely disappeared ... The best English translation of Abba is simply 'Dear Father.
Thomas Allan Smail
The true, the genuine worship is when man, through his spirit, attains to friendship and intimacy with God. True and genuine worship is not to come to a certain place; it is not to go through a certain ritual or liturgy; it is not even to bring certain gifts. True worship is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, who is immortal and invisible.
The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. With complete attention, landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. The shape of a landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness. Mountains are huge contemplatives. Rivers and streams offer voice; they are the tears of the earth's joy and despair. The earth is full of soul ..... Civilization has tamed place. Left to itself, the curvature of the landscape invites presence and the loyalty of stillness.
Is the Lord's Supper only for Christians? Whenever I ask this question I immediately remember the character of those that partook of the Last Supper with Jesus. They were certainly Jews, some better Jews than others, but Jesus shared this meal knowingly even with Judas. Or again consider the Emmaus Road encounter. Jesus shares this meal with those who had given up on his being the One to redeem Israel, who were leaving Jerusalem downcast and disappointed, and who were oblivious to the fact that it was Jesus who was speaking and sharing with them! There has to be a balance in the liturgy to help the congregation make a decision if they themselves are ready to partake of this Meal in a worthy manner (hence the 'ye who do truly and earnestly repent' clause), while at the same time joyfully welcoming all who are willing and ready and able to do so.
Ben Witherington III
The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom. We use the word 'dimension' because it seems the best way to indicate the manner of our sacramental entrance into the risen life of Christ. Color transparencies 'come alive' when viewed in three dimensions instead of two. The presence of the added dimension allows us to see much better the actual reality of what has been photographed. In very much the same way, though of course any analogy is condemned to fail, our entrance into the presence of Christ is an entrance into a fourth dimension which allows us to see the ultimate reality of life. It is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.
Christianity nowadays is like a big household where many cousins live under the same roof. They all belong to the same clan, but at times they have very different ideas about how to run their family affairs. Some of them, for instance, have no use for any outside devotion. God is a spirit, and He wants to be worshipped in spirit only, they say. Consequently, they have dispensed with all liturgy. They don't want any distracting ceremonies, no incense, no vestments, no music, no pictures and images, not even sacraments-only the service of the spirit. The trouble is, however, that as long as we live here on earth, we simply are not pure spirits, but we have also a body, and in that body, a very human heart; and this heart needs outward signs of its inward affections. That is why we embrace and kiss the one we love; and the more we love, the more ardently we press him to this very heart-somehow it seems as if these cousins had overlooked that fact. But you can't cheat the heart; it knows what it wants, and it knows how to get it.
Maria Augusta von Trapp
With the passage of days in this godly isolation [desert], my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything - where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth - struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God's wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree.
There were spaceships again in that century, and the ships were manned by fuzzy impossibilities that walked on two legs and sprouted tufts of hair in unlikely anatomical regions. They were a garrulous kind. They belonged to a race quite capable of admiring its own image in a mirror, and equally capable of cutting its own throat before the altar of some god, such as the deity of Daily Shaving. It was a species which often considered itself to be, basically, a race of divinely inspired toolmakers; any intelligent entity from Arcturus would instantly have perceived them to be, basically, a race of impassioned after-dinner speechmakers. It was inevitable, it was manifest destiny, they felt (and not for the first time) that such a race go forth to conquer stars. To conquer them several times, if need be, and certainly to make speeches about the conquest. But, too, it was inevitable that the race succumb again to the old maladies on new worlds, even as on Earth before, in the litany of life and in the special liturgy of Man...
Walter M. Miller Jr.
When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep. Because, agrees Dorothy Sayers, "whenever man is made the center of things, he becomes the storm-center of trouble. The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains... You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause... When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone - the bones, they sing joy and the work returns to it's purest state: eucharisteo. The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness. "The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action" writes Mother Theresa. "If we pray the work... if we do it to Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus... that's what makes us content." Deep joy is always in the touching of Christ - in whatever skin He comes to us in. Page 194
It was evangelicals' sense of rudderlessness - their desire for an authority to guide them in questions of dogma, life, and worship - that led them to rediscover liturgy and history in the first place. The irony was that in their smorgasbord approach to non-Protestant tradition, in their individualistic rejection of the rules of any one church in favor of a free run of the so-called church universal, in their repudiation of American nationalism in favor of cosmopolitanism, young evangelicals were being quintessentially evangelical and stereotypically American, doing as they pleased according to no authority but their own. The principle of sola scriptura was far clearer in theory than in practice. No matter evangelicals' faith that, with the 'illumination of the Holy Spirit,' 'Scripture could and should interpret itself,' too many illuminated believers came to different conclusions about what the Bible meant. Inerrantists who asserted their 'literal' interpretation with absolute certainty could do so only by covertly relying on modern, manmade assumptions. Other evangelicals were now searching for similar assurance in the authority of church history and the mystery of worship.
When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep. Because, agrees Dorothy Sayers, 'whenever man is made the centre of things, he becomes the storm-centre of trouble. The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains... You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause.' When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it's true, I think I'm due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy. But when Christ is center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all. When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone - the bones, they sing joy, and the work returns to it's purest state: eucharisteo. The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.
I was only beginning to enter into the infinite subtlety of Gregorian chant. It was - and remains - the only public prayer I have ever been able to engage in without feeling like a phony and a jackass. But then, one day in 1965 or so, it was simply abolished. With a stroke of his pen, Pope John XXIII - who had such good ideas about other things - declared that liturgy would henceforth be in the vernacular language of the people. That was, effectively, the end of Latin chant. Then all those monks and nuns who had devoted hours and hours a day began to sicken and fall into depressions, but nobody noticed for a long time. Maybe, as I can well believe, the music toned up their systems in some mysterious way. Or perhaps chant really was a language that God understood. Faced with numerous liturgical scholas shrieking away in the new vernacular hymns, Divinity may have covered its ears and withdrawn, leaving the monks to pine. We parish musicians, illiterate in anything written after the 13th century, stumbled around trying to score liturgies for guitar and bongo drums, trying to make sense of texts like "Eat his body! Drink his blood!" It wasn't because the music got so bad that I quit going to Mass, but it certainly was the beginning of my doubts about papal infallibility.
Mary Rose O'Reilley
Mystical experience needs some form of dogma in order not to dissipate into moments of spiritual intensity that are merely personal, and dogma needs regular infusions of unknowingness to keep from calcifying into the predictable, pontificating, and anti-intellectual services so common in mainstream American churches. So what does all this mean practically? It means that congregations must be conscious of the persistent and ineradicable loneliness that makes a person seek communion, with other people and with God, in the first place. It means that conservative churches that are infused with the bouncy brand of American optimism one finds in sales pitches are selling shit. It means that liberal churches that go months without mentioning the name of Jesus, much less the dying Christ, have no more spiritual purpose or significance than a local union hall. It means that we - those of us who call ourselves Christians - need a revolution in the way we worship. This could mean many different things - poetry as liturgy, focused and extended silences, learning from other religious traditions and rituals (this seems crucial), incorporating apophatic language. But one thing it means for sure: we must be conscious of language as language, must call into question every word we use until we refine or remake a language that is fit for our particular religious doubts and despairs - and of course (and most of all!) our joys.