Thursday, 26 June 2014

Liturgy as the "Opus Dei"

St. Benedict refers to the Divine Office by the name "the Work of God." I find this to be quite fitting. I think that something which most Catholics have lost sight of today is this fact that the liturgy is meant to be something which we receive from God, as coming from Him and not from us. Liturgy today has become a merely human artifact. The whole of today's liturgical crisis can be reduced to this tendency to make the liturgy solely the product of man's own labor - "the work of human hands." But this is foreign to the whole history of the liturgy and its spirit for the first 2000 years of the Church's existence. 

Dom Gueranger writes of the Mystery of Pentecost, in The Liturgical Year, referring to the liturgy of the first few seasons of the liturgical year from Advent to Pentecost, that "the celebration of those mysteries was not an empty pageant, acted for the sake of being looked at. Each one of them brought with it a special grace, which produced in our souls the reality signified by the Rites of the Liturgy." Here I think we can see an instance of the traditionally Catholic way of looking at the liturgy. It is not mere externals, added by man to the instituted elements of Christ. Rather, it is itself a divine entity, different, certainly, from the elements instituted by Christ, but divine all the same. The liturgy accomplishes something that is entirely beyond the extent of human power, something that literally can be effected only by the work of God. It follows that man may not take it upon himself to fashion the liturgy according to his own desires or conceptions, but must receive it first, and only make such additions as conform to the spirit and laws of what he has received. Tradition is the necessary consequence of this. 

It follows also that by taking it upon himself to create the liturgy, man risks the destruction of his own faith. Certainly, God is not limited by liturgical tradition; He will safeguard the liturgy of the Church so that in itself it does not destroy faith, at least not directly. The means for holiness are always available in the Church. But by rejecting tradition, man inevitably sets himself on a path that is vastly inferior to the way which God had determined. This can indeed indirectly lead to his loss of faith. This is the understandable consequence of every attempt of man to interfere with the will of divine providence. Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi - the law of faith is determined by the law of prayer.

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