Principles for Preparing Liturgy

Principles for Preparing Liturgy
Good liturgy doesn’t just happen!
Every act of worship requires someone to choose and practise music, write prayers of intercession, get the worship space ready, select texts, prepare a homily, ensure liturgical ministers (readers, communion ministers, etc) are rostered, and so on.
Special liturgies and seasons such as confirmation and first communion, Christmas and Easter require extra preparation. On top of this there are other rites that need to be arranged, such as infant baptism, funerals, weddings and anointing of the sick.
Dealing with all these different dimensions of the liturgical life of the parish requires more than the efforts of the parish priest alone. In most parishes a Liturgy Committee assists the pastor in the oversight of parish worship and shares responsibility for fostering good worship whenever members of the parish gather for prayer.
While the rites we celebrate are set out in ritual books, it requires creative people to bring to life these words on a page – much like a good cook who can turn a recipe into a delicious dish. To do this well, members of liturgy committees need to have a love for the liturgy and an appreciation of its central place in the life of the parish. They must also be prepared to study the rites of the church, the liturgical tradition and official liturgy documents.
The work of the parish liturgy committee consists of several main tasks: preparing liturgical celebrations, recruiting and training liturgical ministers, liturgical education of the parish and setting parish policy on matters of worship.
The work of preparing liturgy is guided by important principles to be found in the rites and their praenotanda (introductions), instructions, constitutions, etc. Some of the key foundational principles are set out in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
· It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the paschal mystery) that we have been saved. This is the focus, the ‘theme’, of every liturgy. (#5)
· Liturgy works through ‘signs perceptible to the senses’. How we use liturgical symbols and elements is vital. (#7)
· Christ is present in the Mass in four ways: in the assembly, in the person of the ordained minister, in the proclamation of scripture and in the consecrated elements. (#7)
· Liturgy is the summit and fount of the church’s life. It is the church’s ‘peak experience’ as well as the source from which all the grace and power of the church flows. (#10)
· Full, conscious and active participation of all the faithful in liturgical celebrations ‘is called for by the very nature of the liturgy and is the aim to be considered before all else.’ (#14)
· Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration. (#24)
· Contemporary celebration should be characterised by noble simplicity – clear signs not needing much explanation. (#34)
Why does good liturgy matter?
Liturgy celebrated well helps us grow in holiness, builds up the body of Christ and gives glory to God. What could be more important?

Elizabeth Harrington