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What's Important in Liturgy
WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN LITURGY
One of the major factors that hinders good liturgy is a failure to make God the centre of worship. Focussing on the incidentals of worship create stumbling blocks to the prayer experience of the assembly.
Presiders who fuss about minor matters, liturgists obsessed with rubrics, readers labouring over pronunciation without taking the scriptures to heart and musicians worrying about their own performance all divert the focus of worship from praising God and hinder, rather than support, the prayer of the assembly.
Of course liturgical ministers must be skilled and trained for their role and be prepared to offer their best, but they need to be aware that their presiding, reading, music-making, etc is but one tool for assisting the assembly in prayer and not an end in itself.
The liturgy is not intended to be an exercise in rule-keeping but an exercise in worship, a community event in which each participant has the right to know what to expect and the right to be clear about how he or she is called to participate. Just following the rules won’t create the kind of liturgy that the church wants for its members, but systematically dismissing the liturgical rites and flouting liturgical rules won’t either.
It is important for everyone to understand what we do and why when we worship and never lose sight of what liturgy really is – the gathering of the faith community to give veneration to God.
The reality of the liturgy is physical and spiritual, visible and invisible. The liturgy functions as a sacred sign. The tangible words and actions made by the Church in liturgy signify the mysterious Word of God who acts in our midst; in fact, the liturgy actually makes present God’s action in the world since it is Christ who acts in the worship of the Church, Christ’s body.
The liturgy is the twofold work of God’s Spirit and the Church assembled. Not only does the Church’s prayer of praise and petition rise to God in the liturgy but the rich blessing of the Spirit also descends upon the Church and its assembled members. In its sacramental signs, the Church takes part in the passage of Christ from suffering and death to life and glory.
The liturgy is not only communal and public but is the official worship of the Church made present in the gathered assembly. In this act of the Church, Christ acts to save us. Other group prayer and devotions may also be of great spiritual value but are not on the same level as the liturgy.
The liturgy is an action, an event; it is not simply a text in a book. It is in the proclamation of the word that God speaks to us; it is in the breaking of the bread that we recognise Christ.
Not everyone can express the depth of this reality in words. It is difficult. But everyone can take part in the singing, the prayers, the scriptures and the sacramental gestures and know that by their participation they touch the mysterious presence and grace of God. All participants in any liturgical celebration share responsibility for making it what it is meant to be.