Worshipping God in Harmony

One of the major factors that hinders good liturgy in our time is the loss of focus on God as the centre of worship.
Many forces have contributed to this loss, including the failure to educate those in the Church about what we do and why when we worship. Division amongst groups in parishes caused by disagreements on liturgical issues also prevents thorough discussion of the goal of worship. Differences in our understanding of the aim and purpose of worship leads to divisiveness rather than unity amongst members of the celebrating community.
It is especially unfortunate when disagreement concerning the purpose of worship exists among those who prepare and preside at liturgy. Disputes about styles of presiding, interpretation of the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal”, understanding of sacraments, perspectives on the church and tastes in music are magnified when this is the case.
The tensions which arise from such a situation not only make it difficult for the assembly to pray, but can actually make it impossible for those who prepare and minister at liturgy to pray. The tension is often all too apparent to the rest of the praying assembly who are then distracted from full participation in the liturgy by the “wars” being waged during worship.
Approaches to preparing liturgy that are focussed on the incidentals of worship create stumbling blocks to the prayer experience of the assembly. People who are not first and foremost people of prayer should not, in all conscience, presume to take on the responsibility of preparing and leading any assembly in prayer, regardless of their ministry.
Presiders fussing over presidential style, liturgists over-emphasising rubrics, readers labouring over pronunciation without taking the scriptures to heart and musicians obsessed with performance succeed only in diverting 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.
In “Gather Faithfully Together”, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Archbishop of Los Angeles, reminds parish leaders and ministers: “Whatever your own special expertise or interest might be, work together for strength in the Sunday assemblies. Seek and discover how that assembly can be about evangelisation and catechesis, justice and outreach, the ministering to each other in the community. Implementation of good liturgy begins and continues when pastor, staff, council and liturgy committee have a firm grasp of the way these aspects of being Catholic are related”.
When liturgical ministers are focussed on God and their efforts primarily centred on leading the assembly in prayer, they become efficacious instruments and servants of God’s grace, helping others to draw closer to God, to embrace the teachings of the Gospel and to have the courage to spread the Good News by work and word.


Elizabeth Harrington