The Liturgy Committee
The Liturgy Committee is composed of the convenor, the council members by choice, co-opted parishioners and Shrine choir representatives. The Liturgy Committee is involved in the preparation and active participation in the Sunday Liturgy and other parish Liturgical celebrations such as the Sacraments, Easter, Consolata Feast and Christmas; as well as concern for altar boys, choirs, ushering, collections, readers, hymn books, missionary animation, Marian devotion and decoration of the church.
What is liturgy?
"Liturgy" comes from the Greek word leitourgia. It literally means "the peoples work". In the ancient Greek cultures, it originally meant civic duty or the co-operation of all citizens to make society work.
The religious meaning is similar. Liturgy is the work that all Christians do to make our tradition, our beliefs, our faith work in our lives and in the world. It is in the liturgy where we are most truly church. It is in the liturgy where we become the Body of Christ.
Liturgy is not synonymous with Mass. Mass is one kind of liturgy. There many other kinds as well. All liturgies have three things in common:
- They are rituals
- They are prayers
- They are communal
"Communal" is a key word here. Catholics have some prayer rituals that are not "communal". These non-liturgical prayers are often called devotions and are a very important part of our faith lives. But all devotions derive from and lead to liturgical prayer.
When we say liturgy is communal, we mean that the ritual prayer in question is one in which the church as a whole has always found and celebrated the core elements of our faith. Some examples of liturgies include the Mass, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Hours, all the sacraments, and ritual blessings such as those found in the Book of Blessings.
Liturgies are also prayers. Prayer, in the sense used here does not mean becoming quiet and talking to God. Instead it means listening to and being obedient to God. But more often, especially in the liturgy, "listening" has more to do with paying attention than being quiet. In the liturgy, we proclaim, sing, move, share and bless. All these actions are ways of being in the world. By doing these things in a particular way, they carry particular meaning. Those meanings communicate to us and to others our beliefs. By fully participating in these actions, we more fully understand their meanings and more deeply immerse ourselves in faith. It is in this way we "listen" to God. It is in this way we pray.
The way we do these actions is set down in a pattern. The pattern of behaviour is a ritual. Liturgy is ritual. Some people think ritual stifles their creativity and their individuality. Christians, especially Catholic Christians, do not believe that. By practicing a set, patterned behaviour, we become so familiar with the ritual that we can use it as a foundation for growth. Musicians know this. Musicians cannot fully express themselves in their music until they have mastered these techniques of the instrument. They repeat pattern after pattern, day after day, year after year, to get to a place where they can express what they want to do with their music. And yet they never reach perfection.
Christians are the same way. Before we can really "say" what we believe, we have to master the basics of our belief. We do that in ritual prayer. Liturgy recognises the value of returning regularly to the foundational rites that shape parish worship and life in order to understand them more fully and implement them more effectively. This gives people an opportunity to review, step by step, their own parish’s worship.
Such a review invariably raises questions:
- How well have we understood the changes that we"ve experienced?
- How well have we implemented those changes?
- What mistakes have we made in using the new ritual order?
- What is the history and background of each part of the Mass?
- Have we made full use of the options allowed in the current liturgical books?
- Should we have other options?
- How could we improve the experience of Sunday worship for the majority of parishioners?
- What steps might a parish take to begin a revival of liturgical renewal on the local level?
A Symphony in Four Movements
Any human celebration generally involves four elements:
- A gathering of those who will celebrate together
- Communication between those assembled, taking a variety of forms
- Shared ritual, commonly involving food and drink
- Some kind of leave taking or dismissal.
The Bread of Life
Anyone who cares about liturgy would do well to know how to bake bread. Bread, and all that goes into it, bears the mystery of our faith. Bread begins as the seed that falls to the earth and dies. From that death, the seed grows new wheat. The wheat, once harvested, is separated from the chaff. Farmers give their lives to grow the wheat, suffering through the caprices of weather and soil conditions, eventually delivering the wheat to the mills.
Millers grind the wheat converting it into something new. The wheat-made-new, the pure flour, is given over to the baker. The baker mixes the flour, combining it with water and again transforming the "wheat into something new". This new thing, the dough, is kneaded, shaped, cut, punched, and finally baked in the ovens.
The wheat is transformed by the fire and heat of the ovens to become food for the flock. Just as the Christ-child was laid in the manger to become food for the flock, this fired wheat is offered at our altars to become the Christ-food for us. The bread of life is broken on the cross. The broken Christ-bread becomes one again when we take his Body into our individual bodies. We are all mixed together, as flour and water are mixed, to make something new. The broken bread becomes a whole body, the Body, made new for the sake of the world.
All the rest is prelude and epilogue. To bake bread is to be the paschal mystery of Christs passion, death and resurrection. May the Body of Christ bring us all to everlasting life.
Whenever we probe our life of worship, we are sure to discover our broader issues about the way we live our life as Church and how we adopt or challenge the ways of the world.
Liturgy and life are not two separate realms. Our worship is shaped by and also shapes the rest of our life.