A wise priest once explained that ultimately ‘you are what you pray.’ At the time I did not understand his meaning but the older I get the more it comes into focus. If you attend Mass where there is authentic worship of the divine, you tend to take the faith more seriously than if your regular worship comprises less emphasis on God and more celebration of the gathered community. Here fidelity to tradition and scripture wanes, it is trumped by the desire to adhere instead to the trends of societal thinking; man before God as in this style of liturgy. What this tells us is that liturgy is of profound importance in shaping and forming the church. It should be a serious consideration of evangelists, teachers, bishops et al…
Divine Worship, the new liturgy issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship for use in the Ordinariate, is therefore important. It is going to shape what occurs within an Ordinariate setting. I am supremely confident it is going to prove good news for the wider church. Because Divine Worship is rich in meaning; its focus explicitly more cultic, which is to say it focuses less on applauding the people and more on worshipping God, than is the case with the present Novus Ordo.
This is not to bash the Novus Ordo. It can be celebrated with reverence and beauty and sincere emphasis on God. However it is ambiguous which is its downfall; it can just as easily be celebrated badly. And who hasn’t experienced this? The celebration wherein music is no longer ecclesial but secular and in which there is little emphasis on God at all. One Ordinariate priest even encountered John Lennon’s “Imagine there is no heaven” being played by a worship band during as administration of communion took place.
Now given that we are what we pray, such abuses cannot be ignored. But sadly they often are. I would go so far as to suggest the PRIME REASON there has been a major decline in faith and praxis in the last half Century centres on shoddy liturgical life. A folky, de-masculinised and poor liturgy does not inspire. Hence the loss of so many young people, the emptying of the seminaries and the poor level of knowledge one often encounters today among the so-called faithful. It is serious.
We begin to see, I think, why Pope Benedict XVI made liturgical reform a central aspect of his pontificate. It would explain why he encouraged wider tolerance for the Extraordinary form and why he implemented a New Translation of the Novus Ordo; a reform containing more explicit prayers and clearer emphasis on the need for liturgical not secular music.
I believe Pope Benedict wanted to set the church on the right path to enable her to begin to correct her widespread liturgical abuses. Certainly he spoke of how Vatican II was not faithfully implemented. And we find his finger prints all over the Ordinariate project whose obvious gift to the wider church is Divine Worship- a way of celebrating Mass in the vernacular but with all the dignified ceremonial of the Extraordinary form. Does this Mass better reflect what the fathers of the Second Vatican Council actually desired? I passionately believe this to be the case.
But if you are still struggling to accept my suggestion that liturgy forms the church, and not the other way round, let me finish by way of example. In the present Novus Ordo the penitential rite merely requires us to “say sorry” but does not clarify what this means in practice.
Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge ours sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
Compare this to the invitation given in Divine Worship which spells out what sorry entails. We are explicitly told about a need for amendment of life on our part and the desire to walk in God’s ways. Mercy is still on offer but it is not cheaply given.
Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith, and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees.
The scandal of the recent Synod on the Family was not in written word, the final document is solid, but in the beliefs expressed by modernist Cardinals during the process. A large swathe of German prelates, for example, clearly believe adultery should no longer be a bar to communion. And a recently elected American Cardinal claims personal conscience alone should dictate our moral state. How did these men, who are meant to be guardians of the faith, reach these un-Christian conclusions? Why are they not being disciplined? What makes them think mercy can be divorced from justice and served up without the necessary conversion to Christ and divine revelation? Is it because they are what they pray?
Which is to say the call to penitence within the Novus Ordo suggests, as long as we are in some vague sense sorry, we can be admitted to the sacred mysteries. But in Divine Worship it comes over differently. Here there is less wriggle room for sinners. We are told we must show forth in our lives a clear intention to follow the commandments of God…faith and works are needed, the Catholic position, not faith alone being the Protestant option.
See how Divine Worship (and the Extraordinary Form it must be said) call rogue modernists to account in a way the Novus Ordo does not? I believe this sort of example which can seem subtle, even insignificant, on the surface, is of the deepest importance. Hence liturgical reform has been central to the mission here in Pembury and elsewhere within the Ordinariate. We Ordinariate folk sincerely believe solemnity, beauty and awe, alongside robust preaching and a clear expression of the faith, are vitally important evangelistic tools for the 21st Century. And our mission is to inspire others to embrace the reform of the reform; to return a sense of true reverence to worship. As mentioned before it is perfectly possible for this to be done with the Novus Ordo- this is something open to all- but only if the desire is there.
We are what we pray and sincere worship is how we form sincere Christians. Reverential and obedient worship will form reverential and obedient Christians. Haven’t we had enough of half hearted and compromised Christians, so common in our day? But what else could be formed where the liturgy has come to be chaotic at best and deliberately compromised at worse?
We are what we pray The issue isn’t only corporate but deeply personal. How do you approach God’s throne? Do you seek out places where worship is conducted with dignity or put up with poor liturgy without challenging those who serve it? We must all demand the best for God. Not only in our lives but also in our worship. And like our lives we will never achieve what we should liturgically- but therefore the intention and effort become all the more important.