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putting worship together just right

A friend showed me this very funny photo (above). Dean Large has followed the instructions to make a model Lightning jet aircraft – to the letter.

It looks exactly as it appeared in the instruction sheet.

Here steel wire replicate the “this part goes here” lines in the instructions.

Sometimes I find liturgy being treated like this. Every rubric has been carefully followed. Every instruction has been fulfilled to the letter. But the result is not quite right…

IMO, following the instructions is one part – another is study, training, and formation both by the community and its leaders. What do you think? How can we make worship alive, vibrant, efficacious,…?


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7 thoughts on “putting worship together just right”

  1. IMO, following the instructions is one part – another is study, training, and formation both by the community and its leaders.

    I certainly agree! From the Second Vatican Council…

    “In order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.” (SC 11)

    The Council Fathers went on to say that the lay faithful need to be liturgically and spiritually formed in order for them to be able to participate fully, consciously, and actively. And in order for the lay faithful to be so formed, the clergy themselves must be instructed in the liturgy so as to be “thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy” so that they can “give instruction about it.” (SC 14)

    So that’s what I try to do. I try to help people understand the words and gestures and postures and actions of the Mass. I also try to make them aware of the scriptural elements of the Mass (not only the readings, but the presence of Scripture in the rites). I also try to get them to re-consider how they prepare for Mass, how they participate in it, and how they respond to the graces received afterward.

    What else do I think would help? Lectors who take the time to read the readings carefully (and in context) and can proclaim the readings well (without dramatic flair, but with proper emotion). Priests or deacons who prepare their homilies well and preach them even better. There’s more, of course… musical selections, competent choirs and cantors, etc.

  2. I heard a similar analogy recently from Fr. Douglas Martis, of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein, IL that seems to apply here. He spoke about the difference between being the Assembly at Mass being “gathered” and “assembled” – comparing it to buying a boxed kit to make a model – the pieces are gathered in the box. They are not yet “assembled” until a process is undertaken to make it a coherent whole.

    What you are talking about is liturgy at which all the elements are present, but there is no sense of coherence – no living, authentic indication that this is truly work of the community done “from the heart” – from a sense of authentic desire to praise and worship God and to participate fully in the sacrifice of the Mass. We sometimes go through the motions, without fully engaging – this can be due to poor presidential style or to poor understanding of the Assembly of their role… or both.

    I believe the Assembly in most communities needs much more formation about their role – as active listeners and doers of the Word and at the Eucharist in their baptismal role as priest (see paragraph 901 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

    Thanks for the analogy.

    1. Thanks so much Jeffrey and Joyce for your helpful thoughts and quotes. I wondered if I would get my idea across in this post, but clearly you have understood where I was heading well.

      Joyce pointed to paragraph 901 – this is a quote from Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 34:

      For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.(199) Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.

  3. I think like mist things it starts at the ‘top’. Until clergy take liturgy, and the liturgical formation of all the gathered, seriously how can we expect the laity to do so? And how can we expect clergy to do so until bishops do? Perhaps when our church leadership start truly putting worship first (even before being ‘missional’ or ‘fresh’) things will change.

  4. I think Jeffrey Pinyan’s point regarding the need to understand what is happening is central to the cohesion of the liturgy as a whole. It may not be something measurable, but people saying things they understand and doing things for reason beyond the rubric certainly adds much. I have been pleased to observe even contemporary or semi-formalised liturgy 1 which pulls together well, being well understanded of the people.

    In practice, I realise this is going to mean a combination of the the points Bosco makes as regards community formation, the gradual education which takes place through long familiarity, and careful clarification or simplification where something no longer is able to communicate as it was intended.

    1. Both being far from my personal preference

    1. Thanks for the comment, Vincent. I set up this website when I discovered, in researching for a lecture I had been asked to give, a huge gap in study, training, and formation in relation to liturgy.

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