Liturgy and Worship
Table of Contents
- The liturgy is rightly considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ who always associates Himself with the Church wherein “God is perfectly glorified and men and women are sanctified. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) [SC], 7.) Thus liturgy is the public worship and official prayer of the Church, giving praise and thanks to God in Jesus’ name through ritual celebrated by the community of faith. Catholic liturgy celebrates the Paschal event that changed human history: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Through liturgy we confess the faith of the Catholic Church and we build up the Body of Christ “for the Church believes as she prays” (CCC, 1124).
- Since the Vatican Council II, many Catholics have equated liturgy only with Sunday mass, but liturgy encompasses much more than the celebration of Eucharist. It includes the celebration of all seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Liturgy of the Hours and the Rites of the Church for consecrations, Christian burial, and a variety of blessings, are also liturgy.
- Liturgy is a dialogue between God and His people. God initiates by speaking His divine Word to us in many and varied ways. God calls us to gather in assembly so that we can remember His deeds and make them present through the power of the Holy Spirit. We come in need of conversion and salvation, to respond with our hearts, “listening and adoring… in Spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23).
- When the bishop presides, assisted by his priests and other ministers and the body of the faithful, the liturgical assembly is most reflective of the Church’s prayer. In the parish liturgy, the priest presides in the person of Christ and in the place of the bishop. In every liturgical celebration, by reason of their baptism, the faithful participate in the priestly office of Jesus. (SC, 41 – 42.)
- In liturgy we gather together so that we may hear and express our faith again, and by expressing it, renew and deepen it. Using ritual actions, gestures, song, and words, we acknowledge and adore God our Father as the source and end of all the blessings of creation and salvation. Every human faculty: body, mind, senses, imagination, emotions, and memory are called upon in our worship. Through sign and symbol, words and actions, music and holy images, we experience God’s saving grace manifested in our midst. We in turn are united and made holy by these sacred rites if we participate wholeheartedly, for they do effect what they say and what they sign.
- Liturgy is the privileged place for catechizing the people of God for it moves us from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to what is signified, from the sacraments to mysteries. (CCC, 1074-1075.)
- From its beginnings in the Jewish synagogues, the Church has gathered regularly to praise and thank God, to remember and make present God’s deeds, to offer common prayer and to realize and ritualize the kingdom of peace and justice inaugurated by Jesus. Christ is present and acting in the liturgy in many ways: through the scriptures, the sacraments, the people assembled, the priest, and in the songs and prayers of the assembly. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) [LG], 7.)
- Vatican Council II restored to the laity their rightful role in liturgy by saying: “full, conscious, and active participation” of those gathered in the liturgical assembly is not only a right, but a duty (SC, 14). As a faith community, we are responsible to welcome and enable everyone to participate in liturgy at the fullest level possible for each, and to provide an environment for an active Church life. Those unable to share fully in Eucharist should be invited to listen to God’s Word and respond in prayer, gesture, and song. We are also responsible to attend to those with special needs: the elderly, non-drivers, persons with disabilities, and small children, so that they too may actively participate in liturgy.
- Eucharist is the source of the Church’s life. Here Christ unites the Church and all her members with His sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered to His Father on the cross once for all, pouring out the graces of salvation on His Body, the Church (CCC, 1407). Christ the Eternal High Priest, acting through the ministry of the priest, and truly present under the species of bread and wine, offers the eternal sacrifice as our worship. All the other sacraments, all church ministry, and works of charity and justice are oriented toward the Eucharist and flow from it. Through the reception of Eucharist catechumens who have begun their initiation marked by baptism and sealed through confirmation are fully initiated into the Body of Christ. (Decree on Priestly Life and Ministry, 5.) Eucharist is the culminating action of God sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship we offer Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
- The liturgical calendar “re-reads and re-lives” the story of our salvation. (CCC, 1095.) Since Christ redeemed humankind and gave glory to God principally through the Paschal mystery, the celebration of the Easter Triduum (three days), is the high point of the liturgical year. All other seasons and feasts contribute to and celebrate various aspects of the Paschal mystery.
- In the Sunday Eucharistic celebration, we join with all the saints in heaven in a mystical union of worship, praise, and thanksgiving to celebrate Christ’s life, sacrificial death, resurrection, ascension, and glorious coming. Our earthly liturgy anticipates the heavenly liturgy where eternal life with God will be all in all (1 Cor 15-28), when love will prevail. Strengthened by Eucharist, we are sent out to build up God’s Kingdom through our work and the witness of our lives. Enlightened by our liturgy, we see more clearly how the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, and the stranger, are Jesus facing us each day.
- Personal prayer and devotions prepare us to participate in the liturgy of the Church. Meditation on scripture, Bible study, contemplation, the rosary, novenas, and other prayerful devotions, can nourish our understanding and spiritual growth. They contribute to, but never replace, our baptismal right and responsibility to participate in the liturgical prayer of the community.
- It is with and through human culture, assumed and transfigured by Christ, that people of every age, race, language, and way of life glorify the Father in one Spirit. The sacred mysteries celebrated in liturgy are one, but the forms of its celebration are many, for the Church desires that the celebration of the liturgy corresponds to the culture of the people gathered for public worship (CCC, 1200, 1204). The cultural diversity that exists in the Diocese of Beaumont is a result of Jesus’ command to take his mission to all peoples and places (CCC, 1202).
- The Sunday Eucharistic liturgy is the most-frequented celebration in all our parishes and missions. We Catholics recognize that our participation in Sunday Eucharist is central to our identity as the Body of Christ, and that a thriving parish has a strong liturgical base. For most Catholics, the most obvious expression of Church renewal has been through the liturgical changes that have taken place over the last 30 years. Through Speak-Up Sessions and the survey, Catholics have indicated that they want liturgy to express and nurture the parish community in its relationship with God and with others. They have said that the worshipping community needs four components for good liturgy:
- home life and community wherein faith in God and prayer are important,
- ongoing education and formation in liturgy and sacraments,
- preaching that makes God’s word dynamic and alive in daily life,
- music and ritual expression which are appropriate to community worship.
- In many parishes, the laity are assisting the pastor through ministries which include ministry of the Word and Eucharist, ministry of hospitality, and preparing others for the sacraments. Our Catholics reported both high interest and high satisfaction with “celebrating mass as a faith community” and “preparing people for the sacraments” in the survey. Diocesan liturgies also foster visible awareness of the bond of unity between our priests, deacons, religious, laity, and our bishop.
- Most parishes also schedule some devotional prayer: the rosary, Stations of the Cross, missions during Lent, or novenas. Several parishes have special times and places for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
- Catholics have identified several areas that need attention. The “full, conscious, and active participation of all the faithful” in the liturgy, a baptismal “right and obligation” envisioned by Vatican II (SC, 14) is not yet characteristic of our Sunday worship throughout the diocese. While some parishes have wholeheartedly embraced liturgical renewal, others have been slow to do so. Some of us long for the forms and laws that shaped Catholic worship in earlier times. The four components identified as essential to liturgy are not always present or emphasized.
- A growing number of parents do not teach their children about God. Many of the baptized are not present at Sunday liturgy, so they miss the primary event of catechesis. On the other hand, children, youth, and even young adults report they do not find church a place of belonging or inclusion. Some baptized Catholics experience isolation from community: they find themselves a religious minority and they experience insufficient outreach from their Catholic community.
- Many Catholics no longer feel secure in talking about their own faith or the Church’s teachings. They see a lack of reverence, silence, and church etiquette, which seems to indicate an absence of religious understanding and belief, or an unawareness of the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in His Word, or in the praying community. The sacraments and liturgical rites are not well understood. People question why sacramental preparation varies widely from parish to parish.
- The survey indicated that only 1/3 of our Catholics throughout the diocese were well satisfied with Sunday homilies. Catholics are asking that priests and deacons give homilies which bring the power of the Word of God into daily life in ways that touch their spirit. They expect to hear God’s truth preached with courage and faith so that community can grow in love.
- In many parishes there is an unmet hunger for liturgical music that conveys spirit, beauty, and religious meaning. Young people especially are asking that music be given some priority and that there be variety. At the same time, the diocese, once so uniform in its worship, has not yet built up a common and varied repertoire of liturgical music that expresses our unity and Catholicity.
Liturgical life in our parishes must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion. Only then can it produce in our lives: new life in the Spirit, involvement in the Church’s mission, and service to her unity (CCC, 1072).
Therefore, the synod recommends the following:
Goal 20. Participate with reverence, attention and devotion in the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations.
- Celebrate the Sunday Eucharistic liturgy together as a family
- Celebrate more frequently the forgiveness and healing Jesus offers us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Deepen your understanding and appreciation of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick so it can be celebrated at appropriate times
Goal 21. Ensure that preparation and celebration of liturgy are given the highest priority by the faith community.
- Build up the Church and deepen spiritual growth by expecting both clergy and laity to participate in ongoing formation and educational opportunities
- Develop opportunities for laity to contribute to liturgical celebration
- Nourish the people with homilies that present the truth of the Gospel
- Cultivate musical participation during worship by providing necessary resources and appropriate music
- Provide opportunities for individuals to receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick before they enter the hospital
- Schedule the Sacrament of Reconciliation at times convenient for most parishioners
Goal 22. Provide ongoing liturgical education in various ways to engage in “full, active, and conscious participation” in the liturgy.
- Explain the meaning of the liturgical actions and text, so that people can understand how the events that saved us are actualized and made present in the liturgy.
- Ensure that liturgical formation is integral to both Catholic schools and parish religious education programs
- Consider how young children can participate in the liturgy at their own level, perhaps through “Gather the Children” or some other way
- Cultivate the formation and participation of youth and young adults in the liturgical ministry of the parish
- Provide opportunities for the entire parish to reflect on and dialogue about the quality of liturgical celebration and participation
Goal 23. Extend hospitality as an expression of being one body in Christ.
- Welcome all, especially visitors and guests
- Make the parish church and all liturgical celebrations more available to those who are physically, visually, or hearing disabled
- Publicize the mass schedule in the best ways to reach the greatest number of people
- Help members of the parish to assist those who have special needs so that they may attend liturgical celebrations
Goal 24. Provide guidelines regarding worship and sacramental preparation.
- Require catechetical instruction and other guidelines needed for preparation and reception of all sacraments
- Develop guidelines for preparation, expectations, and follow-up, for the sacrament of matrimony
- Establish criteria for the sacrament of confirmation
- Set guidelines and expectations of godparents and sponsors
- Publish common guidelines for rites and ceremonies
- Provide signing for the hearing impaired every Sunday at designated liturgies
- Gradually help all parishes to become compliant with the American Disabilities Act
Goal 25. Provide liturgical formation and training through the Office of Worship.
- Provide on-going education in liturgy: Eucharist and the other sacraments, liturgical renewal, the Rite of Christian Burial, cultural diversity, norms for worship space
- Provide training for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and proclaimers of the Word
- Conduct workshops in liturgical music and song
Goal 26. Cultivate the Catholic expression of the richness of our ethnic and cultural diversity.
- Celebrate cultural and ethnic liturgies when appropriate
- Publicize and promote the various cultural religious feasts throughout the diocese
- Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium, (SC)]. Second Vatican Council, 1963.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1992.
- Dogmatic Constitution on the Church [Lumen Gentium, (LG)]. Second Vatican Council, 1964.
- Decree on Priestly Life and Ministry [Presbyterorum Ordinis, (PO)]. Second Vatican Council, 1965.