DPPL 11: The Primacy of the Liturgy

STA altar at night smallPeople uncover and bring the things of life to prayer. These things may have little or no connection to Scripture or liturgy. But the fruits are often undeniable. How does liturgy fit with popular piety? The CDWDS will spend a lot of time on this topic, so they begin the first consideration of it in DPPL 11.

First, an acknowledgement that some people at some places and times, have perceived God’s nearness more profoundly outside of liturgy:

11. History shows that, in certain epochs, the life of faith is sustained by the forms and practices of piety, which the faithful have often felt more deeply and actively than the liturgical celebrations. Indeed, “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, it is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title or to the same degree”(SC 7). Hence, the ambivalence that the Liturgy is not “popular” must be overcame. The liturgical renewal of the Council set out to promote the participation of the people in the celebration of the Liturgy, at certain times and places (through hymns, active participation, and lay ministries), which had previously given rise to forms of prayer alternative to, or substitutive of, the liturgical action itself.

Yet another affirmation of active, not actual, participation. Without that emphasis, people hae placed their own forms of prayer front and center. And why not? The Christian’s relationship with God is deeply incarnational, and sensual–of the human senses. Being able to use those senses to perceive God and to respond in a natural way is what people will do. If official ways are closed off, they will find other ways.

The faithful should be made conscious of the preeminence of the Liturgy over any other possible form of legitimate Christian prayer. While sacramental actions are necessary to life in Christ, the various forms of popular piety are properly optional. Such is clearly proven by the Church’s precept which obliges attendance at Sunday Mass. No such obligation, however, has obtained with regard to pious exercises, notwithstanding their worthiness or their widespread diffusion. Such, however, may be assumed as obligations by a community or by individual members of the faithful.

The emphasis here develops from a First World perspective within the clergy. Mass and the sacraments are not always available to believers in the wide world. Quite often celebrating faith publicly transcends the basic requirement of “obligation.” And to be sure, the bite behind obligation has softened significantly. In places where it hasn’t been ignored.

The foregoing requires that the formation of priests and of the faithful give preeminence to liturgical prayer and to the liturgical year over any other form of devotion. However, this necessary preeminence is not to be interpreted in exclusive terms, nor in terms of opposition or marginalization.

This is no different from other mainstream post-conciliar emphases. The challenge is that liturgical formation has been perceived and carried out as if it were a monumental task. And in some places, it is an ongoing and uphill struggle. Not surprising that many clergy and church leadership run low on energy when the formation in liturgy is involved.

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s