Via Pulchritudinis: Beauty in the Liturgy, Part 4

Let’s finish up the topic of Beauty in the Liturgy.

Superficiality, banality and negligence have no place in the liturgy. They not only do not help the believer progress on (the) path of faith but above all damage those who attend Christian celebrations, and in particular, the Sunday Eucharist.

Negligence is definitely harmful. Some of it is perpetrated by the more ardent defenders of liturgy–those who tout saying the black and doing the red. Why would I say that? There exists a certain indulgence for magicalism, and overlooking the importance of actually working hard or more fruitfully at better homilies, improving one’s musical; craft as performer or leader, and especially indulging the falsehood that the main thing needed is education.

In the last few decades, some people have given too much importance to the pedagogical dimension of the liturgy and the desire to make the liturgy more accessible even for outsiders, and have undermined its primary function: the liturgy lets us immerse ourselves completely in the salvific action of God in His son Jesus, which makes it missionary. Essentially turned towards God, it is beautiful when it permits all the beauty of the mystery of love and communion to manifest itself. [Cf. T. Verdon, Vedere il mistero. Il genio artistico della liturgia cattolica, Mondadori 2003] The liturgy is beautiful when it is “acceptable to God” and immerses us in divine joy. [H. Urs von Balthasar perceived “the mystery of beauty in an insoluble paradox. […] For, what is manifested in a given manifestation is always, at the same time the non-manifest […] Along with the seen surface of the manifestation, there is perceived the non-manifested depth: it is only this which lends to the phenomenon of the beautiful its enrapturing and overwhelming character, just as it is only this that assures the truth and goodness of the existent.” The Glory of the Lord, op.cit., p. 442]

The problem here, of course, is that divine acceptability is too often a subjective judgment. Many liturgical leaders consider that what is personally acceptable must, of course, be favored by God. The Christian tradition has tools that work against imposing individual ego into worship. Not sure we tap those resources often enough.

Many Catholics have a disdain for committees, but widening the reach of those who are responsible, and clueing them in to a mutuality and complementariness in ministry–this is vital. With just one voice, be it a cleric or lay liturgist or music director, it can devolve into self-worship or self-indulgence.

The full document is here.

Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0,

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Art, evangelization, Via Pulchritudinis. Bookmark the permalink.

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