As we discuss Pastoral Proposals for the The Beauty of Christ, Model and Prototype of Christian Holiness, we return to the liturgy. The Council for Culture recognizes that you can’t teach being an open liturgical celebrant. Liturgy as a member of the assembly isn’t just following along; there are things to look for.
Liturgy is not what (people do), but is a divine work. The faithful need to be helped to perceive that the act of worship is not the fruit of activity, a product, a merit, a gain, but is the expression of a mystery, of something that cannot be entirely understood but that needs to be received rather than conceptualized. It is an act entirely free from considerations of efficiency. The attitude of the believer in the liturgy is marked by its capacity to receive, a condition of the progress of the spiritual life. This attitude is no longer spontaneous in a culture where rationalism seeks to direct everything, even our most intimate sentiments.
I think the emphasis for leaning on intellect has been an impurity for both progressives and traditional-leaning folks in liturgy. Do the art of liturgy well, and trust that people will experience the presence of Christ and his beauty. Even this affirmation of good art and architecture references “authentic meaning.” Some of the liturgy, yes, has a specific meaning. But inspiration at worship can happen on a front needed by particular persons at this particular time. Liturgy, even bad liturgy, can be God’s tool for grace in human beings.
No less important is the promotion of sacred art to accompany aptly the celebration of the mysteries of the faith, to give beauty back to ecclesiastical buildings and liturgical objects. In this way they will be welcoming, and above all able to convey the authentic meaning of Christian liturgy and encourage full participation of the faithful in the divine mysteries, following the wish often expressed during the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.
Certainly the churches must be aesthetically beautiful and well decorated, the liturgies accompanied by beautiful chants and good music, the celebrations dignified and preaching well prepared, but it is not this in itself which is the via pulchritudinis or that which changes us. These are just conditions that facilitate the action of the grace of God. Therefore the faithful need to be educated to pay attention not merely to the aesthetic dimension of the liturgy, however beautiful it may be, but also to understand that the Liturgy is a divine act that is not determined by an ambiance, a climate or even by rubrics, for it is the mystery of faith celebrated in Church.
This last one is the important realization. I’ve taught new liturgical ministers their primary role is to be a doorkeeper, no matter what their specific duties are. They stand at the door and gesture to it gently. They open the way and urge people to enter. This is true not only for those involved in physical hospitality in a building with doors and other passageways. Doorkeepers are not just decorations or functionaries. They should be transparent so as to allow the fullness of Christ to shine through the experience for others.
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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60404628