Since January there have been weekly posts in a series looking in some detail at aspects of the Eucharist – its history, its form, and its celebration.
The series will resume, probably in October. But for now there will be a pause and a rest.
Readers will perhaps be familiar with the letters from Pope Francis regarding the celebration of the Eucharist in the Roman Rite and the changes he has introduced regarding the celebration of Mass in its form prior to the reform of 1970, the so-called Tridentine form.
The Motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, and Pope Francis’ accompanying letter repay careful reading – not only for what they say about any continued use of that earlier form, but also what they say about the Liturgy more generally.
Pope Francis reminds that
“liturgical celebrations are not private actions, but celebrations of the Church, which is the sacrament of unity”, Constitution on the sacred liturgy “ Sacrosanctum Concilium”, 26:
Consequently they must be carried out in communion with the Church.
Vatican Council II, while it reaffirmed the external bonds of incorporation in the Church — the profession of faith, the sacraments, of communion — affirmed with St. Augustine that to remain in the Church not only “with the body” but also “with the heart” is a condition for salvation.
Pope Francis declares that the liturgical books promulgated by Saints Paul VI and John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, constitute the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.
The phrase lex orandi may not be familiar to many. It is part of a Latin tag, Lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of prayer prayed [is] the law of belief), in other words what and how we pray establishes what the Church believes. Belief is learnt from the Church, especially through participation in the liturgy.
The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1124
The form of the Liturgy is not unchanging. Rather it needs to change and to adapt so as to speak true in varied circumstances and conditions.
Pope Francis reminds that Vatican Council II required that
“the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet present-day circumstances and needs”. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy “ Sacrosanctum Concilium”,4:
And that on the basis of these principles a reform of the liturgy was undertaken, with its highest expression in the Roman Missal, published in editio typica by St. Paul VI and revised by St. John Paul II.
It must therefore be maintained that the Roman Rite, adapted many times over the course of the centuries according to the needs of the day, not only be preserved but renewed “in faithful observance of the Tradition”.
All this reaffirms the importance of faithful celebration of the Liturgy of the Church, engaging with the fullness of the rite, sharing in its action – the action of the Lord who gathers us to himself and invites us into the fulness of communion with him: through our dialogue in response to his word , and through the sharing of life achieved through the celebration of the sacrament of the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our joining ourselves with his mission.
The Liturgy of the Church faithfully rehearses us in the Church’s belief that we might live faithfully.
For this reason some prefer an amended version of the Latin tag Lex orandi, lex credendi : Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi – the law of prayer is the law of faith – the Church believes as she prays – and all this establishes the law for life – for how we are to live faithfully.
Faithful celebration helps us to fruitful living….
May our continued study and reflection also help us to both…
Text: Allen Morris: (c) 2021
Graphic: Jonathan Stewart (c) 2007.