The Liturgy And Social Justice Fulfil Each Other
By DOM BERNARD McELLIGOTT
GOOD deal of encouragement has been received for the view that the
Catholic plan for the renewal of the world in Christ can be crystallised into two things, the Liturgy and Social Justice. There is now a growing volume of Catholic opinion that in the understanding, practice and application of these two, taken together, the main hope for the future lies.
We might put down in note form, for the sake of brevity, some of the paints that arise. Each point is capable of considerable development, and in the growing mass of literature now happily being produced on the subject these two central expressions of the Christ-life are seen to interact and to ramify almost indefinitely over the whole of life.
Much Has Been Written It is impossible for most of us to keep pace with what is being written, thought and said on this subject by Catholics generally from the theologian to the schoolboy. But readers of the Catholic Herald may find it useful to think and talk over the following points.
Liturgy and Social Justice i. Both the Liturgy and Social Justice are the deep concern of everybody. They are not for special people. They are not for us to take up or leave alone as we will. Participation in the Liturgy is the normal means of receiving grace and the supernatural life, and Social Justice is a universal obligation.
ii. The Liturgy is not merely the externals of Mass and the Sacraments. This is a common mistake and it is of the utmost importance to get it right. The words, chant, ceremonies, bodily gestures and material elements of Mass are the external expression of the inward sincere acknowledgment which we make of God's supreme dominion over us. We acknowledge that we belong to God with all our possessions. We offer ourselves and these to God in union with Christ who offers Himself and us. This is the internal sacrifice which is expressed externally and publicly by words, chant and the rest.
Complete Submission to God The Liturgy, especially the Mass, is both the internal worship and sacrifice and its external expression. To " take an active part in the Liturgy " means therefore to express in the Church's outward and corporate way a genuine internal and complete submission to God. This is the chief means of sanctification for Christians.
iii. The offering of one's possessions to God is part of the offering of ourselves at Mass. This means that we acknowledge our possessions to belong to God and not only to ourselves. In a true sense therefore they belong to Christ, to the Total Christ-Head and members, that is to Christand-Christians. The communal sense of Social Charity and Justice, of the solidarity of men in Christ, is the natural result of making our offering at Mass real and effective. Social Justice thus flows from active participation in the Liturgy.
Liturgy is the Mystical Body
iv. The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ means that all baptised Christians share the supernatural life of Christ Himself.
The Liturgy is nothing less than the Mystical Body (Christ-and-Christians) at prayer; while Social Justice-and-Charity is the Mystical Body in action upon the world and society.
The corporate liturgical prayer and the corporate social action are not two separate things; they are two activities of the same thing—the Mystical Body. They may be compared to the obverse and reverse of a medal; they are the Mystical Body respectively at prayer and at work upon the world. In the Liturgy the common supernatural life of the members is acquired and strengthened, and this flows out upon the world in the form of apostolate, and Social Charity and Justice.
There is thus a very intimate connection between the Liturgy and Social Justice.
Sanctification : Other Means v. The Liturgy is not the only means of sanctification. There are private prayer (essential), retreats, instruction and so on, to say nothing of social conduct in general. Nevertheless, Pius X and Pius XI both make it clear that the Liturgy is the chief source from which we can acquire the spirit of Christ.
Pius X writes, in a sentence now famous, "Since our first and most ardent wish is that the true Christian spirit flourish among the faithful in every way, We deem it necessary to provide, before anything else, for the holiness and dignity of the churches in which the faithful assemble for no other purpose than that of acquiring that spirit from its chief and indispensable source, by taking an active part in the most holy mysteries and in the solemn public prayers of the Church." And Pius XI: "The faith_ ful come to church in order to derive piety from its chief source, by taking an active part in the venerated mysteries and the public solemn prayers of the Church." (Italics ours.) Taking an active part in the Liturgy is, then, the " chief source " of grace and sanctification. And it is " indispensable "—we cannot do without it.
vi. Social Justice and the Liturgy are both necessary, as the fulfilment of each other. A plan of Social Justice, if it is to avoid being merely a political scheme for equalising material things, needs to be based on personal and corporate sanctification, on a common consciousness of membership of one another in Christ. This spiritual formation is chiefly provided, as we have seen, by active participation in the Liturgy.
In the same way, practice of the Liturgy which had no effect on everyday social life would be barren and useless. The deepening and intensification of spiritual life provided by active participation in the Liturgy must be put in action over the whole of life, must be made affective in all social thought and action.
Social Justice should be the fruit of taking sincere part in the corporate Liturgy.
The Liturgy and Social Justice, therefore, understood and practised together, would seem to be the root of the matter.
The Beguinage Ideal Many Catholics in England are attracted to the Beguinage ideal as a form of religious life and apostolate. Here is an account of a recent development of the idea in Bruges. Is anything on these lines practicable amongst us? "Friends of the Liturgy in England may be interested to hear of the ceremony which took place recently at the Beguinage of Bruges, where Mgr. Lamiroy, Bishop of Bruges, blessed the new buildings belonging to the Monastere de la Vigne. These include cloister, refectory, library, lecture room and offices for the different branches of liturgical apostolate (correspondence classes of Latin, Plainsong, liturgical design, reading circle for priests, etc.) which are carried on by the Daughters of the Church (Order of St. Benedict). The Benediction given by Mgr. Lamiroy was the occasion of a simple and beautiful ceremony in which the Abbots of two Benedictine communities, St. Andre and Steenbrugghe, took part, as well as representatives of the secular clergy and other religious orders.
After St. Benedict The Daughters of the Church (Filiae Eerie-42e) who how. A B6guines, follow the fule of St. Benedict. In addition to their contemplative life they exercise a fruitful aotivity •by their liturgical apostolate. They also have a guest house open all the year round. The Superior of the Congregation, Canon R. Hoornaert, is well-known by his writings on St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross; and his latest book, The Breviary and the Laity, has been translated into English this year. The community of the Daughters of the Church was instrumental in introducing into Belgium and France the Society of the Magnificat, which has its origin in England.