WHAT do we mean bs "Liturgy?" The word itself comes from the Greek word "Ieiton" which means "people" and another Greek word "ergon" meaning "work." If a Greek citizen did some kind of work which was for the people's benefit, he was said to have performed a " leiturgia " or " liturgy "; and he himself was termed a " leiturgos " or " liturgist.' For instance. if a Greek built a school or a hospital, or a library, and fully equipped and staffed the same. and all this for the benefit of the people, that was " liturgy." It was something done at his own expense, for the good of the people.
But you will notice that it was also something which required the collaboration of the people themselves.
The word " liturgy," it is true referred to " religion " also, hut in the course of time the words " liturgy " and " liturgist " became gradually restricted in their meaning and were then applied only to the sphere of religion.
Now all that Christ our Lord came on earth to do was the fullest, cornpletest, and highest form of liturgy. He offered Himself for the people, for all mankind without exception. He is the liturgist, par excellence. and St. Paul refers to Him as such in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
As Christ redeemed mankind by offering Himself on the Cross for it. not for Himself. it is a work which needs the cooperation of the people. l'he Pope, in Mediator Dei, n. 77, says: " It is necessary for each member of the human race to get vitally in touch with sacrifice of the Cross, so that the merits which flow from it may be bestowed upon him . . . if individual sinners are to be purified in the blood of the Lamb, Christians must cooperate."
The basic and dominant note in any study of the I.iturgy met surely he that of the Mystical Body through which Christ carries on His liturgy in those actions which are known to us as the Mass and the Sacraments. Let us take the Mystical Body. then. as our starting point. and state briefly what we mean by its teaching.
AS Jesus Christ took a human body from the womb of His Blessed Mother, Mary ever Virgin, who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, so now He takes His Mystical Body from all those human beings who belong to that world-wide organisation, the Church, which he established, and through which we are incorporated into Christ by sanctifying grace.
In this Body, the Church, our Lord at the right hand of His Father, continues to do the same three things which He came on earth to do. with His Natural Body, viz.. to teach. govern, and sanctify. He continues to sanctify men by giving grace to their souls, healing their spiritual ailments. nourishing the supernatural life which He purchased for them at the price of His Precious Blood on Calvary. This is the work of the holy Mass to continue, and to apply, the merits of Calvary to our souls.
The Sacramental System builds up to full statttre the supernatural life of the soul. They are all Christ's liturgy, that is. the work done by Him for men. and requiring the cooPeralion of men. Says the Pope in Media tor n. 67: " It is Christ who baptises in the Church, He who teaches, governs, absolves, hinds, offers, and makes sacrifice."
The next point to emphasise as the outcome of the teaching on the Mystical Body is the social character which it embodies. If we are incorporated into Christ. we are at the same time, and as a necessary consequence, made " concorporeal " with one another, as St. Cyril of Alexanelcia puts it,
Christians who have grasped this wonderful truth cannot fail to love one another, to wish well and to do good to one another. and to serve for the love of Christ even those who as yet are only potential members of the Mystical Body.
ROTESTANTISM with its in
sistence of the union of the individual with Jesus Christ, has left us an appalling legacy of individualism from which we ourselves, as Catholics, are far from being uncontaminated. It was, I think, Lacordaire who said it took a heresy 400 years to wear itself out, and we have today in the dying embers of Protestantism its deadening effects reflected in all classes of people and Society. It is an age of egotism. of individualism. when the rights of individuals are for ever being asserted and stressed. whilst their corresponding duties to the community and their fellow-men are neglected and ignored.
Our Catholic people must be taught to understand the true concept of membership with the Body of Christ, His Church. They must grasp the necessity of solidarity among all its members. This in its turn, will involve mutual responsibility and mutual dependence among one another.
They must be taught to see how individualism shrivels men's souls and deprives them of the privilege of sharing in the full life of the Church, and the thrill of building-up the Body of Christ. who. one day, with all His wedded-members, will present It to His eternal Father, a Body without spot or wrinkle.
0NCE men are convinced of this doctrine of the Mystical Body with all its social implications, they will, perforce, want to give expression to it all. This expression must be outward as well as interior, because it is by outward acts performed in a public manner, that
we reflect our nature as Social Beings and members of a Community.
The Pope sums all this up in Mediator Del, n. 20, where he says: " The sacred liturgy is the public worship which our Redeemer, the Head of the Church, offers to the Heavenly Father and which the cornmunity of Christ's faithful pays to its Founder, and through Him to the eternal Father; briefly, it is the whole public worship of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Head and members."
Normally and naturally. the right setting for the outward and public expression of our worship, should be the parish church. Towards the end of the war, in a certain dockside area. II was discovered by the chairman of the Board for the re-planning of those parts, that in the old plans of the town which they had unearthed, everything converged on the parish church; whereas in the modern plans everything henceforth, worka, schools,
civic centres, roads and houses. would converge on the docks.
SURELY the old plans of the
town and idea of making the parish church the centre of people's lives, was the true one. This is the concept of life as the Catholic should see it. Whether coming in from the workshops, or the fields. or the schools. or the homes. we bring our lives. as well as our interests with us to the worship of God.
'Then. having been spiritually refreshed. we rise and go back again with purpose and significance in all our actions with the whole of our lives related to one central fact.
But we do need the sort of church which will be conducive to our liturgically-integrated lives and worship. By all means, lel us build our cathedrals and abbey churches; but, after that, we needs lots of small churches dotted all over the land. The nearer the altar is to the centre of the church the more will it assist the congregations to get the true notions of liturgical worship.
In our bigger town churches. it would seem to me that, for all weekday services, there ought to be a sort of side-chapel wherein priests and people gathered together in a familyspirit could worship in their Masses, Evening Services, and Devotions.
There is nothing more productive of lethargy or more conducive to individualism than the handfuls of people we see scattered up and down our churches at week-day services, and most of them joining very feebly in the parts which are assigned to them.
BUT the time has come when we need to reconsider and reconstruct the whole pattern of Our parish life. The mechanical inventions of our age such as the motor-car, the aeroplane, the wireless, television, and the cinema, have all helped to blow sky-high our old ideas and ideals of parish life.
We must remember. too. that our Catholic people's lot is throen in with a de-Christianised age. We are concerned with families and individuals who, for the most part, have been uprooted from the cities and towns where many of them had at least some semblance of parish life and where many non-Catholic men and women of integrity found scope for the practice of civic and social virtues because they were surrounded by the teeming thousands of poor whose lot excited their charity and compassion. Church life was Oftentimes the focus of much of this community spirit.
All this has gone Qr is going. We have now to deal with "Suburbia." They are no longer community. minded in the old sense; they are, on the contrary, frightfully individualistic with their one child and motorcar. Religion is the remotest thing
in many of their lives.
The French now regard their problem of converting the masses and rescuing the lapsed members of the Church, as a Missionary one. I think we in Englend should regard our apostolate, too, on the same lines, and cease to he an "Enclosed Garden." merely ministering to our ptectising Catholics.
W/E in this country, however,
have some advantages over our French brethren. We have our schools, Herein lies one of the safest and surest means of inculcating a knowledge, love, arid
practice of the liturgy. Unfortunately, we do not seem to make the hest possible use of these resources. To begin with, we htliST train the children and see that what is taught in the school is sung regularly and frequently in the church. The priest must be there, too, in die midst of it all, If we as priests are not prepared to play our part whether with the children. the congregation. or the choir. it is to be feared that the results of our efforts in other directions to further the liturgical movement will be but scanty.
Then we are still left with the silent and detached spectators," as Pope Pius XI calls them, in big numbers at the later Masses. Many of them are obviously bored. and boredom, to my mind, is the root cause of Mass-missing. How to tackle THIS problem'? One solution is that devised by Dom Gregory Murray.'who has composed: "A People's Mass." It is so easy that, as Fr. Clifford Howell puts it, " it almost sings itself."
I agree with Dom Gregory Murray that the Kyriale was never meant for ordinary folk to sing. Besides, it is never sung well except at Westminster Cathedrstl, Brompton Oratory, and in the Monasteries. Plain-song needs constant practice if it is to be sung properly; and in modern " Suburbia" they are not prepared to come out on week nights to learn and rehearse music for which they had an already inherited dislike.
CHILDREN, on the other hand, it is true, can be taught almost anything. Their minds are like blotting paper : anything will seep in. But even they will not be suitable for congregational singing of the Mass later on unless they are taught the simplest of tunes which they can sing almost with their eves closed.
Are we aiming at training our children for future choir-members or for congregational singing? Do let's be clear about our object all-sublime and then go all out to achieve it. Otherwise much dissipation of time and energy will ensue, besides which our efforts will lads permanence and perseverance. The children ought to be trained for each and every occasion, and not just for specific ones merely. Our own children in this parish have been singing the Cunt Jubilo Mass with the Gloria from Missa de Angelis, now for more than ten years. The net result is that at the Sung Mass on Sundays and holvdays almost the entire congregation. which contains a good sprinkling of the former children who are now adolescents. can sing all the Ordinary of the Mass.
It takes about ten years before lasting and permanent results arc obtained. We also sing on alternate Sundays Dom Gregory Murray's " People's Mass." To assist the congregation we put before them cards with all the Ordinary of the Mass ; some of them with music. others with the words only. Some persons sing better without the music. Many of these people arc not of the elite of the parish, but they do prove that congregational singing of the Ordinary of the Mass is not so insuperable a difficulty as some people would imagine. Anima es: naturaliter liturgica.