Benedicamus Domino! Let us bless the Lord.
This book aims to promote liturgical renewal. After a brief overview of liturgical confusions, irregularities and pendulum swings since Vatican II, the author attempts to achieve his aim by answering the questions: "What is liturgy?" and "What are we doing when we do liturgy?" In Part II of the book, he deals with the liturgy of each sacrament separately, giving the reader background, for example, in the argument about infant versus adult baptism, the history of the attitude toward the sacrament of penance and its possible changes, and the Eucharistic Prayers.
One useful theme to emerge from the book is the idea of liturgy as a "process in three phases:" preparation, celebration and living the implications of the sacrament each day. In other words, the Mass and the other sacraments aren't one-off events in which grace is dispensed, but are not sources for a richer spiritual and social life. Just as God created the world, yet it remains "radically dependent" on him for its continued existence, so in the spiritual life, each sacrament sustains the new creation that came into existence at baptism.
In spite of receiving grace in each sacrament--which, at any rate, is available to us only according to our interior disposition--the liturgy serves no utilitarian purpose. Though we receive grace, the first thing we do (or ought to be doing, says the author) when we "do liturgy" is paying homage to God. The sacraments are first and foremost an encounter and communion with God. Sometimes we become preoccupied with the "upward movement" toward God, in other words, our own actions, forgetting that the liturgy more importantly comprises God's work in us.
Naturally, these encounters with God have their subjective aspects, but genuine religious experience "entails an encounter with objective reality." As such, it engages both the whole person, and the whole community because this Reality deals with fundamental problems and questions of human existence. "... individuals receive God's gift [of Revelation] as members of the community because they are members of a community" (emphasis in original). So, while every liturgy presupposes personal religious experience, it cannot be manipulated to bring about or enhance the potential for religious feelings. Just as faith belongs first to the Church before it is received by any one person, so the liturgy predates the participation of a given community.
The second half of the book discusses each sacrament in some detail with emphasis on the three sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Each one represents a "process of maturing in the faith." Among the topics found in this section are the stages in the rite of adult initiation, the role of the community, the origins of the Eucharistic Prayers and the merits and demerits of various forms of the sacrament of penance. The remaining four sacraments are dealt with briefly. The book concludes with a homily to priests on an occasion of the renewal of their VOWS.
For those who do read this book, the, will be many clarifying facts and insights into the familiar liturgy of the Eucharist and other rituals. The author will have achieved his aim for those few. As for the style of the book, it is repetitive and uses too many foreign words, such as berakah (blessing) and exomologesis (confession) and others. Footnotes were dispensed with lest they interfere with the "practical aim" of the book--presumably of influencing churchgoers. Necessary as they may be to the scholar, foreign words should have been dispensed with for the same reason lest the reader get lost in a sea of words. As the author qualifies and requalifies his meaning. The book would then be more simple and direct, and perhaps appeal to more readers than the few who already read, such books.
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||May 1, 2004|
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