Is Liturgy Possible?

In late June, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. of Denver gave a stirring address entitled, “Glorify God by your life: evangelization and the renewal of the liturgy.” The address was the Hillenbrand Distinguished Lecture, given at the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Chicago, IL. Here is the PDF version.

Archbishop Chaput”s point of departure was a letter from Fr. Romano Guardini to a liturgical conference held shortly after Vatican II published Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document that set in motion the liturgical changes and reforms of the past 40-50 years. Fr. Guardini was a significant player in his time, and his book The Spirit of the Liturgy is now considered a classic. In his reflections on the liturgy, Fr. Guardino asked this stunning question: [more]

“Is not the liturgical act, and with it all that goes under the name ‘liturgy,’ so bound up with the historical background—antique or medieval or baroque—that it would be more honest to give it up altogether? Would it not be better to admit that man in this industrial and scientific age, with its new sociological structure, is no longer capable of the liturgical act?”

If that weren”t enough, Archbishop Chaput adds:

“So is Guardini right?  Does modern man seem incapable of real worship?  I think so. But the more important question for us is this: If he is right, what are we going to do about it?”

Archbishop Chaput eventually answers his own provocative question. I won”t quote what he said, because I think everything leading up to his conclusions should be read and contemplated as well. Especially moving are the various quotes and stories from the early Church that drive home the centrality and purpose of the sacred liturgy in the Christian life. 

As we read Archbishop Chaput”s commentary, it”s fair to ask about our own personal ability to enter into liturgy, the public prayer of the Church, where we pray as a body, including but not limited to others in the pews, where truly heaven and earth meet.

Am I aware of the divine presence? Am I open to God and invisible realities? Do I recognize the reality of sin and my need for Christ”s mercy and transformative love? Have I become my own pope–or even my own god? Do I strive for the “Lord’2012-04-24 18:35:56′s Day” or am I merely “working for the weekend”?

Read Archbishop Chaput”s address. You”ll be glad you did.

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