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The beautiful and diverse forms of the liturgy
Posted By Eric Sammons On October 21, 2009 @ 6:30 am In Liturgy,The Church | Comments Disabled
The recent announcement that the Pope has set up a way for large numbers of Anglicans to enter the Church has generated much excitement. One part of this new structure is that it will allow aspects of the Anglican liturgy to be preserved. We don’t know the details yet, but it will probably be something along the lines of the “Anglican Use” liturgy currently allowed in America.
The acceptance of Anglican aspects of the liturgy is possibly the most important part of this new structure, as the liturgy is the most important activity we as Christians can engage in. In the liturgy we encounter Jesus Christ directly – both in Word and in Sacrament – therefore how it is celebrated is very important. It is a wondrous privilege to be able to attend Mass and hear the Word of God in the Scriptures and receive the Word of God in the Eucharist. As Vatican II stated, it is the “source and summit” of our Christian lives.
The preservation of part of the Anglican liturgy in the Catholic Church also reflects the many beautiful and diverse forms of the liturgy. Over the centuries the celebration of the liturgy has never been a static thing, instead it has developed into many forms. The purpose of each development has been to draw people into a deeper participation and appreciation of what is occurring. Some developments have been more successful than others in achieving that purpose, but regardless of the form, in every liturgy we are worshiping the Almighty God and receiving His Son in sacramental form in the Eucharist. How incredible is that?!
All the various forms can be broken down into two main categories: Eastern and Western. In each of these two major groups, there are variations, although the variations in the West are much fewer than in the East.
In the West today, the main two forms of the liturgy are the Ordinary Form (aka “the Norvus Ordo”) which was instituted in the wake of Vatican II, and the Extraordinary Form (aka “the Latin Mass”) which has a long history but was standardized across almost the entire Western Church after the Council of Trent in the 16th century. The “Anglican Use” liturgy has also been available for some time here in the States, but it is celebrated in a very small number of places – but of course could be expanded greatly with the new Anglican structure just announced.
This is now twice in a few years that the Pope has liberalized a form of the liturgy within the Church that was rarely being celebrated. In 2007, Pope Benedict issued a motu proprio liberalizing the celebration of the Extraordinary Form. I think that was a great idea, as that liturgy has certain strengths, especially related to reverence during the liturgy, that too often have been neglected since the Norvus Ordo became the norm in the West. Also, I was excited to see that the first Extraordinary Form High Mass in 40 years was recently celebrated at St. Peter’s . I hope that the celebration of the Extraordinary Form becomes less “extraordinary” in the years to come; I hope the same regarding the Anglican Use liturgy.
In the East, there are many forms of the liturgy, but most are variations of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Liturgy of St. Basil, or the Liturgy of St. James. I highly recommend to any Western Catholic that they make an effort to attend an Eastern liturgy, either Eastern Catholic or Orthodox (note that an Eastern Catholic liturgy fulfills the Sunday obligation binding on Latin Catholics, but an Orthodox liturgy does not). An Eastern liturgy has the same basic structure as the Western forms, but its externals are VERY different. Two pages I recommend reading before attending an Eastern liturgy for the first time:
For Visitors 
Personally, I love all the forms of the liturgy when they are properly and reverently said. I find that each directs my thoughts and prayers towards a different aspect of God and His work. I also think the diversity of liturgies reflect the immensity of what the liturgy is doing; after all, having a direct encounter with God is so incredible that it is simply impossible for there to be only one way to do it.
If you are as interested in the liturgy as I am, here are a few recommended books from my own library:
But of course, nothing beats personal experience – so make an effort to attend the liturgy in all its various forms!
Article printed from Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons: http://ericsammons.com/blog
URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2009/10/21/the-beautiful-and-diverse-forms-of-the-liturgy/
URLs in this post:
 first Extraordinary Form High Mass in 40 years was recently celebrated at St. Peter’s: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=4355
 Twelve Things I Wish I’d Known…: http://www.frederica.com/12-things/
 For Visitors: http://centralpennsylvaniaorthodox.wordpress.com/for-visitors/
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