John, I guess I would turn the question around and ask you what you mean by
If I understand you correctly, then you are ascribing a certain objective
reality to liturgy, something pre-existing and not able to be "invented".
While the definition of liturgy is a perennial argument, on this list and
elsewhere, the perspective you describe is truly a novelty to me and more
than a bit puzzling.
Some liturgy christian communities certainly consider as divinely ordained.
Eucharist, for example. Most would consider this as being instituted by
Jesus. On the other hand the form that the celebration takes certainly has
been variable and has certainly changed over the centuries, regardless of
what some enthusiastic supporters of one rite or the other would prefer to
believe. Thus liturgy changes, and at some points, lots of material that
was previously not liturgical, became liturgical. This is simply a
Ok, that covers form of liturgy. What about actual rites? Well, again, some
"liturgies" are regarded as having some sort of divine institution:
Eucharist and Baptism are more or less agreed upon. Most would expand this
with a list of Sacraments/Mysteries etc. Well this doesn't really challenge
your concept too much, because the arguments get centered on the idea of
some pre-existing divine origin or objective reality. Agreement even in
disagreement. How about the Office? Well, we can trace the idea of the
Office back to the early church, and before. What about specific hours?
That might be a bit more of a stretch. Do we exclude the night office known
as "Matins" (as opposed to the morning office of Matins/Lauds)? Terce,
Sext, None? Prime? Prone? And of course, what is included in the Office
varies a great deal over the centuries, from area to area, from community to
community, monastic versus non monastic, and even within single
I won't presume to offer a comprehensive definition, but in Catholic usage,
liturgy is a public prayer, public, in the sense of being an official act of
the Church. Sometimes the distinction seems arbitrary. A cleric saying his
office by himself, or even a small group gathered together to sing office is
engaging in liturgy, while a thousand people together singing the Rosary are
not. Celebrating the Office is liturgy, but saying the Angelus is not, even
though it is linked to time, and involves scriptures and prayers and the
like. Weddings sometimes have been liturgical, sometimes not, and their
form changes. Death rites show a lot of variation and malleability. Is a
wake liturgical? Well, sometimes, but sometimes not. But if it seems a bit
arbitrary, that is because it is, and, I would argue, always has been. It
doesn't always seem that way because a lot of the changes get made over
longer periods of time, or were done so long ago that the novelty has faded.
Some "private devotions" take on larger significance over time and get
included in the liturgy. Blessing of throats, blessing of ashes, new
celebrations on the calendar, different processions. There was serious
consideration during the post Concilar liturgical reform of including the
Rosary as liturgy. One could make a pretty good case for it, considering
the place that the rosary has developed in Catholic worship, even if this
doesn't square with many Catholic liturgists sense of aesthetic. In the
end, it was felt that the rosary would remain a devotional exercise.
There is a logic in including Exposition and Benediction as liturgical.
There has been an effort to connect all liturgy to the Eucharist. The
Office is the "consecration of time" and is considered to both continue and
prepare for the Eucharist. Baptism, and Confirmation are rites of
initiation into the Eucharist. Penance: reconciliation and preparation to
the Eucharist. Holy orders: establish Eucharistic offices. Weddings are a
bit clumsy this way, but the effort is made. Sacramentals, such as
dedication of a Church or altar are connected to Mass. In this model,
Exposition of the Eucharist has pretty obvious connection to the Mass, as
So, different churches and communities have different practices. What else
is new? So, some liturgies are "necessary" and others aren't. What else is
new? Some liturgical practices change. What else is new?
Which brings me back to turning the question around. How do you define
liturgy and "liturgical". I will expand the question to others a bit,
because this always hits a nerve, with folks claiming that such and such is
liturgy, and such and such is not, but not always being clear about why,
other than their own personal preferences and aesthetic, or that of some
like minded group. Some use quite different definitions than others. For
example, many on this list and elsewhere, don't like to think of a private
Mass as "liturgy", while others will be insistent that public rosary with a
large group can never be. Others will consider any sort of public prayer by
any community to be liturgy.
] On Behalf
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2009 1:02 AM
Subject: Re: [liturgy-l] 40 Hrs or Benediction
what does it mean, "liturgical"?
Clearly, benediction started as a private devotion. i remember when
Paul 6th or was it JP2 declared benediction to be "liturgical", but
i've never understood what that meant. How can something be "declared"
liturgical when it wasn't already?
What was/is the effect of calling it liturgical?
And having now been declared "liturgical", what is the effect that the
rite now has, which it didn't have when it wasn't liturgical?
these are actually serious questions, because i really am baffled by
the way the term is being used, and i don't understand it. Isn't
declaring something "liturgical" akin to declaring something
"literary", or "physical"? I mean, either it is or it isn't-- no one
could declare independence, for example, "gaseous". So on what basis
would one declare a private devotion "liturgical"?
Hosts (er, sorry) of similar questions in fact intrude: if something
is now liturgical, which was never apostolic and is not universal--
was the church somehow deficient until benediction was invented or
rather, even until it was declared to be "liturgical"? Would those
churches which don't and never have practiced benediction be
considered, for this very reason, deficient? Is benediction necessary
to the very being of the Church, like baptism is?
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