instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Where's the mystery?

Here's another question and answer, in full but with my emphasis, from the U.S. Catholic interview with Fr. Robert Taft, SJ:
Q: What about those who claim that the old liturgy is more "mysterious" or reverent than the new? Are they right?

A: Absolutely not. The mystery we're trying to celebrate in liturgy is the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose for our salvation, and we have died and risen through Baptism to new life in him.

That life is expressed in the liturgy. It is nourished through scripture and the Eucharist and prayer. You don't need Latin for that.

Some people think liturgy is our gift to God. If we go to church on Sunday, we're doing God a real big favor.

But our liturgy is God's gift to us, not ours to him. St. Paul is quite clear that the purpose of the liturgy is not what we do at the celebration itself. That is simply the expression and nourishment of what is supposed to be the "liturgy of life," the way we live in the world.

That's why St. Paul never uses words such as sacrifice, priesthood, or worship except to describe the life we live after the model of Christ. "It is not I who live," he writes, "but Christ who lives in me." That's the mystery the liturgy is all about.
I'd be happier if the question had been, "Say something about mystery in liturgy." As it is, I think it's too easy to dismiss the answer as a declaration of which side of a liturgical dispute Fr. Taft is on.

To do that would be to overlook his theological point, that the key mystery of the Eucharist we should be concerned with is not the Sacrament Itself, but the eternal life lived by those who receive It.

Of course, this says nothing about the relative reverence or aesthetics of different liturgical choices. Note how in his answer Fr. Taft seizes on the "mysterious" of the question but doesn't even mention the "reverent."

There's a "both/and" here, certainly. But we shouldn't focus on the mystery of the Eucharist to the detriment of the mystery of the rest of the Christian life.