‘Liturgy’ was not a word that was known to me in my youth, and I doubt it is a common part of your day-to-day vocabulary. A standard dictionary definition describes liturgy as the form or set of ceremonies used by the public in a religious celebration. In my opinion, this makes liturgy very stale and rigid, sort of like the traffic code. Here are the rules and regulations. Follow them and you have a worship celebration. Anyone who has ever driven a car knows that there is a lot more to driving than simply following the rules.
Driving a car requires knowledge of the traffic code, the skills and coordination to control a car, but also awareness of the other cars on the road with you. Good liturgy requires a similar set of skills. The Roman Missal and other church documents provide the traffic code for our celebrations. Being able to control the car is knowing the responses and acclamations that we say and sing as well as the postures we take during the celebration, but good driving requires cooperation with those around you.
In liturgy, this means speaking at the same rate of speed and knowing when to take your turn. Have you ever been frustrated at a four-way stop by a driver who “politely” lets everyone else go ahead? Or how about a driver who stops, but then pulls ahead with no regard for who arrived first or which way the other cars might be going? Different people have different roles in liturgy, and in order for it to progress smoothly, we all have to be alert drivers willing to take our turn at the proper time and yielding to other drivers when the rules or flow of traffic require us to do so.
The more standard Catholic definition of ‘liturgy’ derived from the Greek origins of the word is ‘the work of the people.’ Liturgy then becomes more than just reciting prayers or singing songs in worship. It is a group effort, much like driving in traffic, requiring cooperation and collaboration. I believe everyone wants to be a good driver. Do you place the same effort and attention to your actions in the liturgy?
Encouraging you to stay alert when driving or worshiping,
Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, June 28, 2015