I had the privilege last night to attend a lecture given by Archbishop Charles Chaput, a part of the Hillenbrand Lecture Series of the Liturgical Institute of the University of Our Lady of the Lake, Mundelein, which followed a solemn celebration of Mass and Vespers, with the Archbishop, for the liturgy on the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Music for the Mass was offered by the participants of the Liturgical Instutite “Sacred Music Retreat” under the direction of Kevin Allen.
It was an inspiring lecture, and was very honest and forthright, as is Chaput’s style. He takes up the question asked by Romano Guardini, 75 years ago: Is modern man capable of the liturgical act? Of course, his answer in the end is yes, but he offers some very keen and practical insight into the task of liturgical renewal in our day in age.
In taking up Guardini’s challenge, Archbishop Chaput offers reflection on four points as a contribution to our next task of liturgical renewal:
1. We need to recover the intrinsic and inseparable connection between liturgy and evangelization.
2. The liturgy is a participation in the liturgy of heaven, in which we worship in Spirit and truth with the worldwide Church and the communion of saints.
3. We need to strive to recover and live with the same vibrant liturgical and evangelical spirituality as the early Christians.
4. The liturgy is a school of sacrificial love. The law of our prayer should be the law of our life. Lex orandi, lex vivendi. We are to become the sacrifice we celebrate.
“The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you see your lives and work in light of God’s plan for the world, in light of his desire that all men and women be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The mystery we celebrate with the angels and the saints must take root deep in our lives and personalities. It must bear fruit. Each of us must make our own unique contribution to God’s loving plan — that all creation become adoration and sacrifice in praise of him.”
That Chaput is typically not seen as being as liturgically focused as he is focused on cultural and pro-life issues, it was good to hear him agree that “in the post-conciliar era, the professional Catholic liturgical establishment opted for the former path, trying to adapt the liturgy to the demands of modern culture… [and] that time has shown this to be a dead end. Trying to engineer the liturgy to be more “relevant” and “intelligible” through a kind of relentless cult of novelty, has only resulted in confusion and a deepening of the divide between believers and the true spirit of the liturgy.”
Let the liturgy speak for itself, he seemed to say. Let us conform ourselves to Christ and live the life of the Church’s liturgy. Amen!