Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Liturgy" as "Public Work" and "Opus Dei" - The Impact of Properly Understanding the Term

On Wednesday night, Fr. Nick Schneider (Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Bismarck, ND) and I gave a short introduction to sacred music and Gregorian chant in my hometown.  Though the workshop was planned with short notice, about 50 people came, including 6 or 7 priests, from parishes all over town as well as many of the surrounding towns.   

Below is a recording of Fr. Schneider's talk, which was really brilliant.  He began by talking about the etymology of the word "liturgy." Many of you are well-acquainted with the tired definition given to it for so long as "work of the people," a definition which was used to drive an agenda of self-expression, liberties in rubrics and interpretation of conciliar documents claimed out of "pastoral need" of the people at the liturgy, something that we assemble and present, etc.

Fr. Schneider discussed, instead, how the words which form liturgy are more accurately translated as "public work," something God does for His people, the "opus Dei," something which is received rather than created. The shift in perspective has immediate ramifications. To receive liturgy as gift rather than primarily based on one's efforts is to open one's heart in a truly proper disposition. "Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us." (1 John 4: 19)

This point is so important! Just the other day on the forum, there was a discussion that grew exponentially about an "apologetics" of sacred music. One of the points raised was that it's not enough to defend Gregorian chant as the music proper to the Roman liturgy when there is a fundamental misunderstanding among so many of what liturgy is.  Chant being proper is a sort of non-starter if we don't understand to what it is proper.

Update (7/20) - Here's a better quality recording of the talk:

Father goes on to discuss a number of other fundamental issues so important when we introduce others to truly sacred music. The talk is a great way to frame a discussion of what we ought do in the choir loft.

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