Beauty & Liturgy – Part 2

Following my last post on Beauty and Liturgy, Tom Lelyo posted a response on his blog.  I am very grateful to Tom for reading and responding.  It is good that we keep the topic alive, because this is all at the heart of Pope Benedict XVI’s vision for the Liturgy.

From Tom’s website, there is a link on “How to become a Catholic Worship-music Leader”.  I must begin by stating that at no time has the Church used the terminology “Worship Leader” for the laity, nor even for priests.  In the Catholic Church, there really is only one “worship leader” and that is Jesus Christ for He is our great High Priest.  All other priests can be considered worship leaders, because when they offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, they offer it “in persona Christi”.  Because, at every Mass and in the celebration of the Sacraments, it is Jesus who offers them.

What is worship?  For many non-Catholic, Christian denominations, worship is something that the participants do.  In fact, even with some misguided Catholic Liturgists, worship is what we do.  But, the only way we can offer divine worship is through our union with Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  In the new translation of the Roman Missal, just as the priest begins the Eucharistic Prayer, he invites the people to pray that “my sacrifice and yours become acceptable to God the Father Almighty.”

The priest, no matter how sinful or holy he may be is an instrument of God’s grace.  Like the Virgin Mary, he becomes a conduit for the Lord’s work.  The priest is an altar Christus (another Christ).  In the dialogue, the priest is inviting the faithful to offer their sacrifice, in union with that of Christ.  The faithful are offering their sacrifice – their difficulties, broken marriage, dying relative, personal illness and every other suffering they face in union with the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  It is a response to the admonishment of St. Paul: “I help make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”  Again, the sacrifice of Christ was perfect, yet, He invites us to become co-redeemers with Him by offering our life to the Father, in union with Him.  This is really what is at the heart of “active participation”.

My late Liturgy professor, Fr. William Heidt, O.S.B. gave this beautiful definition of Liturgy – “is the action of the Blessed Trinity in the Person of Jesus Christ, proclaiming His Paschal victory – in the supper, the crucifixion and death and resurrection – over satan, sin and death, through the sacraments especially the Eucharist, and the Prayer of the Church in the Spirit unto the Glory of the Father.”  So in reality, “true worship” “in spirit and truth” is pure Liturgy.  From the sung High Mass in a grand basilica, to a simple Mass in the middle of a battle field, both are equally perfect and pure worship, that have the power of God at work in our midst.

When there is music at any form of Liturgy, it makes a great difference.  In the next post, we’ll talk more about sacred music, the “Music of the Church”.

2 thoughts on “Beauty & Liturgy – Part 2

  1. Greetings & Blessings Father,

    Thank you so much for this post, I am greatly honored that you spent some time to address my response. I understand that my website is something “unique” in the Church in that we are trying to walk the Catholic “both-and” when it comes to music ministry. In doing so we are always growing and deepening our understanding of worship in the Church and I greatly appreciate your help in this regard.

    I wanted to point out a few things to your readers about the points you brought up regarding the term “worship leader” and the nature of worship itself.

    I’m not sure when you last saw the post about “How to become a worship-music leader” but I do first want to say that this post is an organic post. As you will see when you visit the site, there is an order form for the eBook version which I am currently working on and refining that will be available in the near future. The two main points you bring are precise examples of how that post has changed and continues to be refined.

    Within the past week, I have added the introduction section to give a clearer understanding of the term “Worship Leader” as it applies to Catholic music ministry – that is, for the purposes of my blog, a worship leader is someone who leads the people in music during prayer. Although, interestingly, I have recently begun to re-think the use of this term. The original goal was to differentiate between a “music minister” as one who seemingly just shows up on Sunday, sings a few songs and leaves, and one who engages in music as an act of prayer and was so called a “Worship Leader”. As you mentioned, this is a borrowed term from our non Catholic brethren, but it is from that context which I first experienced true prayer in the form of music. As a result of your article and some continued prayer and reflection I do believe I will be changing the title of the post and refrain from using the term “Worship Leader” because of the confusion it tends to cause.

    Secondly, I also agree that worship is something that is done in union with Jesus Christ. I especially love the beautiful definition of Liturgy by Fr. William Heidt OSB. Indeed the liturgy IS the source and summit of our faith and therefore our Worship.

    I look forward to you next post regarding sacred music as I’m sure I’ll be replying! Perhaps we can talk in person some time about this. God bless!

  2. Fr. Jay, My impression when I was reading this was: “Oh my, every young Catholic man reading this will want to become a priest!”

    Have you considered writing blog pieces specifically to encourage young men who are discerning a vocation? Or meeting with them in order to share your love of the church and the priesthood?

    God bless!

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