The Liturgical Life that will Create the Culture of Beauty

by David Clayton on February 1, 2011

My colleague at the New Liturgical Movement website, Shawn Tribe, has posted a simple but truly wonderful and inspiring article about what he calls the ‘pillars’ of a liturgical life.He describes not a theoretical discussion for experts in liturgy, but rather simple practices for parish and family. It is a spiritual life based upon the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and study of scripture, especially through lectio divina. This, in my opinion, is the basis for cultural renewal. Shawn’s article is a must read for anyone committed to the re-establishment of a culture of beauty in the West, especially those associated with the liturgical arts (and frankly for that matter everyone else too). This is the sort of practice of the Faith that has been called for by Popes (just to my knowledge) ever since Pius X at the end of the 19th century and right up to Pope Benedict XVI today. He emphasises particularly the importance of something so often neglected by lay people, the Liturgy of the Hours otherwise called the Divine Office.

Passing on a practical way of such a fruitful participation in the liturgy is the primary aim of the weekend retreat at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts this summer. It not only teaches about Shawn’s pillars, but how to participate. It is expected that many will already have a strong sense of this in the Mass; but knowledge of a practical way that busy lay people can participate in the Liturgy of the Hours, and how Catholic culture is rooted in the whole of the liturgy is less well known. It is designed so that not only will everyone be able to continue practising what they learn after they leave, but will be able teach others in their family and parish.

Although what is offered is at the grassroots level of one person praying with another. The ambition and hope we have of this high – the transformation of society. Any culture points to the cult at its centre, in the case of Catholics that is the liturgy. Accordingly, the demise of Catholic culture in the past points to large scale demise in the liturgical life in the Church militant (and we are talking about something here that happened long before the 1960s); and conversely the primary driving force for any cultural renewal will be liturgical renewal. What Shawn is describing is the basis, therefore, not only of the basis of liturgical renewal, but also cultural renewal.

The TMC weekend retreat is aiming to fulfill the final pillar listed by Shawn in his piece, and which informs the other three, that is ‘mystagogy’. Mystagogy is, to quote Stratford Caldecott, ‘the stage of exploratory catechesis that comes after apologetics, after evangelization, and after the sacraments of initiation (baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation) have been received’ And it is necessary (here quoting Benedict XVI) because ‘“The Church’s great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one’s life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism.’

Read Shawn Tribe’s article here.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam Solove February 2, 2011 at 11:05 am

Very interesting! I would love to see you expand on this idea and talk more specifically about the daily life of a Catholic artist. I have heard you say before the importance of prayer and the liturgy in your work, but I am curious how it is practically lived out.

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davidicons February 2, 2011 at 11:21 am

Have a look at the article on http://www.thewayofbeauty.info called Achieving the Pauline Ideal – Praying continuously, body and soul.

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Leila Marie Lawler February 21, 2011 at 11:33 am

I am so excited about this! A peaceful and lovely celebration — especially in the parish — of the Liturgy of the Hours will help so much to restore the Mass’s dignity and move it away from the “country club meeting” model. Through praying the hours, we may recover the sense of the vertical and sacred, and then re-donate it to the way the Mass is celebrated. I pray…

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