Wednesday 2 March 2016

The Law and the Liturgy

At today’s Novus Ordo Mass we were reminded that Our Lord did not come to abolish the Law but to complete it; to perfect it. Thus he says, “You have heard it said ‘You shall not kill’, but I say this to you: anyone who is angry with His brother will be subject to judgement”. He thus pushes the law further; He does not demolish it.

It struck me that law got a very bad write-up in the 1960’s and 70’s when it was commonly presented as opposed to charity. Thus grew the idea that ‘laws are meant to be broken’ –but God did not give us the Ten Commandments in order that we should break them; He gave them to us so that we would be aware of when we were breaking them (breaking the natural law). Even in family life, we don’t make family rules such as “stay out of your sister’s bedroom” to be broken; we expect them to be kept. Law being ‘reason devoid of passion’ (Aristotle) it seems to me we only abandon law when to give free reign to our passions. Whether it is the Man in the Pew or the Pope, the breaking of law is not to be encouraged since law protects justice, without which there is no charity.

I am often asked why I am exacting about liturgy. The answer is, when I go before God I cannot offer Him a perfect life; I will stand before Him with my short temper, the criticisms I have made of others, my laziness etc. But if I obey the rules of the liturgy then there may be at least one area of my life I can offer to Him unsullied by my passions. Why is it that people refuse to strike their break at the Confiteor, or to bow during the Creed? Whatever their reason, it seems to me it stems from pride; a pride that has made them lord and master of the liturgy rather than its servant. And that is not good. and there are many liturgical norms that are frequently broken, such as allowing appeals to be made from the lectern and omitting the Communion plate, for example.

So when we hear law castigated as contrary to the Christian life (be it castigated by the Pope, a Bishop, a Presbyter or the Man in the Pew) we can know their humility is on the wane on that they have become lord of the liturgy rather than its servant. 

I hope to see a return to a healthy respect for the Church’s laws and norms that we may retain our humility. To break the law is to place oneself above the law of God and of Holy Mother Church. And pride is a deadly sin. Surely we have enough sins to answer for without adding to them what is simple and easy to do? There is nothing simpler to do than follow the laws of Holy Mother Church in our worship of God.