Wow, it’s been a while. Over a year. The year following my graduation from CUA was a good, albeit busy one. I spent a year following a dream of mine, and am now taking the next step into the world, looking to return to our Nation’s capitol, this time as a permanent resident, rather than a sojourning student who stops by for 4 years and leaves. What can I say, the District grew on me… And here I am, a year older.
A lot has passed in this year. We lost one Holy Father, we gained a new Holy Father. His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Pontiff Emeritus, was MY Holy Father. He was mine, just as Blessed John Paul II was the Holy Father of those who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Yes, I knew about JPII, but Benedict was the Holy Father when I started getting interested in the Church. He was the Holy Father when I was really learning about the Church and Her vast theological and liturgical treasures. He was the Holy Father throughout my formative years, and to, well, just lose him like that, was heartbreaking. Yes, yes, I know, he isn’t dead, but a huge part of me died when he left the Seat. Without him, we were not only Fatherless for almost 2 weeks, but I still, at times, feel fatherless. Yes, we have Pope Francis. Yes, I have grown to love Pope Francis, but he isn’t MY Holy Father, in the same way that Benedict wasn’t the Holy Father of the previous generation, and wont be of the next one.
Anyway, that brings me to the point of why I even started writing this post. Lex orandi, lex crendi, lex vivendi. The Law of prayer is the law of belief, which is the law of life. Let’s start with the basic definition. As we are told in the Catechism,
The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.
That is, to say that how we pray is equal to what we believe, which influences how we live our lives. This right here is a crucial statement to understanding the point and influence of the liturgy in our lives. Liturgy is a very sensual act, that is, to say, it involves the use of our senses. Hearing, touching, seeing, smelling, and speaking.
We, as a people, are a people of hearing. We listen. We listen to one another, we listen to God, we listen to ourselves. We listen to friends, and yes, even to enemies. It is by listening that we learn. We hear the voice of God, audibly and inaudibly. Because of this, hearing is an integral part of the liturgy. We listen to the priest, preparing to make our response. We listen to those bells, signifying the sacred mystery we ourselves are witnessing before us on the altar, when ordinary bread is changed into the Body of Christ, and that cup of wine becomes the Most Sacred Blood poured forth for us on the cross. We listen to the music, whatever it might be. Latin or English, chant or metrical hymnody, traditional or modern. Whatever it is, it influences us and the liturgy, for better or for worse.
Again, we all like to talk. Talking goes hand in hand with speaking and listening. We talk. We talk to know another, we talk to God, we even, from time to time, talk to ourselves. (Though, I wouldn’t start worrying too much about that last one until I start hearing answers…) Anyway, without talking, there would be nothing to hear. Again, talking is a very integral part of the liturgy. It is by talking that we receive the invitation “Dominus vobiscum. The Lord be with you.” It is by talking that we respond “Et cum spiritu tuo. And with your spirit.” By talking we interact with each other. By talking, we invite others to share in the peace of Christ. By talking, we give our consent, Amen., to what we are about to receive. In talking, we confess our sins to the priest and beg forgiveness of God. In talking, we follow the old adage, those who sing, pray twice. Again, Latin or English, chant or metrical, traditional or modern, we are talking to God and one another, spreading his light for the world.
We do this one a lot too. We touch icons, we touch statues, relics, all hoping to bring Christ into our lives. We touch each other, whether it is at the Sign of Peace, or comforting our brothers and sisters in their time of need. It is by using our hands that we are who we are, completing the work that we are doing in our own lives for Christ, from confecting the Eucharist, to comforting the sorrowful, to burying the dead, to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. We do it because we can use our hands and touch, not just in the physical sense of touching something, but by being there and comforting. We “touch” the lives of those we help for the better by following the commands of Christ.
Seeing and Smelling.
This brings us to sight and smell. We see everything, as a visual people. We see the vestments that the Priest is wearing. We see something that may look nice, we see something that may look bad. We see flowers that may look nice at first, but also ones that look bad once they have withered. We see churches that look nice, and we see churches that look downright ugly. We smell something that may smell nice, such as fresh flowers and nice quality incense, to things that smell bad, like crappy incense and old, musty vestments that have been in a closet for decades. Either way, we see and smell, perhaps the most.
Now, you might be asking yourself, if you are still even reading at this point, why I just spent about 1000 words talking about the liturgy and our senses. Well, let me answer that for you. It is through our senses, as we just established, that we live our lives, specifically, liturgical ones. It is through Christ that we have these senses, and it is through him that we put them to use. Remember way up there when I talked about Benedict being my pope, and no matter what, Francis will never mean anything to me the way Benedict did, though I love him nonetheless? Well, part of that has to do with the fact that Benedict’s liturgies were very sensual. They involved the use of the senses, from his use of Latin and chant, to the visually pleasing vestments, along with the other aspects of his liturgical papacy, made your host extremely pleased to tune into them and watch. I was never disappointed. And, well, 6 months into his papacy, Francis leaves a lot to desire in this regard. I know, I know, they are different men and have different styles, but one of the things that I loved about Benedict is that though everything could be the same, there was always something different. It was never the same old thing every time he said Mass. He used the collection of surplices, albs, copes, stoles, chasubles, miters, etc available to him in the Papal Sacristy. Francis, on the other hand, doesn’t. He uses the same few miters, the same essential decoration on the chasubles, the same alb, never dresses like a bishop. It leaves things to be desired.
I know, I know, they are two different men with two different styles. I love Francis. I love how he has renewed our focus onto fixing worldly problems in the manner of Christ. I love how he celebrated a prayer vigil, not only for Syria, but to end world violence! We NEED this. Don’t get me wrong, we desperately need an end to violence in this world, and without prayer, nothing is going to even come close to succeeding. But does it have to look so damn bad? Can we please let the Papal MC’s dress to the honors they have earned? Can the Pope please look like the pope, and wear the proper vestments for such liturgical acts? Things like this prayer vigil are important. The ideals are important and need to desperately reach all corners of the globe, including my own heart, but if we are going to liturgize everything, can it at least be good-looking liturgy? Please???
Remember, lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. If we want to influence the way we live our lives, we must first allow the influence of what we believe to influence how we pray, which then, and only then, will influence and change how we live our lives.
So, if you happened to be one of the few people to reach this far. Pray for me. Desperately and fervently pray for me. I am in need of your prayers. I want to love Francis the way I love Benedict. I want to, really, but I need your prayers to help with this.