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The Profession of Faith
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Pope John Paul II
Liturgy is the public worship offered to God by the Church. In Christian
tradition it means the participation of the People of God in "the work
of God." This worship can consist of adoration, praise, sacrifice, thanksgiving,
asking God for favours, or any form of worship, if it is offered to God
by the Church.
The chief liturgical actions are the Mass, the Sacraments, the Sacramentals and the Divine Office. In the Eastern Church the word liturgy is understood in a different sense, being applied exclusively to the greatest act of worship, namely the Mass. Thus, in the Eastern Church, they speak of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, meaning the Mass as composed by the Saint.
The primary purpose of the liturgy is service of God: praise, adoration, thanksgiving etc.. Its secondary purpose is the sanctification of man.
The word liturgy should be distinguished from rubrics. Rubrics are directives for the conduct of liturgical services. Ceremonial actions, performed according to the directions, or altars or vestments, designed according to the rubrics, may be called rubrical. All public worship offered to God by the Church is liturgical.
The Catholic Catechism when defining the Celebration of the Christian Mystery states:
"The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He accomplished this work principally by the Paschal mystery of his blessed Passion, Resurrection from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby 'dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.' For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth 'the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church."'
For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation. For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, that "the work of our redemption is accomplished," and it is through the liturgy especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church. The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ along with the full worship of the Mystical Body of Christ. From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.
"The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows."
Over the centuries various errors and abuses have arisen out of Liturgical Reforms. Numerous Popes have written on these errors which seem to have become widespread since the latter half of the 18th century. In 1907 Pope Pius X wrote the following in his encyclical PascendI Dominici Gregis
"That We make no delay in this matter is rendered necessary especially by the fact that the partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church's open enemies; they lie hid, a thing to be deeply deplored and feared, in her very bosom and heart, and are the more mischievous, the less conspicuously they appear. We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, nay, and this is far more lamentable, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, feigning a love for the Church, lacking the firm protection of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, vaunt themselves as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious daring, they reduce to a simple, mere man."
But it is since Vatican II that most dissent seems to occur regarding the changes brought about afterwards yet never intended by this Council of the Church. This topic is discussed futher in Our Modern Church.
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