“Our liturgical nourishment must be ample and in accord with the mind and tradition of the Church if we are to take our place in the world as witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Dom Alcuin Reid, a Benedictine monk speaking from France, told CNA March 8.
Dom Reid said the importance of “liturgical nourishment” is analogous the importance of bodily nutrition, noting how “we know how essential it is for children to receive the sufficient and correct nutrition if they are to grow into healthy adults.”
Dom Reid is assisting Bishop Dominique Rey of the Fréjus-Toulon diocese in organizing “Sacra Liturgia 2013,” a conference which will discuss the role of the liturgy as a foundation for the Church's mission, all in the context of the Year of Faith.
“Sacra Liturgia 2013” will be held in Rome June 25-28, and will include speakers as well as celebrations of Mass and Vespers.
The conference is being co-sponsored by The Cardinal Newman Society, Ignatius Press, De Montfort Music, and other groups.
Speakers include Cardinals Malcolm Ranjith and Leo Burke; Archbishop Alexander Sample; Monsignor Guido Marini; and Tracey Rowland. Topics include such things as “liturgical catechesis and the New Evangelization” and “the Sacred Liturgy and the New Communities.”
Bishop Rey told New Liturgical Movement that he hopes the conference “will help further the liturgical renewal so dear to Pope Benedict’s heart and demonstrate liturgical foundation the of New Evangelization in this Year of Faith.”
“The purpose of evangelization,” Dom Reid said, is to bring people to an encounter with the person Jesus Christ.
How we encounter Christ, he said, is precisely “in his Church through the liturgy, in the sacraments and other rites.”
“Baptism establishes the life of Christ within me...the Eucharist completes this initiation and sustains me in the Christian life. Through the Prayer of the Church I join him in offering praise, thanksgiving and supplication to the Father.”
“Through the sacraments of matrimony and holy orders I am given the grace necessary for my vocation. In confession I meet the healing mercy of Christ when I am wounded by sin,” reflected Dom Reid.
Thus, the celebration of the liturgy is central to our relationship with Christ. While “some see it as enough that these rites are celebrated validly and licitly,” Dom Reid said it is “hardly sufficient.”
“If we take seriously that fact that we are bodily, sensual creatures whose connection with Christ is by means of created signs...we will celebrate the liturgy as well as we possibly can so as to optimize our connection, as bodily and psychological creatures, with the person of Jesus Christ.”
Liturgy matters, Dom Reid said, because “that connection is the foundation of all evangelization.”
He offered two contrasting examples, showing how different ways of celebrating Mass can have “very different effects” on those attending. A priest whose manner of celebrating Mass suggests reverence, profound faith, and “awe for the mysteries celebrated” may “easily bridge the way for those assembled to encounter Christ.”
On the other hand, a priest who emits “a desire to be finished as soon as possible,” even though his Mass is licit and valid, will be “mitigating against...my optimal connection with the action of Christ,” at the level of human engagement.
“Where the liturgy is celebrated well, fully, making use of the multivalent riches of Catholic liturgical tradition, I am likely to be more engaged, better connected, with Christ,” Dom Reid concluded.
In announcing “Sacra Liturgia 2013,” Bishop Rey noted that “the Sacred Liturgy is at the centre of the new evangelization” and that the conference would be “focusing on the liturgy and liturgical formation as the point of departure for the new evangelization.”
Dom Reid echoed this, saying that “our Christian life and formation is essentially liturgical – only from that are we able to go out as evangelists.”
He even went so far as to say, “there is no such thing as an un-liturgical Catholic.”
The approach to liturgy should be one that seeks the beautiful and the best because “if the liturgy is celebrated in a minimalistic way – or worse, if it is abused by individuals or groups in a way the Church neither intends or permits – then my formation will be deficient,” said Dom Reid.
“My connection with Christ will be impeded and my opportunities to thank God or to seek his healing and strength will be jeopardized.”
Benedict XVI set an example for the proper place of liturgy in the Christian life, Dom Reid suggested. He referenced his words, spoken while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that “the true celebration of the sacred liturgy is at the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever.”
While “in recent decades” the importance of liturgical nourishment “has not, perhaps, been well appreciated,” Dom Reid said that Benedict's 2007 apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” was a reminder that “our liturgical diet has to be more than the mere minimum.”
Dom Reid concluded by saying that “when the sacred liturgy – old or new – is celebrated according to this spirit (of richness and beauty) it forms and sustains us in the life of faith and in our mission in the world.”
Celebrating the liturgy with reverence and beauty helps facilitate the encounter with Christ during the Mass, reflected a monk involved in organizing a conference on liturgy in Rome this summer.