November 10th, 2013

Week Four

Dear Parish Family,

Liturgy as Sign and Source of Unity

Each Sunday when we profess the creed we recall the four marks of the Church, namely one, holy, catholic and apostolic.  The first mark of the Church reflects the characteristic of unity.  This unity is derived from the one Lord, who calls us to one faith, which expresses itself through a range of liturgical disciplines otherwise known as rites.  As already noted, some were forged in the East and some in the West.  Each rite is celebrated in a unified and uniform expression.  In this way the larger range of liturgical rites are born of a unified faith but also admit for a variety of liturgical forms.  These diverse expressions emerged in vastly different cultural regions dating back to the very beginning of the Church.  For this reason the liturgy of the Church is simultaneously diverse and unified.  There is a diversity of rites, but unity and uniformity within each of them.  Consequently the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist according to the rite of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is born of the same one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith but in many ways appears quite different from the liturgy of the Latin Church that we experience at St. Thomas.  But whether their liturgy is celebrated in Kiev or in Charlotte the liturgy will be the same.  As for our liturgy the same holds true.

One may ask why are we Americans Latin Catholics?  Because our country was founded by western European cultures our spiritual and liturgical patrimony is that of the West, or of the Latin Church.  This is the reason why the Catholics of North, Central and South America are almost all Latin Catholics. 

Within each rite, the liturgy serves to safeguard and reflect Christian unity.  If liturgical practices of the same tradition substantially vary from region to region or parish to parish then unity is undermined.  Since the Church is so large, especially those belonging to the Latin Church, liturgical unity can only be achieved through uniform and prescribed norms.  It is for this reason, and for those noted in the previous bulletin articles, that each parish is not free to design or fashion the liturgy to suit one’s preferences.  If this were somehow allowed, the liturgy would quickly cease to be a point of unity and devolve to a source of disunity.  Each would want the liturgy to be suited to his/her own preferences.  The pastor would be placed in the impossible position having to choose winners and losers in the battle of liturgical preferences.  The faithful are free to have their preferences shape and form their personal prayers.  But when it comes to celebrating the Most Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Unity, we must all set aside personal preferences for the sake of unity, for the sake of coming together as a single family of faith and surrender to the norms born in part from a desire to be one, as in one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Finally, I would like to note that it is an unfortunate commentary to hear that a person prefers Father A’s Mass to Father B’s Mass, which is quite different from preferring one priest’s homiletic skills to another.  A priest’s editing or personalization of liturgical norms is an act that subordinates church unity for personal preference.  A personalized Mass is not only illicit but in the end a disservice to the faithful, no matter how well-intentioned the compromise may seem.  Such practices sow the seeds of disunity and it undermine the liturgical patrimony that has been passed down through the ages to which the faithful have a right to receive and the priest is obliged to offer. 

The only healthy, equitable and humble way forward is for all to submit to the norms.  As Americans we should be familiar with this type of social contract.  Regardless of political leanings we all surrender to the Constitution and the rule of law.  Only in this way can we be the melting pot America is known to be, a unity with a diversity of members.

Father Winslow

Week One: Finding Liturgical Peace and Unity
Week Two: The Role of the Liturgy in Preserving the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist
Week Three: The Liturgy as a Wealth of Sacramentality


Letters from the Pastor

Each week Father Winslow writes a letter to the parishioners, you can find each one archived in this blog.

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