A liturgy of the Word and the words of the liturgy

Thomas O?Loughlin

This article explores whether the new Eucharistic texts reflect an incarnational vision. Thomas O?Loughlin is professor of historical theology at the University of Nottingham.

For us Christians, the communities of the disciples of Jesus, all liturgy must be an encounter with him, and his prayer to the Father. This is the mysterium constituting our liturgy: it is not a matter of imposed rites performed as a matter of obeying divine commands nor fulfilling the demands of the virtue of religion. This is the reality of anamnesis echoing in the words ?do this in memory of me? which encounters the presence of the Father?s Anointed among us: it is not a matter of repetitious imitation. This is our re-hearing the Scriptures which, through the Spirit, lead us into the truth: it is neither attention to, nor study of, a set of sacral ?spiritual? texts. Indeed, such is the nature of our liturgy that we often describe it as the encounter hodie with the One we confess as incarnate: the Christ is the sacrament of our encounter with God; and the encounter?s privileged moment is the liturgy. As such, the liturgy takes place within the creation, and addresses the Father from the creation: it must not be seen as an esoteric activity. Over sixty years after Pope Pius XII?s encyclical Mediator Dei, this view of the liturgy is hardly new; and, indeed it should be a moment of thankfulness for Catholics that the ?Liturgical Movement? which took official form with Pius and inspired those who worked for the reforms of Vatican II, is now having an influence far beyond the bounds of Catholicism. But if this theological position ? the encounter with the liturgy is a moment in the incarnation of the Lord ? is widely accepted when we think abstractly of ?liturgy?; does it inform our practice, the actual way we celebrate liturgy?

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