Good liturgy. Does it involve more than ‘What I like’?

Thomas O’Loughlin

Anyone involved in liturgy knows that it can be a bone of contention: what seems a good idea to one person, drives another crazy!  But is liturgy just a matter of taste?  Is it possible to come to a more objective test of what is good in liturgy based on what we believe about the nature of the Gospel?  One possible way forward is to adopt a 'principles' approach. Thomas O’Loughlin is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham.

The liturgy is the great school of discipleship: there the kerygma is not only heard but embraced, our identity with the Christ is affirmed, and our hope given expression. However, liturgy is not an abstract essence but an artefact of many people with differing backgrounds, appreciations of what they are doing, and, indeed, widely varying levels of ritual skill. Liturgy can range from a mere token affair imagined as the acting out of pre-scripted texts, to occasions that can be events of human poetry and moments of the Spirit’s presence. This link between mission and our celebrations’ perceptible quality was well expressed in 1972 by the US Bishops:

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