Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday

Catholic liturgy means the whole complex of official liturgical worship, including all the rites, ceremonies, prayers, and sacraments of the Church, as opposed to private devotions. In this sense the arrangement of all these services in certain set forms (including the canonical hours, administration of sacraments, etc.) is meant. Liturgy encompasses the entire service: prayer, reading and proclamation, singing, gestures, movement and vestments, liturgical colours, symbols and symbolic actions, the administration of sacraments and sacramentals.

Liturgy (from Greek: leitourgia) is a composite word meaning originally a public duty, a service to the state undertaken by a citizen. A leitourgos was "a man who performs a public duty", "a public servant", leitourgeo was "to do such a duty", leitourgema its performance, and leitourgia, the public duty itself.[1] So in the use of liturgy meant the public official service of the Church, that corresponded to the official service of the Temple in the Old Law.

Liturgical principles

Catholic liturgies are broadly categorized as the Latin liturgical rites of the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

The Catholic Church understands liturgy not only to mean the celebration of the Holy Mass, but also the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and the administration of sacraments and many sacramentals.

At the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers proclaimed the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. There it says:

For the liturgy, "through which the work of our redemption is accomplished", most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.[2]

The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours state that, "as well as praising God, the Church's liturgy expresses the hopes and prayers of all the Christian faithful and intercedes before Christ and through him before the Father for the salvation of the whole world.[3]

As a result, the Catholic understanding of liturgy is not primarily about the precise regulation of individual sequences of rites, but rather about the essence of the church. The Codex Iuris Canonici says this in the following way:

The Church fulfills its sanctifying function in a particular way through the sacred liturgy, which is an exercise of the priestly function of Jesus Christ. In the sacred liturgy the sanctification of humanity is signified through sensible signs and effected in a manner proper to each sign. In the sacred liturgy, the whole public worship of God is carried out by the Head and members of the mystical Body of Jesus Christ.” [4]

The Directory on popular piety and the liturgy states liturgy and life as inseparable, "Were the Liturgy not to have its effects on life, it would become void and displeasing to God".[5] The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

Liturgy is an "action" of the whole Christ (Christus totus). Those who even now celebrate it without signs are already in the heavenly liturgy, where celebration is wholly communion and feast.[6]

Liturgical year

Main article: Liturgical year

Ecclesiastical writers as Anselm Schott OSB compare the liturgical year to a church building: as the liturgical service is limited in space by the walls of the church, so the church year it is enclosed by certain holy times. The liturgical year is made up of holy seasons, weeks and days. "The exact determination of the holy times is a basic condition of communal liturgical celebration, because only the determination of the day and hour makes the union for worship possible. The establishment of holy times for worship is part of the original structure of the liturgy, and observing them is considered a primary Christian duty."[7]

Apart from the liturgical seasons of the church year the catholic liturgy knows ember days, rogation days and processions, services in the Roman station churches, votive masses and the feasts of Christ and his saints.

Holy Mass

Numerous ecclesiastical documents call the Eucharist and the celebration of the Holy Mass the supreme act of worship and as the center of the liturgical life of the Church, as Jesus Christ is the center of Catholic life and worship. The Second Vatican Council called the Eucharist the center and the summit: "The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and of the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually."[8]

Liturgy of the Hours

Main article: Liturgy of the hours

The Liturgy of the Hours consecrates to God the whole course of day and night. Lauds and Vespers and Matins are major hours, little hours are Terce, Sext and None; the Compline is the last canonical hour of the day.

Members of the consecrated life are officially assigned by the church to intone the liturgy of the hours. They, as well as bishops, priests, deacons, are obliged to pray at least the main parts of the Liturgy of the Hours vicariously for the faithful. Communities of contemplative orders are obliged to pray the liturgy of hours in choir.

Liturgical singing

Since the days of the apostles, singing has always transfigured the Christian liturgy, Gregorian chant, that "bears the stamp of holiness", is typical of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Pius X and Pope Pius XI encouraged the singing of the Gregorian chant by the people, "in order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship".[9]

The 1967 document Musicam sacram, that implemented the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, repeatedly mentions facilitating the full, active participation of the congregation as called for by the council.[10][11] so that "unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices".[12] Musicam Sacram states: "One cannot find anything more religious and more joyful in sacred celebrations than a whole congregation expressing its faith and devotion in song. Therefore the active participation of the whole people, which is shown in singing, is to be carefully promoted."[13] It calls for fostering this congregational participation through attention to choice of song directors,[14] to choice of songs,[15] and to the nature of the congregation.[16] It mentions the duty to achieve this participation on the part of choirs, choirs directors, pastors, organists, and instrumentalists.[17]

To achieve full, active participation of the congregation, great restraint in introducing new hymns has proven most helpful.[18] To this end also, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal recommends use of seasonal responsorial psalms and also keeping to a song that all can sing while processing to Communion, to "express the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the 'communitarian' nature of the procession to receive Communion".[19]

Liturgical books and rubrics

The forms used in the Latin Church for the individual celebrations can be found in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite (Roman Missal, Rituale Romanum, Book of Hours, the Ceremonial of Bishops etc. that were revised as part of the liturgical reform (and translated into the national languages). The Catholic liturgy also includes the liturgies of the various Eastern churches associated with Rome, which follow their own oriental rites.

Furthermore, there are special forms of the Roman rite in various religious orders, for example the Carthusian Rite, the Cistercian Rite, the rite of the Dominicans and the Premonstratensians.

See also


  1. ^ Fortescue, Adrian. "Liturgy" The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.
  2. ^ Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 2|
  3. ^ General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, No. 17
  4. ^ CIC 1983, Can. 834 § 1
  5. ^ Directory on popular piety and the liturgy, No. 2
  6. ^ "CCC, 1136". Vatican.va.
  7. ^ Anselm Schott OSB, Das Meßbuch der heiligen Kirche, Verlag Herder Freiburg, 1952, p. 27.
  8. ^ Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 41; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, No. 11; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, Nos. 2, 5, 6; Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops, Christus Dominus, No. 30
  9. ^ Anselm Schott OSB, Das Meßbuch der heiligen Kirche, Verlag Herder Freiburg, 1952, p. 58
  10. ^ "Sacrosanctum concilium (114)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  11. ^ "Musicam sacram (15)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  12. ^ "Musicam sacram (5)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  13. ^ "Musicam (16)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  14. ^ "Musicam sacram (5)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  15. ^ "Musicam sacram (9)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  16. ^ "Musicam sacram (10)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  17. ^ "Musicam sacram (19-20, 67)". Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  18. ^ "How to get more people to sing at Mass: Stop adding new hymns". America Magazine. 2019-05-08. Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  19. ^ "General Instruction of the Roman Missal (61, 86)". www.vatican.va. Retrieved 2019-09-25.