Sunday, January 15, 2012

"My Favorite Things"

Although someone might be shocked or horrified at my choice of a pretty, little ditty from a musical to entitle or to frame what I'd like to share briefly, it may only be an indication that I need to cut back on reading blogs and spend more time with the Church Fathers, Doctors and other approved authors. Be that as it may, with no intention to trivialize something I find "earth-shakingly" beautiful (in my little world), I'd like to share two of "my favorite things" from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as I have experienced this (for me) new world of Divine Worship, both in Ukrainian and in Church Slavonic as the Greek Catholic Church celebrates here, during my first almost four months in Ukraine.

The first is a petition, occurring two different times during the liturgy with the very same wording, sung by the deacon to which the choir and faithful respond "Grant this, O Lord."  In the English translation, which I have, it reads: "That we may spend the rest of our lives in peace and repentance, let us ask the Lord." 

Lex orandi, lex credendi, these words offer me a very succinct and Catholic adjunct to that first question in the old Baltimore catechism: "Why did God make me? God made me to know, love and serve Him in this life, so as to be happy with Him in the next." And with our "other lung" we could add: "And for all my trespasses, that He grant me space and time for repentance."  Maybe it's just my age or time in life, perhaps chance or a little gift from the Holy Spirit, but this petition is a powerful impulse for me to be about the basic business which is mine upon this earth as one of the baptized. This petition is now mine, for each day and forever this side of Purgatory (hopefully not!) and (please, Lord, grant this) of Heaven for all eternity face to face with the Lord Whom I wish to know, love and serve.

The other day during a Christmas visit with His Beatitude the Major Archbishop, I shared with him this one and the second of my favorite things, the private prayers after Holy Communion. He told me that from childhood they were so trained and the priest is exhorted not to leave church until he has completed his private prayers as prescribed.

In my book, the rubric (in red) reads: "Immediately, after having worthily partaken of the life-giving Mystical Gifts, raise your voice in acclamation. Be very grateful and recite the prayers to God with heartfelt fervor." After the acclamation, there follow two pages of prayers, some attributed to the greats, like St. Basil, like Chrysostom and Damascene. The prayers are wonderful, but just as marvelous to me is the fact that all the bishops and priests sit down with their book in their places in the presbyterium behind the iconostasis, immediately after receiving Communion, and they pray those prayers. Yesterday, I noticed in a smaller church with a more open iconostasis, where I could see into the nave of the church, that no small number of the faithful, after devoutly receiving took out their own books to say those prayers privately. Byzantine Liturgy is to my mind a bit hectic because of the constant interplay of the different roles which intertwine and overlay each other: a Latin at heart, I could never renounce the sobriety of my own rite at any cost. Nonetheless, within our own tradition, I think we need to find ways to restore that moment, better those moments of quiet recollection after Communion.

Very simply, these are two of "my favorite things". I don't think they are particularly Byzantine or Ukrainian. I think they are thoroughly Catholic and where missing or lost in want of recovery.


  1. Going to the Divine Liturgy (in a tiny tiny chapel, the chaos was multiplied!) made sense of the Latin rite for me. The old rite, the new rite done without any changes that are not in the Missal - they are evidently the same religion as the Divine Liturgy. The NO as often celebrated - less so, sadly :/

  2. Dear Berenike, We are very much on the same wave length. We must pray and sacrifice for the very best for one and all. Thank you!

  3. In the older form of our Roman Rite, in the pre-1962 Missals, there are also "Preces ante et post Missam" with both prescripted and recommended prayers. I love St. Ambrose and Aquinas not less than Damascene or St. Basil - but to be honest, I very seldom recited the entire text rather than my favourite pieces of it. It always annoyed me when the faithful leave the church immediately after the Holy Mass, without thanksgiving, whatever it is the ordinary form or the extra-ordinary. So I try to satisfy those sins of omission by returning to these prayers, thanks for the post, Excellency!

    Best regards from Wrocław

  4. Thank you for the link to this, Your Grace.

    May Our Lord bless you abundantly.

  5. Your Excellency, concerning "lex orandi, lex credendi", what do you think of paragraphs 46-48 of Mediator Dei? I have read that there the Venerable Pope Pius XII is condemning that phrase, but I have also seen the principle upheld by many people who have presumably read the encyclical and understood it better than I have. Non intellego.

  6. I may be wrong and bow to the experts, but in expressing a reservation about the phrase "lex orandi, lex credendi" Pope Pius XII rather "dots some i's and crosses some t's:
    "48. For this reason, whenever there was question of defining a truth revealed by God, the Sovereign Pontiff and the Councils in their recourse to the "theological sources," as they are called, have not seldom drawn many an argument from this sacred science of the liturgy. For an example in point, Our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, so argued when he proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Similarly during the discussion of a doubtful or controversial truth, the Church and the Holy Fathers have not failed to look to the age-old and age-honored sacred rites for enlightenment. Hence the well-known and venerable maxim, "Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" - let the rule for prayer determine the rule of belief.[45] The sacred liturgy, consequently, does not decide or determine independently and of itself what is of Catholic faith. More properly, since the liturgy is also a profession of eternal truths, and subject, as such, to the supreme teaching authority of the Church, it can supply proofs and testimony, quite clearly, of no little value, towards the determination of a particular point of Christian doctrine. But if one desires to differentiate and describe the relationship between faith and the sacred liturgy in absolute and general terms, it is perfectly correct to say, "Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi" - let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer. The same holds true for the other theological virtues also, "In . . . fide, spe, caritate continuato desiderio semper oramus" - we pray always, with constant yearning in faith, hope and charity.[46]"

    The Holy Father's phrase, let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer, must hold sway. The more popular phrase is to be understood in terms of his example drawn from the definition of the Immaculate Conception. This also helps to understand the reservations of the Orthodox world concerning the dogma of the Assumption. "Lex orandi" always and everywhere certainly, but the liturgical was not the sole basis for the definition and proclamation.

    I hope that helps. To be very gross, no matter how popular guitars, giant puppets, liturgical dance and even altars facing the congregation may become they cannot constitute a rule of faith redefine worship as a didactic exercise in song and praise and displace the primacy of the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. Pius XII would have found more sublime words to make his point. Sorry!


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