Has the Church given a better option than watching live streamed Masses?
In the Church’s infinite wisdom she addresses this very issue in that same liturgy constitution, making it abundantly clear that celebrating a somewhat private liturgy where many of the baptized are not present and not entering into that highest level of participation possible is not a great option, “It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private” (27) and “Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the “sacrament of unity,”…Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church” (26). Watching Eucharist, live or not, does not achieve the goals and main objectives of liturgy set out in her constitution, the tradition of the Church and the very nature of Eucharist itself. Liturgy (particularly Eucharist/Mass) is not and cannot be a “spectator sport.” That term suggests a great metaphor that makes much sense given the theology of one’s physical presence at the celebration at the Eucharistic Table as mentioned before (it would be no different to say and believe you are physically playing the sport of basketball by watching a live game. That is obviously impossible). The same is true with the celebration of Eucharist. Looking at the big picture of our liturgical life, Eucharist is the “work of the the Church” where we do the work of “anamnesis,” a Greek word meaning to recall or recollect. Through the work of recalling, recollecting or remembering by movement, gesture, posture, touching and feeling, singing, smelling, eating, drinking, tasting, etc., we do this work of remembering the Paschal Mystery (the life, death, resurrection and promise of Christ to come again) and by doing this work we make Christ and that mystery of our faith truly present in this time in this place, in the here and now, in four real, true and active ways: in the Word, where Christ is truly present when scripture is proclaimed during liturgy, in the ordained priest, who is “in persona Christi” or in the person of Jesus Christ, the Christ-head, in the baptized congregation, which is Christ’s Body (as Christ tells us in the Word, “for when two or three are gathered in my name I am there”) and in the Eucharistic elements of Christ’s body and blood. We can’t even begin to participate in all these dimensions of this work of Eucharist and experience the true presence of Christ by simply “watching it” from our couch or computer chair, we must be present to do that work so much so that the actual physical gathering of us, the baptized, is one of the four ways Christ is truly present. It is also important to note that we are sent from the work of Eucharist directly into service. The Gospel writer John obviously got this, as his Table Story or Eucharistic Narrative is not that of the eating and the drinking like the other three synoptic Gospels, but rather Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. And so Eucharist is again such a full, multi-dimensional action, not simply an object (really a verb not a noun). One must be physically present to take part in all these dimensions of that action to come anywhere close to, “fully conscious and active participation” which yet again we must remember is the “aim to be considered before all else” by reason of our baptism!
What are the baptized to do on Sundays?
Sunday is “the Lord’s day” when we are obligated to celebrate Eucharist/Mass which is only half of our entire liturgical life as baptized Catholics. This other half, which is also celebrated all year (just like Mass), which sadly many Roman Catholics have never celebrated or may not even be aware of, is the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). The Divine Office is a set of liturgies to be celebrated throughout the day to sanctify (make holy) each “Hour” of each and every day. It includes “Lauds” (Morning Prayer), “Vespers” (Evening Prayer), “Compline” (Night Prayer), “Office of Vigils” and the other “minor hours.” Just like Eucharist (Mass), each liturgy of the Divine Office has a specific order of liturgy with texts, such as dialogues, Psalms, canticles, readings, intercessions, responses and prayers (all intended to be sung; more on that later) and each include an Office Hymn (any appropriate piece of plainchant or metrical hymnody may be chosen for any of the Hours). These orders of liturgy and texts are contained in the ritual book called the Breviary, just like the order, ordinary, proper, orations, prayers and blessings for Mass are contained in the Roman Missal. Once again the brilliant, way-ahead-of-its-time, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, addresses the Divine Office, “The divine office, because it is the public prayer of the Church, is a source of piety, and nourishment for personal prayer. And therefore priests and all others who take part in the divine office are earnestly exhorted in the Lord to attune their minds to their voices when praying it” (90). “When we celebrate the Divine Office, even if prayed alone, we join in the prayer of the whole Church, including Christ Himself, “Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise. For he continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office…By tradition going back to early Christian times, the divine office is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God. Therefore, when this wonderful song of praise is rightly performed by priests and others who are deputed for this purpose by the Church’s ordinance, or by the faithful praying together or with the priest in the approved form, then it is truly the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom; It is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father” (83-84). In other words, the Divine Office is more ancient than even the Mass. It should be an important part of the liturgical life of all the baptized all year since just as Mass is the “work of the Church,” the Divine Office is the “prayer of the Church.” It is perfect for the situation we are in now since we can’t truly partake in the work of Eucharist, we can still enter into full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy without leaving our homes, especially when using celebrateliturgynow.com (it is as if Liturgy of the Hours was instituted for situations just like this). Jesus too celebrated the Hours when he was on earth and continues to pray the Hours in heaven to the Father. So even if you are celebrating the Divine Office by yourself, you are not celebrating it alone, you are celebrating with Christ and his bridegroom, the Church, always making the Office a communal “sung canticle of divine praises” and thus liturgy, never private prayer or devotional prayer. One difference between the Divine Office and Mass is anyone (especially the baptized) can celebrate or even lead in celebrating the Divine Office, they need not be an ordained minister, but have gained that right by their own baptismal priesthood. All of us are baptized into a royal priesthood and we are all priests by reason of our baptism (there is of course a difference between the priesthood of the baptized and the ordained priesthood). Devotional prayer (such as Adoration and Benediction, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Stations of the Cross, etc.) are indeed treasures in the prayer lives of many Catholics, however, devotional prayer is not liturgy like Eucharist (Mass) or the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). The Church makes this abundantly clear in Sacrosanctum Concilium, “these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10) as it is in the liturgy that the “work of our redemption is accomplished,” making liturgy the source and summit of the entire life and work of the Church.
continue on to “Why Sung Liturgy? What’s the best resource to use?”