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Outline of The Spirit of the Liturgy

Updated: May 29, 2021

By Luke Lancaster

Israel’s liturgy

-Moses asks Pharaoh to be able to go into the wilderness and worship God

-Mount Sinai God reveals how he wants to be worshipped

-Sacrifice is the center of the worship

-Sacrifice has to do with self-gift, surrender to God, atonement, divinization, etc.

-Sacrifice has to do with representation

-Abraham sacrificed a male lamb instead of his son

-Israel sacrificed a male lamb instead of their first-born sons

-This all ties in with the future “Lamb of God” Jesus

Christian liturgy

-Heaven comes down to earth

-The center of the liturgy is what Jesus said and did at His last supper

-Actions have to be based on something to have meaning

-Christ’s death is both once for all, and everlasting.

-The liturgy is a representation of Christ’s death

-The Eucharistic prayer came from the sacrificial actions of the Temple

-Church buildings and liturgy looks like Jewish services

-Synagogues have a seat of Moses that signifies that God is speaking

-Christian churches have a seat for the bishop

-Synagogues have a shrine for the Torah

-Early Christianity had a shrine for the Gospels and the congregation would

surround it when listening to the reading. That was the liturgy of the word

-Temple had an altar

-Early Christianity had an altar which the congregation would surround and

celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist

-The rabbi with his people would direct themselves towards the Ark of the Covenant in

-Jerusalem during the synagogue service

-Christian churches look towards the east where the sun rises

-That signified Christ and His second coming that they awaited

-Shows that the cosmos are involved with the liturgy

-Looking to the east is said to be an apostolic tradition

Practicalities for the liturgy today

-Priest facing the people or away from the people

-After Vatican II it was agreed upon by most of the Church that the priest should face

the people

-It was said it would increase the community feel

-It was said it was what the apostles did during the last supper

-The priest should not face the people

-There is no point in looking at the priest, for he is unimportant

-The people should face the east together, and that increases community as they

are united as one waiting for the return of the Lord

-The apostles were all on one side with Jesus on a horseshoe type of table

-If it is not possible to face the east, then face a crucifix

-The tabernacle developed in the second millennium, but it is a good development

-Importance of time in liturgy

-Time is a cosmic reality

-For example, the earth rotates around the sun, and that is how we get a year

-In Christian liturgy, by facing east, it points towards the end of time

-Cosmos and history are united, along with Old and New Testaments

-Passover is on the date of the constellation of stars called Aries, which is a lamb

-Easter falls on this date as well, so the Old Testament parallels with the New, and

both Testaments parallel with the cosmos

-That is all true for the northern hemisphere, but for the southern hemisphere,

Easter falls in autumn, which is around the Day of Atonement

-Easter is the first Sunday of the new moon, symbolizing new life like Christ’s

-Christmas was celebrated on December 25th, and that is when the days lengthen,

symbolizing God’s entrance into the world through Jesus

-John the Baptist is considered to have been conceived on June 24th, which is the

summer solstice where days shorten. That is similar to the fulfillment of his

words that Jesus must increase, and that he must decrease

-Importance of images in the liturgy

-Ancient synagogues had scenes from Scripture

-Christians adopted that into their Churches by taking images from Scripture and tying

them into the Sacraments

-Acheiropoietos were cloths that claimed to have Christ’s face, and it became like a

Sacrament to Christians

-Icons are to show not the exterior of Christ but lead to a deeper vision of the spiritual, to

lead to prayer and mystery

-History of images

-13th century in the west the image changed from mysterious to devotional. Instead of

a Sacrament, it described an event, unlike the east

-Some image categories throughout history are: gothic, renaissance, and baroque

-In our own modern age, the big questions of life are ignored and empiricism is all that

matters, sacred art is dead

-Sacred art is essential for worship and should be made about salvation history between the

first day and the eighth

-Sacred Music

-Speaking is not enough when seeing God

-Moses and the Israelites sang after being delivered from the Egyptians through the Red

Sea, and that song of Moses is sung at the Easter Vigil Mass.

-Psalms are a glimpse into Israel’s liturgical music and covers all human emotions towards

God such as fear, trust, etc.

-Like a synagogue, only vocal singling without instruments were used in the Church’s


-In the late Middle Ages, instruments started to come back, for the liturgy is like both

synagogue and temple

-Problems came for the liturgy started to blend with secular music

-Council of Trent intervened, but after that it happened again, and Pius X made

Gregorian chant and polyphony the norm for music

-Sacred music should be based on Scripture and love of God, uniting the spirit and the


-The order and rhythm of the cosmos is like music

History of liturgies

-Rome, Alexandria, Byzantium, Antioch

-From Antioch: West Syrian rites, founded by the apostle James

-From Alexandria: Coptic and Armenian rites, Armenian founded by Bartholomew and


-From Byzantium: the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

-From the west: Roman liturgy, Gallican liturgy, and Latin liturgy in Africa

Liturgical norms

-The laity should participate actively in the liturgy

-That doesn’t mean as many exterior actions as possible though, but that everyone has a part

to play

-Talking to God is what matters

-God comes to us, and we unite to Him

-Gestures: The sign of the Cross

-Christ has been crucified for us and we boldly proclaim it.

-The Cross is the way to life.

-Holy water is used and it reaffirms our baptismal call

-Jewish grave sites had the sign of the cross on them in the early centuries.

-In Ezekiel, he speaks of a sign being on people’s foreheads

-Jews wore that sign as a representation of all their beliefs.

-The Cross is written in the Heavens

-Prostrating or kneeling on the ground

-Joshua threw himself to the ground before God

-That was due to the overwhelming presence of God

-Christ kneeled on the ground in prayer to God

-Worship cannot just be spiritual but must take bodily form

-Standing and sitting

-Standing is a posture of prayer, such as Hannah did in the Old Testament

-Standing anticipates the future coming of Christ

-Sitting has to do with recollection

-Dancing, applause, and outstretched hands

-Dancing and applause is not appropriate, for that has to do with entertainment

-Liturgy is about God

-A cultural religious dance is acceptable after the liturgy however

-Arms extended in prayer is a posture that symbolizes love of neighbor and imitates the


-Bowing, striking the breast, silence, vestments, and matter

-Bowing signifies our unworthiness and fallen human nature

-Striking the breast indicates that we have sinned, like the tax collector

-Silence is vital, such as after Communion, for it allows an inward dialogue with Christ

-Vestments for the priest have to show that he stands in the Person of Christ

-Matter is a part of the liturgy such as altar cloths, candles, etc.

-Matter is in the sacraments, such as hands in Holy Orders, oil for Confirmation, and others

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