The role and function of liturgical documents in this dynamic: «As liturgy educates, so too the Christian community must educate itself for its liturgical ‘work'» (Groome, 1991, p. 339) Essay Example
Role of Liturgical Documents
Role of Liturgical Documents
Liturgical documents are resources which contain essential information, juridical norms, theological principles, pastoral letters, guidelines and instructions for proper celebrations during worship. These documents provide information which guides the Christian community through various options during worship and provide a model for them to strive towards and explain their gestures and movements (Singer-Towns, Claussen & Vanbrandwijk, 2008, p. 5). Consequently, these documents are highly used as planning resources for religious education, especially during training of pastoral work. But as Groome (1991, p. 339) argues, “As liturgy educates, so too the Christian community must educate itself for its liturgical ‘work’.” This implies that, in order to make pastoral practice more effective in today’s world, the study of liturgical documents is inevitable. However, in application of the knowledge gained from these documents to liturgical work, one must think critically about the nature and content of these documents. In this view, this essay critically examines the role and function of liturgical documents which are used as the planning resources for religious education, drawing from specific examples of liturgical documents.
Role of liturgical documents
Larson (1996) notes that liturgical documents largely contain liturgical principles as well as rules and regulations which are based on liturgical principles. These rules and regulations guide the behaviours of individuals in the Christian community. Thus, as Larson noted, liturgical documents provide a religious understanding about the rules or norms embedded in the liturgical principles, and which give their meaning. This defines their role and their importance as planning resources for religious education. There are numerous examples of such liturgical documents often used as planning resources for religious education. One good example of this is the Sacred Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963).This document contains a norm which entails that it is preferable that rites like the baptism of young children not to be taken as a private affair but be taken in a communal way (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963, p. 27). Precisely, the principle states that “Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations belonging to the church, which is the sacrament of unity, namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963, p. 27).
As such, this document enables persons studying religious education to understand the principle behind the rule (Marini, not dated).
Some liturgical documents provide basic orientation to liturgical principles to individuals engaging in religious studies. For example, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1969) provides guidelines regarding celebration of the Eucharist (Congregation for Divine Worship, not dated). One of the principles found in this document (nos. 20 and 21) is the guideline on the proper postures in the liturgy. Thus, it provides essential orientation of the various principles to the persons engaged in religious studies, which help them to understand the basic values that should be upheld by the Christian community. Another document often used as a planning resource for religious education is the Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (1978). This document contains principles and directives involved in the arrangements, building and renovation of churches (Stoik, 2011). Thus, it provides rich explanations of principles of controversial matters such as the location of the baptistery, the placement of the tabernacle, seating configuration, use of national flags and location of choir and musicians.
The Directory for Masses with Children (1973) is another valuable document used in Catholic schools and other education settings for persons involved in religious formation of children and young people (Congregation for Divine Worship, 1973). This document contains fundamental principles which guide celebrations of the Eucharist with children. The directory speaks a lot about abilities and capabilities of the child, adopting the liturgical rites to age, and encourages conscious, active and full participation of all children. Therefore, this document provides knowledge to teachers and catechists about planning children’s liturgies and thus, helps them to avoid foisting poor liturgy upon children.
TheMusic in Catholic Worship is a liturgical document that discusses the pastoral judgment which should be applied when choosing music. According to Alexander (1990, 14), sacramental celebrations are significant moments in the lives of Christians and also, they constitute events of a community’s life in Christ. The principle embodied in this document entails that “the music selected must express the prayer of those who celebrate, while at the same time guarding against the imposition of private meanings on public rites. Individual preference is not, of itself, a sufficient principle for the choice of music in the liturgy,” (Liturgical Music Today, 1982, p. 3). This implies that the selected music must provide a balance between community needs and liturgical and musical judgments. Therefore, theMusic in Catholic Worship provides the necessary religious knowledge to enable individuals involved in pastoral ministry to make informed judgment while choosing music. Some liturgical documents contain principles which provide guidelines for ministries that have a particular or specific focus. A good example is Pastoral Care of the Sick (1983) which provides valuable information to persons learning to minister the sick or shut-ins a society (Cooke & Macy, 2005, p. 42).
In general, liturgical documents are valuable planning resources for religious education. However, as mentioned earlier, there is need to think critically about their nature and also beyond the contents of these documents. According to Larson (1996), liturgical documents vary widely in their importance and legal status. Some are legally binding such as The Directory for Masses with Children and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.Other liturgical documents are not legally binding but they provide valuable perspectives. A good example of these is the Sacred Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which provides a guideline for liturgical reforms but which is not a legal text itself (Larson, 1996). But other documents especially the Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (EACW) (1978) have zero authority and according to the opinion of some scholars, they are of zero worth. The authors of this document have a definite agenda in the introductions. Larson explains that “the authors of this document are on the “progressive” end of the spectrum and in the introductions they “spin” the documents in favour of their agenda — for example, by calling inadequate attention to the fact that EACW has no authority whatsoever.” Therefore, in using the work as the planning resources for religious education, it is quite important to first think critically about the nature of document one is using.
In conclusion, liturgical documents provide essential information which leads the Christian community through various steps during worship and provide a model for them to strive towards and explain their gestures and movements. As such, they are very valuable planning resources for religious education. Generally, documents such as Sacred Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1969), Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (1978), The Directory for Masses with Children (1973), The Music in Catholic Worship and the Pastoral Care of the Sick (1983) contain liturgical principles which provide essential liturgical knowledge to persons involved in religious studies to make them effective in their liturgical work. However, as noted in the essay, it is quite important to think critically about the nature and the contents of such documents as one applies the knowledge gained from them in liturgical work. Thus, in this discussion, I support Groome’s (1991) argument that “as liturgy educates, so too the Christian community must educate itself for its liturgical ‘work’.”
Alexander (1990). “Stages in worship.” Creativity in worship
Congregation for Divine Worship (1973). “Directory for Masses with children.” Retrieved 28 August 2011, from http://www.adoremus.org/DMC-73.html
Congregation for Divine Worship (not dated), “Documents on «The General Instruction of the Roman Missal”” Retrieved 27 August 2011, from http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/GIRMALL.HTM
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963). “General principles for the: restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy.” Retrieved 27 August 2011, from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html
Cooke, B. & Macy, G. (2005). Christian Symbol and Ritual: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Groome, T. (1991). “Other functions of ministry.” Liturgy and preaching,
Larson, J. R. (1996). “Reading the Liturgical Documents.” Retrieved 28 August 2011, from http://www.rpinet.com/ml/2307read.html
Liturgical Music Today (1982). “Guidelines for the Catholic Church Liturgical Musician.” Washington, DC: USCCB. Retrieved 28 August 2011, from http://home.catholicweb.com/npmdayton/files/LITURGICALMUSICTODAY.pdf
Marini P. (2004). “The Fortieth Anniversary of the Constitution on the sacred liturgy.” Renouveau liturgique – Documents fondateurs, Retrieved 27 August 201, from http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2003/documents/ns_lit_doc_20031204_40-concilium_en.html
Singer-Towns, B., Claussen, J. & Vanbrandwijk, C. (2008). “The Catholic Faith Handbook
for Youth.” Saint Mary’s Press, Harrington. Retrieved 28 August 2011, from http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2003/documents/ns_lit_doc_20031204_40-concilium_en.html
Stoik, D. G. (2011). “The Institution for Sacred Architecture, vol. 2.” Institute for Sacred Architecture. Retrieved 27 August 2011, from http://www.sacredarchitecture.org/articles/vocatio_architecti/
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