Jan 16, 2020

What is a “liturgical spirituality”?

In 2003, on the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pope St. John Paul II asked that “a ‘liturgical spirituality’ be developed that makes people conscious that Christ is the first ‘liturgist’ who never ceases to act in the Church and in the world through the Paschal Mystery continuously celebrated, and who associates the Church with himself, in praise of the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit” (Spiritus et Sponsa, 16).

“Spirituality” generally denotes man’s pursuit of God. Motivated by our natural unease with life’s questions—Where did I come from? Why do I suffer? What must I do to be happy? Why must I die?—as well as God’s revelation to us, spirituality seeks God through prayer, sacraments, contemplation, learning, and action. Different “schools” of Christian spirituality have emerged in the Church’s life that emphasize particular paths or aspects of man’s common journey to the one God. Ignatian spirituality, for example, features the daily examen (a prayerful reflection seeking to discern God’s will in one’s life at the end of every day) and a 30-day retreat, and encourages imaginative meditation. Benedictine spirituality lives in community, employs ora et labora (prayer and work), lectio divina (divine reading), and the Divine Office. Opus Dei’s spirituality finds sanctification in the world and workplace, and accounts for the charisms of both clergy and laity. There is one path to God through Christ; but there are different manners by which Christ leads us on this road—spiritualities—which respond to the circumstances, temperaments, and needs of smaller groups and individuals.

But common to each spirituality is the “liturgical spirituality” named by the Holy Father. What are its features? As he says, a liturgical spirituality sees Jesus as the primary liturgist: Christ is the liturgy’s principal actor. Second, his principal action in the liturgy is his Paschal Mystery: his suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. Third, liturgical spirituality is entirely ecclesial, an action of both the individual cells and the single Body. Fourth, a liturgical spirituality spills over into the world and seeks its divinization and transformation. Finally, such sacred spirituality is animated by the great Animator, the Holy Spirit, and directed along with Christ to praise, adoration, and worship of God the Father.

Every baptized Catholic, whatever his or her particular spiritual inclinations, requires a liturgical spirituality.

If you would like to learn more about cultivating a liturgical spirituality, consider joining Father Joseph Fessio, founder of Ignatius Press; Dr. Anthony Lilles, Academic Dean of St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, CA; and Adoremus Editor, Christopher Carstens at Adoremus at the Triduum: A Conference on the Spirituality of the Triduum Liturgies, March 14, 2020, in Covina, CA. More information, along with registration details, is available at www.virginmostpowerfulradio.org/adoremus-conference/.

—The Editors


The Editors