Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
When you study liturgy, one of the principles you learn is lex orandi, lex credendi. It means, literally, the discipline of praying is the discipline of believing. The way we pray reveals exactly what we believe.
It is a useful principle when looked at from both sides of the coin. We can learn so much about what we believe by the Tradition of rites and actions which forms the seamless expression of the Church’s worship throughout the ages. The texts, the gestures of the Mass are a catechesis in themselves. We learn by doing.
We can also intuitively know whether or not something we might be doing is appropriate by first considering the faith of the assembly and then discerning if what we do actually brings to visible experience the inner faith of the Church.
For example, if song is prayer, and prayer is always directed to God, applause praising the singer or choir is a confusion of purpose. Certainly, we appreciate the talents of those who lead liturgy, and there are times that
expressions of thanks are quite appropriate, but never in such a way as to confuse a performance for an audience with a prayer to God. Likewise, recently some commonly used songs in liturgy were suggested to be
not appropriate, because the texts directed the attention of those singing to themselves, rather than a prayer to God.
The way we come forward in the Communion procession probably says a lot more than you have ever considered. First, the one fluid movement of the people of God to the Eucharist evokes the image of God’s creation in one procession to the heavenly kingdom. We are united by one action, processing, in one voice in song, united in one gesture of receiving the Body of Christ, that which we become. It is the fulfillment of the consecration that began with the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts, transformed, broken and shared that we might be transformed and shared. We are consecrated as well. The Church welcomes all people to seek the faith that is prerequisite to Communion. The one Communion that we share is the outward sign of the one faith that we share. To not share that one faith and to join in Communion nonetheless would be a lie;
for this reason we do not practice intercommunion. Lex orandi, lex credendi.
Recently an usher very passionately told me, “You must tell people to stop seeking out only the priest for Communion!” What he was referring to was another example of an inconsistency between how we act sometimes and how we believe. Since we believe that Christ is truly present under the form of bread and wine, it does not matter who is the minister of Communion, as long as they are duly prepared and mandated for the ministry by Bishop Loverde. To refuse Communion from a Eucharistic Minister is to express a misunderstanding of the real Presence of Christ, which we cannot make of our own accord at all. At this moment we are all one.
Next time you are at Mass, consider the many gestures, postures, distractions, attentiveness, level of dress, even coming late or leaving early, and ask if these are really indicative of the lex credendi that is within
you! We have been given so much, and can do so much more with generous hearts and gratitude for what we have.
I’d like to offer a special thanks to Joan Doherty this weekend. Her endless attention to the plants in the church have yielded what I think might be a world record in the area of poinsettia longevity. Ash Wednesday is
late this year, and those flowers just keep on blooming.
Watch our calendar as we enter the Lenten season this week with Ash Wednesday. May the season of Lent be a time of deep conversion and strength for you. Join us as we gather for the rich prayer expression of our
Tradition over the coming weeks.
God bless you.