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Liturgy Matters

I found a couple of questions particularly interesting on ewtn.com.

Some calling himself "Deacon Al" asked why liturgy matters:

"... Why are so many Catholics so bogged down on the specific details of the liturgy, hold hands or not, position of the hands during prayer, standing vs. kneeling, on and on and on. It hurts me to read so much on the how much people are concerned about details and not about their faith. ..."

Here is my perspective.

A lot of the Christian faith is open to a lot of interpretations. There are not simple answers on whether one's priority should be to help a parent, the poor or a country. Its difficult to verify whether someone is following Christ from these choices.

But the instructions on liturgy, the rubrics, are very specific. Its easy to verify whether a priest and community are following the Church's instructions. For example they stand for the Gloria or they do not. They have an altar server, or they do not.

So in how people do the liturgy there is right and wrong, success and failure, following commandments or failing to. Every Sunday, every Catholic should be making choices about what they will do. They give us practical questions to consider.

Today people in the Church often tend to promote answers of "both ... and" not "either ... or". On many issues this can lead to a better understanding. But on pratical questions of liturgy this simply creates confusion.

The second question is the bishop's ring. "Steve B" wrote: "... The bishop removed his ring from his hand, placed it on the plate and remove his skull cap and placed that on the plate as well. ..." He had only seen one bishop do this.

Colin answered: "I have universally seen scull caps removed, but never rings. I don't have the Pontifical (Bishops) Missal, but judging from the lack of the practice anywhere it would not seem to be a rubric. ..."

In fact the Ceremonial of Bishops does talk about this rubric in n. 150: "One of the deacons may remove the bishop's ring." In the same way it talks about the skullcap, n. 153: "A deacon then removes the bishop's skullcap and hands it to a minister."

So Colin's answer is not consistent with the liturgical book. It would be wrong for the bishop to remove his own skullcap, because the instruction is that a deacon is to this.

Does it matter? Many would say "no". But to do so is to say truth, consistency and justice do not matter, in a particularly public way. Not many people will accept this.

By J.R. Lilburne, 7 January 2003. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

Deacon Al's question on rubrics

Question on Bishop's Ring