Friday, August 1, 2008

Many Rites

Among Catholics, I have often heard voiced the opinion that, if things were as they should be, the Church would have only one Eucharistic liturgy, ever the same, always and everywhere. The one true Church, it seems to many, ought to have one true liturgy.

The Holy Spirit, apparently, had something else in mind.

A friend and I were recently discussing the variety of liturgies used by the Church throughout the world and which of these could be said to be closest to the original liturgy. A mutual friend is of the opinion that the Classical Roman Rite, (a.k.a. the Tridentine Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass, the “extraordinary form,” etc.) best preserves those traditions handed down to us from the apostles. Our Byzantine Catholic priest, on the other hand, is thoroughly convinced that it is the liturgies of the Byzantine tradition that most closely resemble those of the Apostolic Church. Neither of these opinions is provable or disprovable, though each is quite capable of stirring up a lot of anger and indignation from those who hold to the other. The purpose of such dispute, I imagine, is to settle the question once and for all of whose liturgy is the “best” and ought to be used always and everywhere.

Our conversation then moved to the original liturgy itself. I had supposed we were talking about the liturgies described by St. Justin Martyr (c. 160 A.D.) and the Didache (80 – 100 A.D.). My friend, on the other hand, was talking about the Last Supper as described in the Gospels. Even regarding what constitutes the original liturgy there is dispute.

Already in the first century we have two differing accounts of how the Eucharist is offered. The Didache (9: 1-5) instructs us to first give thanks for the cup and then for the bread. The Gospels describe Christ as first offering His body and then His blood (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:23-25). There is difference from the first.

I see a parallel between the gift of tongues and the many rites of the Church. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost, he gave to them the gift of "divers tongues" (Acts 2:4) In so doing, He lifted the curse of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). Just as the Holy Spirit did not remove the curse of Babel by restoring one language to all peoples, so He also did not give the Church one liturgy for all peoples. Rather, He gave the Apostles many tongues and through them established many liturgies. Just as there is one Spirit who gives the gift of many tongues, there is one Church who gives the gift of many liturgies.


Dusty M Brahlek said...

Though it is not suprising you aways find the most interesting things to post about. Then you have the best possible comments to support the idea.

I think I like the variety of ligurgies in the Church. They remind me that there are so very many ways of expressing love for God and thanking him for his gift to us.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dusty. I don't actually enjoy all liturgies though. The parallel to tongues is apt. While they make sense, they don't all make sense to me personally.

Anonymous said...

Mark 9:33-35
New International Version (NIV)
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Anonymous said...

The Church shouldn't worry about who was first nor should we worry about which rite is "better".We need to save our souls,concentrate on learning and living our faith on a daily basis,pray consistently,and allowing our actions to bring non-Catholic's into the fold.One Holy Catholic Apostolic church,with many rites.

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