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  • The Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church ed. by Alcuin Reid
  • Michael Wahl
Alcuin Reid, ed.
The Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2014
446pages. Paperback. $18.95.

Many conferences attempt to combine academic rigor with pastoral application, but few succeed in doing so in a way that does not result in either an impractical and esoteric reflection or a neglect of theory in favor of praxis. This volume, however, succeeds in bringing together and sustaining in conversation matters both practical and theoretical. The Sacred Liturgy contains the opening and concluding remarks, academic presentations, and homilies from the International Conference on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacra Liturgia, held at the Pontifical University Santa Croce, Rome in June 2013. Bringing together both scholars and practitioners who identify with the “reform of the reform” movement, the volume contains some twenty-one essays on topics ranging from the ars celebrandi to the early Christian altar and from the role of the local bishop in regulating the liturgy to the role of the internet in shaping the future of sacred music.

Taking as its inspiration the idea of the liturgy as the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission as expressed in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the volume focuses precisely on the ways that attention to liturgical renewal is both the necessary precondition for and the inevitable cause of the Church’s evangelical activity. In the preface, Alcuin Reid writes that “Sacra Liturgia 2013 was concerned from the outset to consider the liturgy, liturgical formation, and celebration ‘as the point of departure for the New Evangelisation’” (11). Although there is a perennial temptation to instrumentalize the liturgy for the sake of either missionary goals or advancing particular social or political ends, the authors in this volume refuse to view the liturgy as a means to further ends even as they affirm its intrinsic link to the Church’s mission of evangelization. To address each essay in the volume would be beyond the scope of this review, but three of them are particularly worthy of attention and offer a sense of the collection as a whole.

Jean-Charles Nault’s essay on the liturgy as the foundation of monastic and religious life highlights the importance of liturgical mystagogy. He suggests that just as the process of incorporation into the monastic community is gradual and entails increasing [End Page 226] conformity to the paschal mystery, so too the life of all the baptized. Although Baptism and Confirmation insert Christians into the Paschal Mystery, he contends that it “remains for this transformation to become a living reality as it bears fruit throughout our Christian life,” and it is the Eucharist that enables this spiritual and ontological transformation (157). Moreover, Nault posits that the liturgy entails a formation in “perseverance and dependence” inasmuch as it teaches the faithful that the liturgy is something that is received as a gift and that the effects of that gift unfold gradually over time (158). Liturgical formation, Nault suggests, renders Christians more docile to receiving grace as a gift and thus being moved to share that gift all the more willingly with others.

Alcuin Reid’s discussion of Sacrosanctum Concilium in relation to liturgical formation posits a broader and more penetrating vision of the conciliar reforms than merely suggesting external changes to Christian worship. Reid proposes that the key to understanding the constitution and its call to actuosa participatio is its desire that the faithful be “thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy” (SC 14). Reid suggests that liturgical formation which is suitable for cultivating active participation requires not merely treating the liturgy “as a discourse” by studying its texts but rather by understanding it as a “sensual, ritual experience, involving our mind, body and spirit” (232). He contends that this approach begins with the liturgical formation of the clergy who, by improving their ars celebrandi, will encourage the lay faithful to immerse themselves more fully in the liturgy.

The essay by Nicola Bux ties the theme of liturgical formation explicitly to the Church’s mission of...


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