Are we praying liturgically? ***updated

Fr Z has a piece which seems to argue that anyone who is not a cleric (ie a priest or deacon) - even if they are a religious - is not praying the Office liturgically.  And indeed, he seems to suggest, doesn't 'do' or perform liturgy when at the mass or anywhere else.

This is an issue that regularly comes up, so it is worth setting out the actual situation.

In my view it is absolutely clear cut that nuns, lay brothers and sisters pray the Office liturgically and always have! 

And laypeople can indeed perform liturgy, whether leading approved services in the absence of a priest, when baptising or when saying the Office. 

After all, when we 'assist at mass' (ie attend) we are indeed participating liturgically within our proper sphere of action.

The Catechism

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“1174 The mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the Eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, “the divine office.” This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to “pray constantly,” is “so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God.” In this “public prayer of the Church,” the faithful (clergy, religious, and lay people) exercise the royal priesthood of the baptized. Celebrated in “the form approved” by the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours “is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father.

1175 The Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God. In it Christ himself “continues his priestly work through his Church.” His members participate according to their own place in the Church and the circumstances of their lives: priests devoted to the pastoral ministry, because they are called to remain diligent in prayer and the service of the word; religious, by the charism of their consecrated lives; all the faithful as much as possible: “Pastors of souls should see to it that the principal hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and on the more solemn feasts. The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.”

It is worth though, looking briefly at what lies behind the Catechism's statements.

What is liturgy

Anyone wishing to understand what is and isn't liturgy, and just why the Church regulates it, should go immediately and read Pius XII's Mediator Dei.

Most of the time of course it is crystal clear what is liturgy and what isn't - because it takes place in a Church, led by a priest, following set forms approved by the Church.

But there are cases where the distinction is not always clear, and the Office in particular has been a somewhat blurred line from the time that private recitation of the Office was permitted for priests in the middle ages.  A wide variety of Offices have sprung up with varying degrees of formal approval.  And the situation is further complicated by the fact that just who the Church has formally delegated to say the Office has changed over history.

Let me make a few key points to help clarify the situation.

Church law on liturgy

The Code of Canon Law (cl 834.1) defines liturgy as "the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ" which brings a complete worship "offered to God by the head and members of the mystical body of Christ." Canon 835 sets out the hierarchy of the sanctifying office of the Church, carried out in a special way through the liturgy, starting with bishops, then covering priests, deacons, and "the other members of Christs faithful...each in his or her own way actively sharing in liturgical celebrations..."

The inclusion of the "members of the mystical body" makes it clear that we are talking here about the priesthood of all the faithful, not just the ordained priesthood.  This is confirmed by Canon 835&6, which explains that Christian worship is exercised by the common priesthood of the faithful.

The sub-paragraph 2 of cl 834 makes it even clearer: "This worship takes place when it is offered in the name of the Church, by persons lawfully deputed and through actions approved by ecclesiastical authority."

That laypeople can be so deputed (subject of course to other theological constraints such as on sacraments requiring ordained clergy to confect them) is confirmed by Cl 230.3 ("Where the needs of the Church require and ministers are not available, lay people can...preside over liturgical prayers...").

So what makes liturgy liturgy is not who says it, but whether or not the Church has deputed them to say it, and whether or not they follow the forms approved by the Church.

So who is deputed by the Church to say the Office?

With the Council of Trent a distinction arose between saying the Office liturgically and devotionally (that hadn't previously been articulated and) that stayed in place until Vatican II.  Between Trent and Vatican II it is reasonably clear that the Church delegated the saying of the Office liturgically to religious (including communities of women alone) and priests.  The laity participated when they attended an official celebration of the Office, but were only saying the Office 'devotionally' if they said it privately, whether alone or in a group.

Vatican II changed that.  In the documents of the Council itself (see for example SC 83-100), and more particularly in a series of subsequent liturgical laws, it effectively abolished the idea of liturgical/devotional distinction based on who was saying the Office by delegating all of Christ's faithful to say it.

The ideal situation of course is to attend the Office at a monastery or Church under the leadership of clerics or religious.

But where this is not possible or practical, as the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours points out, "Lay groups gathering for prayer, apostolic work, or any other reason are encouraged to fulfill the Church’s duty, by celebrating part of the liturgy of the hours." 

Canon 1174 says much the same thing more plainly.  First it reaffirms the primary delegation, which is based on who is obliged to say the Office (viz religious and priests), not clerical status.  But in the next sub-paragraph it invites all of Christ's faithful to take part in the liturgy of the hours.

In short there is no requirement that a priest or deacon be present in order to make something 'liturgy'.

And the laity are indeed duly deputed to say the Office as part of the official prayer of the Church.

Approved actions

There is however a second necessary component to something being liturgy, viz whether the forms used are approved by the Church.

There are many people who opt for a devotional Office either in order to say an older version of the Office or in order to adopt their own personal preferences as to which parts of it they like.  The former practice, though in my view undesirable, I think can be justified on the basis that what was once approved is unlikely to be dangerous.  I have severe doubts about the latter approach though, in view of Pope Pius XII's warnings on this subject:

"The Church has further used her right of control over liturgical observance to protect the purity of divine worship against abuse from dangerous and imprudent innovations introduced by private individuals and particular churches. Thus it came about -- during the 16th century, when usages and customs of this sort had become increasingly prevalent and exaggerated, and when private initiative in matters liturgical threatened to compromise the integrity of faith and devotion, to the great advantage of heretics and further spread of their errors -- that in the year 1588, Our predecessor Sixtus V of immortal memory established the Sacred Congregation of Rites, charged with the defense of the legitimate rites of the Church and with the prohibition of any spurious innovation.[48]"

The Benedictine Office according to the 1962 rubrics clearly has been approved for liturgical use, at least in Latin, as confirmed by the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.

By contrast, a number of modern Offices, such as the Benedictine Daily Prayer, are explicitly devotional, not liturgical.

Does it really matter whether or not it is liturgical prayer?

Mediator Dei says yes: "Unquestionably, liturgical prayer, being the public supplication of the illustrious Spouse of Jesus Christ, is superior in excellence to private prayers."

Pope Pius XII goes on to say however that "But this superior worth does not at all imply contrast or incompatibility between these two kinds of prayer. For both merge harmoniously in the single spirit which animates them, "Christ is all and in all."[38] Both tend to the same objective: until Christ be formed in us.[39]"

You may also be interested in reading my related post on the liturgical status of the 1962 Office.

16 comments:

benedict said...

Very many thanks for this very informative post.

I hope you do not mind if I copy the article so I have it to hand should this question ever crop up in future.

Terra said...

Glad if it was helpful.

Terra said...

Note that I've updated this today with a few extra references.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Out of curiosity, what makes the 1963 monastic breviary still liturgicaly approved? It is because it has not been superseded yet?
Or does it have the same status as the 1961 Breviarium Romanum?

T.I.A.

Terra said...

TIA - Well a bit of both really (though I'd rely more on the latter point than the former).

1. The 1963 calendar and rubrics for the monastic breviary are the equivalent of the Roman breviary used by traditionalist priests, and covered by explicit Ecclesia Dei permissions, and, as for other religious orders liturgies, approved by implication by Summorum Pontificum.

2. The Benedictine Confederations liturgical options approved in 1977 (Thesaurus Liturgiae) provided the option of retaining the traditional ordering of the psalms set out in the Benedictine Rule. The expectation was that this would be in the context of the new calendar, but liturgical books to match this expectation have only become available in the last few years. So while several monasteries have attempted to use (with lesser and greater degrees of awkwardness and loose leaf pages) the older books and rubrics with the newer calendar, others just kept using the older books in full pending the new ones coming out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Daria Sockey said...

Hi,
I hope it's okay to comment on an old post. I keep this one bookmarked because it has all the references I need when the question, "can laity pray the LOTH liturgically?" comes up on my own blog, Coffee&Canticles.I have a new question that I have yet to receive a definitive answer for:when one is alone, does the LOTH/DO have to be prayed vocally (out loud or at least whipering) in order for it to be a valid liturgical act? I have hear many people express their opinion on this question, but have never seen any evidence from church documents or other authoritative source. Any thoughts?


Kate Edwards said...

Thanks Daria, yes comments on old posts always welcome!

The idea derives I think from the fact that the Office was originally always sung. When permission was given for it to be said privately, the requirement became to at least mouth the words (form your lips into the shape), and lots of pre-Vatican II discussions of the Office mention that.

But I haven't found any rubric to that effect, and it certainly isn't contained in the instructions on the LOTH so I don't think it is formally required.

Daria Sockey said...

That was my understanding, but yesterday, my husband--away on business--called me to say that a priest in the Buffalo, New York, diocese told him that their bishop had said that priests are required to at least mouth the words, just as they would be when saying mass privately. This really startled me, since I've been going on merrily for years praying the office interiorly except on the days I feel moved to chant it, or when my husband is home, in which case we do it out loud. I mean, see the logic of it, but since the GILH says nothing on this topic, I'm wondering if a bishop can make such a rule just for his diocese. OR maybe the GILH says nothing about it because it is assumed everyone (clerical and religious) knows this already. I'm in the middle of writing a book called The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the LOTH, so I really have to get to the bottom of this, cuz' if its true, I ought to mention it in the book. I'll probably have to start asking more priests and religious about this.

Tradne4163 said...

If the day happens to be a feria, would it still be considered liturgical if I were to replace the feria office with a common to honor a saint from the Martyrology for that day (similar to a priest offering a votive Mass for a Saint)?

Kate Edwards said...

No - sadly there is no such thing as a votive Office. But can certainly be done as a devotion.

david said...

Hi
Thank you for this article. I honestly was not aware of the difference between liturgical and devotional participation in the LOTH. I'm a lay person and have produced a daily Morning Prayer videos on YouTube for over two years. One version is a faithful narration of Morning Prayer from the single volume Christian Prayer. One is an abbreviated version. I'm certain the abbreviated version falls into the devotional category, but I'm not sure about the longer version. My question is: how would I know for sure if the longer version is devotional or could even be considered liturgical? YouTube channel 'penitentis'. God bless.
David Rollins

Kate Edwards said...

David - I'm not familiar with 'Christian Prayer'. The answer, I suspect lies with whether or not it has official approval for liturgical use, and there should be something in the title pages to indicate whether or not this is the case.

david said...

Kate, thanks for your quick reply. Yes, the single volume 'Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours' is approved for use in the Dioceses of the USA by the USCCB and confirmed by the Apostolic See. Is that what you mean?

Kate Edwards said...

Sounds like it is approved for liturgical use then. But maybe you could confirm with the USCCB? My opinions after all are just that, and have no canonical weight whatsoever!

david said...

Understand. Thanks for a very insightful article Kate. I'm inspired to investigate further and your piece has provided the springboard.