Context and Text Method in Liturgical Theology

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Title: Context and Text Method in Liturgical Theology Author: Kevin W. Irwin

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Despite Sacrosanctum Concilium and the twenty-five years' worth of scholarship that followed, much still needs to be said and discovered about the relationship between liturgy and theology.

This work is situated within the present debate over liturgical theology in at least three ways: it concerns methods for the study of liturgy, it explores the meanings that the term liturgical theology can have, and it contributes to the evaluation and critique of present and possible future forms of liturgical rites. In addition, it articulates how the study of liturgy is essentially pastoral theology in that liturgical rites shape the faith and life of believing participants.

The historical, theological, and pastoral investigation of the liturgy required by the constitution on the Sacred Liturgy forms the background and part of the rationale for this work. It is both a proposal for and an example of an investigation of the Church's liturgical praxis from aliturgical-theological perspective. What the reader gains is principles for interpreting the various aspects of liturgy (texts, symbols, ritual gestures) in relation to each other in a theological way and for articulating some theological and spiritual implications derived from liturgy.


Chapter 1 Historical Perspectives

  • The phrase ascribed to Prosper of Aquitaine ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi ("the law of prayer grounds the law of belief") has become something of a theme statement for many contemporary authors concerned with liturgical theology, often preferring original formulation to the shortened lex orandi, lex credendi ("the law of prayer [is] the law of belief").
  • The method here is historical
  • Precedents Preceding Prosper
  • Prosper of Aquitaine -
    • In the Indiculus, Prosper argues that the authority of the liturgy did not rest on a specified body of texts derived from the apostolic witness.13 h Here he simply indicates three things: (1) who should e prayed for, (2) what grace is needed for them, and (3) that theological weight is given to these prayers because the whole Church prays for these needs.
    • 14 Karl Federer maintains that the theological importance of the Good Friday intercessions referred to by Prosper derives from the fact that they are the Church's; chief evidence that the prayer for God's grace reflects the Churches belief that the needed grace comes from God.
    • He is referring to Good Friday intercessions
    • Hence Prosper's dictum ut legem credendi lex statuat supphcandi in its original setting means that the liturgy manifests the Church's faith
  • Patristic use of Liturgy for Theology
  • Medieval Relationship between Liturgy and Theology
    • The specific term liturgia was foreign to Aquinas' usage, largely because this Greek-inspired term had dropped out of common usage...
    • To the specific question of how Aquinas understood liturgy as a source for theology (admitting that the word "liturgy" is achronistic) it is clear that Aquinas regarded liturgy as one of the Church's auctoritates and not as a locus theologicus (this woulda mean a diminishment). Aquinas distinguished among three authorities: (1) the doctrine and the practice of the Church, (2) the apostolic tradition, i.e., the teaching of the Fathers transmitted in the Church's life, and (3) sacred Scripture. He understands the liturgy to be a major part of the first of these auctoritates along with councils and papal teachings. He argues that this is an appropriate understanding of the liturgy since in the liturgy the faith and life of the Church is manifested.
    • Aquinas gives particular attention to the "sacramental words" spoken by the priest at the core of the rite, most usually in connection with sacramental symbols such as water, bread and wine, etc. He sees these words as symbolic action or material element in use. It is in this way that he adopts the terminology of "matter" and "form" to describe the Augustinian contention that the element and the Word together comprise a sacrament.

Chapter 2 Method

Liturgy and Theology: Definitions and distinctions.

  • Liturgy is an act of theology, an act whereby the believing Church addresses God, enters into a dialogue with God, makes statements about its belief in God and symbolizes this belief through a variety of means including creation, words, manufactured objects, ritual gestures and actions.

Understandings of Liturgical Theology

  • Theology of Liturgy
  • Theological principles underpin this understanding of liturgy
    • Liturgy is essentially anamnetic, in the sense that it combines the past redemptive deeds of Jesus (obedient life, humiliation, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension) and draws on the contemporary Church into a unique and ever new experience of these redemptive deeds through the words and symbols of liturgy even as the church yearns for the redemption's eschatological fulfillment in the kingdom. )8 we can say that liturgy is commemorative of ihrist's redemption accomplished once for all in the past, demonstrative of Christ's redemption in the present and prognostic of the final consummation of redemption in the kingdom at the end of time. Liturgical anamnesis makes Christ's act redemptio present in order to enable the contemporary Church to experience here and now an event of grace predicated on Christ's once-for-all act of redemption.
    • Liturgy is epicletic in that it derives from and is dependent on the action and power of the Holy Spirit. it. In every act of liturgy it is the Holy Spirit who transforms faith communities through their liturgical experience of the paschal mystery.
    • Liturgy is essentially ecclesiological. It is always an act of the Church's self-understanding and self expression. All liturgy is accomplished by, with and in the church assembled in prayer.
  • Theology drawn from the Liturgy - concerns how the means of communication and interaction in the liturgy, especially the words and symbols, can be utilized as a generative source for developing systematic theology.
  • Examples of this include how the reformed rites image the very being of God (literally "theology", speech about God) how they describe the being and redemptive work of Christ (Christology, soteriology), how they describe the being and work of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology), and how they image the Church (ecclesiology) and how they describe and reflect on our need for grace (Christian anthropology) especially as grace is experienced and mediated through liturgy.
  • Method in Liturgical Theology
  • Contemporary emphasis as liturgy as an event sets the framework for the framework for a new method in liturgical theology.
  • Methodologically, our concern with the theology of liturgy will be to consider how to provide a theological interpretation of the constitutive elements of the liturgy - Word, symbol, euchology, liturgical arts - as these elements are experienced in relation to each other in liturgical celebration.
  • ... for an adequate liturgical theology one must examine the component parts of liturgical liturgical rites - texts, symbols, actions and gestures - both in relation to each other and also in light of the times and places where communities were engage in these rites..
  • To the extent possible, the focus of lex orendi, lex credendi concerns lex agendi as the most adequate theological locus, where lex agendi means the enacted rites as theological source.
  • The particular focus of our argument will argue that when context is understood to comprise the three aspects of historical evolution, reformed rites and contemporary critical function, then the context becomes the text in the sense of the primary source for developing liturgical theology.
  • ... the two foci of lex orandi and lex credendi yeald a third part of the equation: lex vivendi or life relation of the liturgy.
  • If the first part of our thesis concerning the theology of liturgy is context is text then the second part of our thesis is text shapes context.
  • ... the usefulness of of the phrase text shapes context in the sense that the theology of liturgy (text) necessarily shapes the theology and spirituality of those who participate in the liturgy (context).

Chapter 3: Word

Chapter 4: Symbol

Chapter 5 Euchology

Chapter 6: Liturgical Arts

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