Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Worthscripe" and "Leitourgia"

I was at an Extraordinary Form Mass recently, the Parish Priest had a preface on the service booklet saying the EF is "worship", the OF is "liturgy".

Worship literally means "worth-ship". Giving worth to something, from the Anglo-Saxon, "worthscripe".
It denotes an act of reverence or respect from an inferior to a superior. It is essentially about a movement "up".

Liturgy from the Greek λειτουργία (leitourgia) meaning a "public work".
Denote some corporate act we take part in. There is no sense of something "higher" or beyond. λειτουργία could exist apart from God. It is about "horizontalism", an act of community.

In part these distinctions actually do signify the difference between the two forms of the Roman Rite. Emphasising "λειτουργία", when speaking when speaking about the Ordinary Form tends to rob it of the vertical dimension, its God centredness.

Over the last year I have been celebrating the EF, rather strictly. Its one striking weakness seems to be [at low Mass] the lack of contact between nave and sanctuary, priest and people, the server is the horizontal dimension.

The weakness of the OF, is that it can easily be more or less all horizontal.

Words have meaning and form our thinking, maybe we need to re-examine the words we use.


Kris R said...

Hello Father Blake, Thank you for your "word study" - how interesting!

I've been reading your blog and watching (from America) ever since you wrote that you thought you were almost beginning to get interested in maybe some day looking into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (in what today is called the "EF.") I wanted so much to enthusiastically encourage you - but instead I just began praying for your interest.

And then you wrote that you were learning to celebrate the Mass and you were gathering proper objects and vestments...and then the day came that you were going to say your first Mass. I was here encouraging you.

And afterwards you wondered how the people thought of it, your back turned, silent prayers, etc., and I wanted to write to tell you it is all right, it is a good thing...

And now you say you wonder if there is a "lack of contact" between nave and sanctuary. I must write and tell you not only is there truly contact, but that there is a warm, loving, grateful connection between the people and their priest who is saying the Mass for them and for the world!

Of course, there are those who are uninstructed; but when one does learn what "assist at the Mass" actually means, there is a measure of joy in the thought that one can actually particpate and encourage and strengthen the endeavors of the priest - as he is saying the prayers of the Mass.

There is SO much for us to do "in the sanctuary" ! We take part interiorly in each section of the Mass, as it flows on. We can use some of the words of the prayers that you say, we can use our own words, or, best of all, we don't even have to use words, just contemplate what is going on at the altar.

The nicest part is when you say to us Dominus keep us "with you." I hope you have access to Dom Prosper Gueranger's wonderful set of The Liturgical Year. In there he writes such things as: "The priest then turns towards the people, and again salutes them, as it were to make sure of their pious attention to the sublime act..." Over and over again, although we are "spiritually connected" there are places where your words connect us too.

A well-instructed people have a lot to do during the Mass, and it all has to do with "assisting" - this is, I am sure, the "actuated, interior" participation which previous popes have written about and is made possible in the regular Mass, but it is made difficult in the newly-written liturgy, where we must interrupt our devotion and worship and take turns with people to say things back and forth.

Pardon the length...I could write a whole book!

Jacqueline Y. said...

Father, you've made a valid observation. Still, one of the attractions of the Catholic faith for me was the both/and factor, as opposed to the either/or mindset common in the Protestant world. It seems to me that we need to reclaim the harmony of the two dimensions, after so many decades of eclipse of the vertical dimension. I believe worship in Latin is "adoratio". Since you analyzed the term "leitourgia", I'm wondering what the Greek equivalent of adoratio would be, and what the Greek Fathers had to say about it. It's no doubt significant that Eastern Christians commonly use the term "Divine Liturgy".

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am not talking about paticipation here, as you then go on to describe but "contact", "intereaction" might be a better word and really at low Mass.

Jacqueline, I'm better at A-S than Greek subtlies. I am not sure "adoratio" corresponds exactly to "worthscripe", almost there. "Latria" or "dulia" are possibilities.

Adulio said...

It is hardly surprising that the Novus Ordo is horizontal in nearly all respects because that is what it's creators wanted it to be - to resemble Protestant services, which are also horizontal in worship.

Rich said...

There is really no problem I can find in using a word like "liturgy" (and especially not when attached to "sacred" or "divine" as in the "sacred liturgy" or "divine liturgy").

Shouldn't we understand this public work is sacred and centered on God? Isn't it the the work of the public prayer and worship of the Church?

In other words... is the problem really the word "liturgy" (which we see our Holy Father use too!) or is it that some people distort it?

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, nuts, Father. You know better.

Remind me again what the eastern rite Catholics call the Mass? "The Divine LITURGY" -- if you want to argue their services aren't "God centered" me luck.

The EF is great, but try not to get too fusty with some of their martinet shills!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Gem in the west we tend to use the word we tend to the word without the qualifying adjective. The DIVINE is important.

Bryan Dunne said...

St Luke uses the Greek word for Liturgy (leitourgia) in Chapter 1:23 when he speaks of Zacharias's priestly office to offer incense in the Temple (cf: Luke: 1:9).

Fr Peter Groody, said...

Dear Fr Blake,with regard to your latest article worship and liturgy, you say; 'Liturgy from the Greek λειτουργία (leitourgia) meaning a "public work".
Denote (sic)some corporate act we take part in. There is no sense of something "higher" or beyond. λειτουργία could exist apart from God. It is about "horizontalism", an act of community.'
I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on this one. If you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church you will find it defines a change in the meaning of the word 'Liturgy'from a 'public work' to 'In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in the "work of God"' and,quoting Sacrosanctum Concillium,'The Liturgy is then rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. . . . From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.' CCC 1069 & 1070. Which, to me, seems to beat 'worship' (from the definition you use) hands down!! As you say: 'words have meaning and form our thinking' perhaps we do need to re-examine the words we use, to make sure we are using them properly.
Fr Peter

GOR said...

I saw this on The Lair of the Catholic Cavemen blogsite:

The difference between a "leader" and a "presider"

When asked why the priest faces the altar during the Extraordinarory Form (i.e., the traditional Latin Mass), Father Gerard Saguto, FSSP, pastor of the new Latin Mass-only, Latin Mass all the time, parish is Seattle, replied:

"The same reason a bus driver faces the road and not the passengers: The priest is leading the congregation to the Mount of Calvary."

I like that!

Richard said...

"lack of contact between nave and sanctuary" in the Low Mass?

Don't worry Father, we're right behind you (in all senses of the term).

Just as we say about participation, contact doesn't have to be external to be there.

gemoftheocean said...

Fr., in's "important" but you really ought to consider it as you would "you understood" as the subject of a sentence. i.e. "Go!" stands as a complete sentence the "you" is understood.

Jacobi said...

I suspect Father, you are imagining things.

I am in an OF parish but attend the EF circa once a month. A growing barrier for me during the OF, is when priests direct their attention to the congregation, often with eye contact, most disconcertingly at the consecration, when they should be leading and directing us all to God. Although sincere in intent, such practice is truly a disturbing horizontal dimension.

Try attending an EF Mass, either Low Mass or sung, from the rear of the church, (if you ever have the time), and I suspect you will observe there is no barrier,but complete harmony with the servers, and only a vertical direction of worship, via the priest, to God.

Independent said...

"Horizontal" worship seems to me to have more to do with Swinburne's "Glory to man in the highest, for man is the master of things", and of the modern craving for "community" when society is ceasing to be a community, than it has with any difference between Catholic and Protestant.

I have attended Protestant services which were definitely God- centred , with kneeling, reverence. and sermons about God, and Catholic ones where the sermon was about "fair trade" and the high point of the mass was the kiss of peace.

The New Order was professedly based on primitive catholic models but its implementation was taken over by those who wished to bring it into line with the spirit of the age. Fortunately its deficiencies in implementation are being tackled by His Holiness.

Physiocrat said...

In the EF form, we the people are in the nave, praying the mass. You the priest are on the sanctuary doing the same thing, but by virtue of your ordination, through your action, God transforms the ordinary substances of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

You the priest, are leading the action and you, can be assured we the people are following.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr Peter,
There is always a problem when a word in common parliance needs clarification, and its plain meaning needs redefinition, better documents use "Sacred Liturgy" and we refer to it as such.

GOR et al
I draw a distinction between contact or interaction at High Mass and Low Mass. High Mass is and was normative.
Low Mass was always really designed as the priest and servers affair.

Jacqueline Y. said...

There's a new book just out by Jeffrey Pinyan called _Praying the Mass: the Prayers of the People_. It's intended as catechesis on the new English translation of the OF. On, you can view the table of contents, and the first few pages of the introduction. I think this book will do a lot of good. Haven't checked to see if it's also on though.

Peter said...

Dear Fr. Blake,

I agree with Fr. Groody, who admires the deep theological structure (!) of the word 'liturgy' (on the change in meaning see, e.g., Cath Encycl. website).

'Worship' - as a religious term - is by no means so ancient. It seems to me that, for much of its existence, it had as few theological associations as, for example, the word 'honour' (see OED).

Of course, the word 'worship' has theological usages, which it gained especially after its use in early Bible translations... But, no, its just not so - Roman.

George said...

Horizontal = flat, dull etc...

Fr Ray Blake said...

Language changes, apart from being used as a form of address to magistrates, worship now has an entirely religious meaning.

Gillian Pinnock said...

Cardinal Newman describes 'leitourgia' as 'a sacerdotal term' in his essay The Unique Dignity of Our Lady. (See Mary: The Life & Writings of John Henry Newman, ed Philip Boyce (Gracewing, 2001) p.237.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Fr Peter Groody is out of touch with reality if he thinks that the laity are going to cross reference and contextualize terms like 'liturgy' in the manner suggested.

It's this loss of reality that has defined the post-conciliar era. As a consequence the Church has become a staggeringly unattractive option at a time when (the sexual revolution apart) the collective opposition is overrated.

Fr Peter said...

If I may reply to Sadie Vacantist:
It really was no effort. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is available at a reasonable price. I looked up 'Liturgy' in the index and found paragraphs 1069 & 1070 which included the quote from 'Sacrosanctum Concillium'. I don't think I inferred that there was any cross referencing to do, though contextualising is on the agenda. If you look again you will see that I began with a quote from the original post, gave a quote from the Catechism, added one sentence of my own and ended by again quoting the original article. But, to go back to the words of Fr Ray: 'Words have meaning and form our thinking, maybe we need to re-examine the words we use.' To do that surely we need to know what the word means in its context, in this case, what does the Church mean by Liturgy. Otherwise we are simply left with subjective definitions of 'what liturgy means to me'. If there is to be any discussion of matters concerning the Church, in any area of its life, it is probably better to first find out what the Church actually thinks and says and take that as a starting point, rather than waste time trying to invent a common language from our own subjective or relativist views. I may, as you say, be out of touch with reality, but whose reality? Yours, mine or the Church's? And what do you or I mean by reality anyway?

PS you don't even have to buy the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is available free online at

Dicens said...

Romano Guardini endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger both wrote works entitled "The spirit of the Liturgy". Over 100 years earlier Abbot Prosper Gueranger wrote "The Liturgical Year". Were they misguided in their use of Liturgy and Liturgical?
The lack of theological underpinning in writing about worship/liturgy today is the cause of ever more confusion.

Physiocrat said...

This is the trouble with using too many words from classical languages in a Germanic language. It weakens the directness of the Germanic and the meanings can get mixed up.

It would be a good thing if, when writing English, people made a point of using words that came from the Anglo-Saxon when possible, rather than the Latin or Greek ones.

The place for Latin is in church services.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Fr Groody

"And what do you or I mean by reality anyway?"

I recognise this context as Our Lord was asked a similar question.

The Church has become a staggeringly unattractive option and run by priests of a certain generation who are too proud to admit that the plot has been lost. I am not alone in thinking this as your emeritus bishop recently arrived at the same conclusion.

Peter said...

But, Henry, the Anglo-Saxon word is the imprecise one here (think of 'Sunday worship', 'worship song', 'place of worship', 'worship the ground under her feet', 'worshipful company', etc).

To some it may sound pedantic to draw attention to words. I don't think it is, provided that we can see beyond them, to the wider picture. Some of the most exciting theories begin with fine semantic distinctions, for example, Max Weber's famous study of Protestantism and capitalism begins with an analysis of the word 'calling' in Luther.

I realise this chain is losing its focus... To get back to the Preface to the EF which began the discussion, my own feeling is that the general point the author was seeking to make was true. But there are two problems with the method he chose: (1) it does not compare like with like, and (2) it seems to put the word 'liturgy' in a less favourable light.

Sadie Vacantist said...

"I realise this chain is losing its focus"

You can say that again. As soon as a pedantic apologist for modernism speaks, yawns soon follow. Chesterton summed it up:

"The real objection to modernism is simply that it is a form of snobbishness".

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