Sunday, 17 February 2008

Liturgy and Devotions (or Lent and the Rosary)

A prospect in sight is that of a parish whose prayer/catechetical life is just Mass, two or three session Baptismal preparation programme for parents of infants, children's first Holy Communion programme and teenagers Confirmation programme. That is, a parish without a devotional life (eg Rosary group, Sunday afternoon Eucharistic Adoration, Holy Hours, youth groups etc) to accompany its Liturgical life (Mass and the celebration of the Sacraments). This prospect seems to me to have unhelpful consequences:

1. the effectiveness of sacramental preparation programmes is reduced if young people "dip in" to them and then "dip out" again - a vibrant devotional/catechetical life in a parish can provide a constant background of devotion and catechesis in which the sacramental preparation programmes fit as particular "moments"
2. pastoral needs (eg with regard to styles of prayer or music) that can legitimately be met using the freedom of devotional life are instead met in the only place in parish life that is available, namely, the Liturgy - and we find inserted into the Liturgy practises that have no place there
3. the celebration of the Liturgy itself will be less rich, because the formation towards its celebration that comes from devotional life is lacking.

Devotional/catechetical life needs to begin from the Liturgy and then lead back to its celebration. It might well be the case that the types of devotional/catechetical life needed in parishes today are not the same as those from the past. One of the risks, too, in the prospect of the "devotions-less parish" is that catechesis and devotion are separated in the consciousness of the parishioners - so sacramental preparation programmes suffer an absence of piety, and acts of piety lack a sound catechesis.

A good example of a sound relationship between Liturgy and devotions is the Rosary, and, during the first weeks of Lent, the Mysteries of Light. [The Joyful Mysteries reflect the Liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas, the Sorrowful Mysteries the season of Holy Week/Passiontide and the Glorious Mysteries the season of Easter.] The Baptism of the Lord is celebrated between Christmas and the start of Lent, and marks the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. The Wedding Feast at Cana looks forward to the "hour" of Jesus that will come at Calvary, and has a strongly Eucharistic significance. The Preaching of the Gospel and the call to Repentance is thorougly Lenten in its message. The story of the Transfiguration, with its forward glance to the day when the Son of Man has risen from the dead, is always the Gospel at Mass on the second Sunday of Lent. And the Institution of the Eucharist indicates the beginning of the "hour" for which Lent is our preparation, and the movement into the material of the Sorrowful Mysteries.

My favourite mysteries of the Rosary? You guessed it - the Mysteries of Light!

1 comment:

AutumnRose said...

The Rosary is a beautiful prayer! A decade said sowly and quietly in bed each night, as the last words on your lips, is the best way to end the day I find. Like falling asleep cradled in a Mother's arms.

Thanks for linking me, btw! I will return the favour :¬) I have got lazy with my links lately!

AR xx