Friday, July 18, 2014

The Psychological Importance of Rubrics

Whenever we perform a liturgical action, our virtue is not in the details of the action itself but in our willing to be good servants who do only what they are supposed to do (cf. Luke 17:7-10). Hence the importance of each action is founded on the higher principle of conformity to God's will as expressed through the Church. Following the rubrics with precision is an act of loving service to God; to ignore the rubrics, or, even worse, to disobey them, is an act of pride by which we serve our own will, not God’s will. It doesn’t matter what we think about the rubrics; all that matters is that we surrender ourselves to carrying them out with loving precision. Carelessness walks the same path as disobedience, a path that takes one right into the service of the devil and his motto: "Do what thou wilt."

Each liturgical action is simultaneously a small action and a great action. It is a small action in itself, and our Lord has said regarding small things, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” (Lk. 16:10). The action is great because, as St. John of Damascus wrote, “A small thing is not small when it leads to something great; and it is no small matter to forsake the ancient tradition of the Church which was upheld by all those who were called before us, whose conduct we should observe, and whose faith we should imitate" (On Divine Images, § 1). That is, each action is great because it is sacramental and an expression of God’s grace at work in the liturgy.

Rubrics provide a necessary foundational form for the expression of praise. All expression requires some form of “repression”; that is, without boundaries, rules, and limits, anything goes. But the Church teaches us that love is not formless. Charity is oriented toward the Good; thus it must follow the will of God.

The Church prescribes rubrics to demonstrate how vital and important Her liturgy is to Her; it is so important that everything within it must be carefully directed. See the strong language that She uses:
Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop;
Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
When the rubrics are thoroughly learned and understood, then one no longer has to consciously think about them. One is then free to pray, to enter deeply into the Sacred Mysteries of the liturgy. This interior prayer, combined with the external form of the rubrics, is true liturgy.

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