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The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 1

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger asks the question, "What is liturgy?" and having asked it, he considers one possibility: the liturgy as play. There is a great freedom in children's play, he says, and this does capture something about how we properly relate to God. Owing largely to the gravity of the subject matter, he says this is insufficient as an explanation.

We should note, however, that when children take on play as a kind of anticipation of future life without its burdens and concerns, it comes the closest to what true liturgy is, and should be.

In order to answer the challenge, Ratzinger takes us back to the biblical texts surrounding the Exodus. Freedom of worship is insufficient, because God has commanded that the Israelites go out to serve him in the wilderness. He notes also that the idolatry which broke the covenant was a sort of well-intentioned impatience with the speed at which God was revealing Himself. All true liturgy is a response to what God has revealed. We cannot make up liturgy; any attempt to do it results in a kind of therapeutic self-worship.

There is of course a unique combination of worship, morality, and ethics in the Old Testament, and Ratzinger says that severing the links between any of them leads to tyranny, because the truth of who God is rightly orders every field of human endeavor.


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