Liturgy more than ritual – Talking through the experience

Join Joe Gayland, Tom O’Loughlin, James Siemens, Carmel Pilcher, Kevin McGinnell, Sophy Morley, Jo and Gerard Shepherd, Judith Courtney, Judy Foster and Jo Ayers in this edition of Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy as they talk through the COVID-19 experience and ask about the lessons various parishes and church communities may have learned.

They also hint at some of the practices that as people of faith the Church could embrace in this changing world.

Liturgy is more than a ritual

This edition of Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy focuses on the Eucharist as something more than a ritual.

The discussion talks people through the COVID-19 experience and asks about the lessons we may have learned and hints at some of the practices that as people of faith we could embrace in this changing world.

Join Professor Thomas O’Loughlin as he talks with Dr Joseph Grayland to consider:

  • Liturgy adapted for COVID-19
  • Go back or go forward
  • Opportunities
  • Local expressions of liturgy
  • Vatican’s liturgical leadership
  • Real worship
  • Acknowledging the presence of God in our humanity
  • Incarnational liturgy

Eucharist the celebration of a people panel discussion

Join Dr Carmel Pilcher, Dr James Siemens and Jo Ayers and Professor Thomas O’Loughlin for a panel discussion hosted by Dr Joseph Grayland.

Under discussion is Eucharist as the Celebration of a people, a people attached to a greater body and the tensions that exist between individual expressions of thanksgiving and the expressions of thanks a community may offer.

Eucharist the celebration of a people

Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy switches focus to the Eucharist as the Celebration of a people, a people attached to a greater body and the tensions that exist between individual expressions of thanksgiving and the expressions of thanks a community may offer.

Particular issues discussed include:

  • Culture and inculturation and responsibility for liturgical prayer
  • What does giving thanks look like? Are there opportunities for difference?
  • Are the elements of bread and wine merely cultural?
  • Theology of the presider, theology of the assembly.
  • Presiding at liturgy as a function of culture.
  • Individual authenticity; belonging to the community.
  • The tension of local vs group authenticity.

Can you send an apple by email? – Part 3

In part three of Let’s Talk Liturgy the conversation continues about whether we can send an apple by email.

In this conversation we consider liturgy in the light of COVID-19 and examine

  • Priests saying Mass alone and online!
  • Real liturgy and virtual liturgy and search for a distinction
  • We ask what do we keep, change and let go of?
  • Consider the difference between watching football on TV and watching liturgy on TV and ask if there’s any difference
  • Lastly, we consider positive ideas on how to spiritually nourish ourselves while not going to Church and celebrating the Eucharist.

Can you send an apple by email? – Part 2

In part two of Let’s Talk Liturgy the conversation centres around

  • Liturgy as a product
  • Preparing liturgy
  • Change in liturgical language
  • People reduced to consumers
  • Christ in the assembly
  • Liturgy of the hours and a world view
  • I vs We
  • What to do in the absence of communal liturgy
  • Small worship groups
  • Worship bedrocks

Can you send an apple by email?

The Catholic Church is selling “the Eucharist” and people short and is making a mistake by turning Mass into a YouTube experience.

The comments are from Thomas O’Loughlin, emeritus professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham and Director of Studia Traditionis Theologiae.

“There are some things Zoom and YouTube just won’t do because real experiences are whole human experiences,” O’Loughlin said.

“Can you send an apple by email?” he asked.

He says he will accept doing Mass online when people give up going out to dine with others and when people dine alone at home with pre-packaged food and say it is as rich an experience as it is eating and drinking with friends.

People wanting to have Mass on their TV or computer at home and priests supplying it sounds a warning about the real nature of the community, he said.

“Eucharist makes little sense without a community.”

Challenging the meeting, O’Loughlin posed the question as to whether the Church had stopped being a real community and is being reduced to religious ideology.

He sounded a warning that we may be reducing the Eucharist to just getting communion, almost makes it a commodity!

O’Loughlin said the Church has a wealth of spirituality it can call on during COVID-19 lockdown and questioned why we opted for the “summit” experience.

He says he agrees that Mass is the summit of Christian prayer but suggested perhaps the Church has forgotten the hinterland.

O’Loughlin said that the Liturgy of the Hours, shared prayer, Lectio Divina, prayer together and scripture study we just some of the examples from the Church’s spiritual tradition that respects the characteristics of the liturgy and that are easily adapted to a virtual environment.

“Why did we pick on something so physical such as eating and drinking?” O’Loughlin asked.

Spiritual Communion

Questioned on whether it was appropriate to use the readings of the day and make a “spiritual communion,” O’Loughlin sounded a stern warning.

He observed that spiritual communion came from the time when only priests received communion and was developed by the heretical Jansenists to a point were nuns were not seen as worthy of physically receiving communion.

Spiritual communion “is tied up with notions of unworthiness and impurity” and it is a part of a moral theology we left long ago, he said.

Flashes of Insight

O’Loughlin made the comments in an international conversation hosted by CathNews on Zoom and as part of its “Flashes of Insight” series produced in association with La-Croix International.

Host of the conversation, Dr Joseph Grayland, Director of Liturgy in the Palmerston North Diocese, New Zealand, says the idea for “Let’s Talk Liturgy” came about due to the disruption to worship brought about through the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Grayland says the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted laity and clergy alike.

“For many people, the online Mass, viewed from the living room was sufficient, they didn’t have to go out and it fulfilled the need for Sunday Mass.”

“The priests also liked doing this because it was readily identifiable as part of their mission”.

Labelling online video Mass as a form of clericalism, Grayland says there are real concerns around the passive, observer approach and the personal nature of the “priest’s Mass.”

Flashes of Insight – Let’s Talk Liturgy is, therefore, an opportunity for people to discuss and consider the nature of liturgy in an international context.

Over 80 people from the UK, Australia, the Pacific are involved in the conversation.

The second round of conversations continued last evening and at least one more round is planned.

So what’s the problem with a virtual Mass

One person recently said, the Virtual Mass was great. “We could lie in bed, go to Mass in London, Florence, Ireland and even Auckland. It would be great if we could keep it”.

Another said, “The first week I stood when I should, the second week I felt comfortable knitting and in the third week I live-paused Mass and went and made a cup of coffee”.

COVID-19 impacted just about every aspect of our living from feeding ourselves, going to the doctor, meeting with friends, work, student education and how we interact with services and businesses.

And as Catholics, it impacted our faith lives.

COVID-19 has filled many people full of the fear of infection and leaving some Catholics preferring the virtual to the real.

Unable to physically gather as communities, Catholics in New Zealand gathered “virtually” to foster their faith.

The suggestion has been repeated that the Church must change and the post-pandemic Catholic Church will be very different from the one that went into this global health crisis.

CathNews NZ along with La Croix International engaged with three liturgists from around the world, from secular and religious cultures.

  • Dr Carmel Pilcher lives in Suva, Fiji and teaches at the seminary.
  • Dr Joe Grayland is dean and parish priest of the cathedral in Palmerston North.
  • Professor Thomas O’Loughlin is professor of historical theology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

They began by answering the question: so what’s the problem with a virtual Mass anyway?