The Liturgy Forum


Throughout the years of the Liturgical Movement, as well as at the outset of the Second Vatican Councilís reform of the liturgy, it appeared to many as if striving for the correct liturgical form were a purely pragmatic matter, a search for the form of worship most accessible to the people of our time. Since then it has become increasingly clear that liturgy involves our understanding of God and the world and our relationship to Christ, the Church, and ourselves. How we attend to liturgy determines the fate of the faith and the Church. For this reason liturgical matters have acquired an importance today that we were unable to envision before.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, A New Song to the Lord (1997)


More than thirty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, which initiated a process of wide-ranging liturgical reform, Catholics are increasingly divided about the way forward for the liturgical movement in the Catholic Church. Many express dissatisfaction at the low level so far achieved by the liturgical "renewal" that was launched with such high hopes more than three decades ago.

Liturgy is at the heart of Christian life. It is the source and summit of Christian culture. Liturgical worship is the locus where faith meets culture, where God reaches out to touch the heart of man. Scriptural exegesis and theology, social teaching, Christian art, architecture and cosmology - every aspect of a Christian civilization finds its inspiration and strength in the liturgy. The crisis in liturgy is therefore no marginal matter, but of central and abiding concern to Catholics in every walk of life.

In order to begin to understand the roots of the crisis, the Centre for Faith & Culture organized in 1996 a conference on liturgy and culture, some of the papers from which have since appeared as a book from T&T Clark (Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement). At the end of the Conference, the Centre convened a Liturgy Forum to reflect on the papers and the discussion that had preceeded it. The Forum issued a statement, known as the "Oxford Declaration", that received wide publicity and was published as an Appendix to the book of the Conference.

The Declaration received widespread and enthusiastic support, but also some criticism for being potentially "divisive" - despite the fact that the Declaration itself called for unity in charity. A period of serious reflection ensued. Should the Centre engage further in this hotly contested area, so close to the hearts of so many Catholics representing widely - and often violently - differing views? Could the Centre really contribute anything worthwhile to this important debate?

We do not want to "set loose the dogs of war" by inventing yet another pressure group. We do, however, want to help raise the level of debate, and that we intend to do partly on our web-site and partly here in the pages of Second Spring. Meanwhile, the Guild of Our Lady and St Luke (see elsewhere in these pages) exists partly to foster the development of liturgical art and architecture in the United Kingdom. Other organizations, such as the Society for Catholic Liturgy, the Association for Latin Liturgy, the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein, Illinois, the Society of St John, Adoremus, and many other fine organizations are doing important work in this field. A more complete listing will be found on our web-site or will be sent on request.

In the Liturgy Forum section of Second Spring, we will print letters and articles that seem to us to raise important issues or express a point of view that deserves to be heard, whether or not we agree with the content. We welcome your response, although we cannot promise to reply to every letter!