Liturgy: Effective, Enjoyable ?
It is not so much a matter of Liturgy being good or not so good: Is it effective?
Does it produce in people a spiritual strengthening and a further commitment to cooperate with the Spirit of Jesus in bringing about the realm of God?
This is not to challenge the “ex opere operato” effectiveness of the sacrament in itself, but it is a challenge to gauge its actual effectiveness in people.
Liturgy is not to be entertaining but it needs to by enjoyable, otherwise in these days of great personal freedoms, people will not come.
If the participation is right, even Liturgy in a small group can be effective and enjoyable. A large, repetitive, rigid Liturgy in which most of those present are turned into spectators, can easily become boring – certainly not enjoyable. Joy is a true Christian characteristic.
In the gospel according to John (John 15:11), at the last supper Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”.
It is not enough simply to enter into the spiritual mystery of the Liturgy in a receptive kind of way. Many Catholics did that before the Second Vatican Council. The Council decided emphatically that such participation, while essential, is not good enough. In the old style, people can apparently attend Sunday Mass for years and not be any the better as a result.
The Council declared: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.” The Council also speaks of people taking part in the liturgy “knowingly, actively, fruitfully”. Such participation is required for the Liturgy to be effective and enjoyable. This point about active participation was made 11 times in the Council documents.
Proper participation is not achieved simply by people joining in the prayers and responses, the singing and the rituals: there needs to be a conscious, personal contribution. One of the best ways of achieving such truly personal participation in the community celebration of the Liturgy is for those present to be involved in reflecting on the Proclaimed Word and on its application to everyday life.
When people come to a dining table expecting good food and drink, good conversation and friendship, and find their expectations fulfilled, then the occasion is enjoyable. A similar sense of enjoyment should be a characteristic of Liturgy. For those who have lost their facility to enjoy, at least they should be able to find Liturgy satisfying.
Is the Liturgy in your parish effective, enjoyable and satisfying? And to what level? The fact that at least 80% of Catholics in Australia don’t go to Sunday Liturgy every Sunday is an indication that, generally speaking, Sunday Liturgy is not effective, enjoyable and satisfying. If it were, it would be more attractive. What can be done about this situation?