The beauty of our worship in the liturgy Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

Clearly there has been much dialogue recently about our continuing liturgical renewal in the Diocese of Madison — this awareness has even risen to the international level. There was, in fact, a recent blog in Spain about our local matter. It is very difficult for me to believe that the tale of a bishop, leading his diocese in fine-tuning the implementation of the correct interpretation of Vatican II, would rise to the level of an international news item. But that says, indeed, a lot about the world in which we live, favoring as it does anarchic displays rather than a reasonable exercise of lawful authority.

Be that all as it may, I myself have yet to mention in a very public way the consideration which essentially accompanies our realization of Christ’s true presence and our natural and supernatural response of reverence. The liturgy, as the worship which the Holy Spirit has given His Church, always requires beauty in its celebrations.

Since the frequently mistaken implementation of Vatican II (almost 50 years ago), many liturgies have taken place which are, at least, less than beautiful. To this statement, our country and our culture would respond immediately, “but beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” or, “everything is beautiful, in its own way.” Just as our culture has sought to relativize everything important to human nobility, asserting that it is human nature not to have a nature, so too is this the case with beauty itself.

Beauty: not simply in the ‘eye of the beholder’
Letter from Bishop Morlino to priests, clarifying issue of Communion under both species
On October 10, Bishop Robert C. Morlino sent a letter to priests in a follow-up from a discussion at the recent Presbyteral Assembly. The letter addresses aspects of the liturgy, with his chief intention “simply to encourage throughout the diocese, a greater sense of reverence and a real truthfulness in what we say and do at the Mass.”
The letter is available as a PDF from the Diocese of Madison Web site, www.madisondiocese.org

Beauty is not, in fact, simply in the eye of the beholder, from the viewpoint of reason. For reason tells us that beautiful, good, true, and one are interchangeable; therefore, whatever is beautiful is also good and true, and expresses unity and harmony.

Beautiful can never be mistaken as an indicator of what pleases some majority of people somewhere. The fact that our parish likes to sing a particular song at the liturgy cannot, of itself, make that song beautiful. To be beautiful, indeed, is to be good and is to be true. As much as some people may enjoy the musical antics of Lady Gaga, these cannot honestly be described as beautiful.

Beautiful means, in the first place, embodying the truth. Some of the songs that we sing at liturgy contain lyrics which clearly are not true — for example, the song “All Are Welcome.” As a matter of fact, the liturgy takes place mystically in the heavenly sanctuary. All are welcome at the liturgy who truly seek salvation in and through Jesus Christ, by following God’s Will, as spelled out through His Son’s very Body, the Church. People who have little interest in doing God’s Will don’t fit at the liturgy. And certainly, by their own choosing, the poor souls who suffer in Hell for all eternity are not welcome. Those are simple, but true facts. Thus the song, “All Are Welcome,” gives an impression that the choice for the Will of Jesus Christ, as it comes to us through the Church, makes no difference; and nothing could be further from the truth. It could therefore be concluded that the song, “All are Welcome,” is not beautiful so as to be appropriate-for-liturgical-use. Being true is necessary before anything can be beautiful.

Ennobling the human person

But, it is equally important for something to be good so that it also might be judged beautiful. The truth, which is clothed by beauty, must be such as to ennoble the human person in terms of bringing out his or her very best, both of intellect and of will. The beautiful must embody that which is true, but also ennobling to our human nature as made in the image and likeness of God. Whatever is beautiful must fix our minds and our hearts on the things above, according to St. Paul (Phil 4).

When one realizes that to be authentically beautiful, something must be both true and ennobling of our human nature, that tells us a great deal about what exactly is appropriate at the liturgy. Because it is the source and the summit of our lives as followers of Christ, the liturgy must never be anything less than beautiful, beautiful in such wise as to evoke the correct sacramental attitude of reverence, beautiful as befitting our communion at the liturgy with all the angels and saints.

Thus, everything that we will be doing in the days, months, and years ahead, since it will be aimed at reverent Christ-centeredness in liturgical celebrations, must be nothing less than beautiful, reflecting the perfect beauty, unity, truth, and goodness of the object of our worship and adoration Themselves, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for reading this. God Bless each one of you! Praised be Jesus Christ!