Liturgy and How We Worship
Saint Luke writes that the earliest Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42, NRSV). The worship of God in the Holy Catholic Church is designed to perpetuate the practice of the Christian community from the time of the Apostles. That worship is based on the Western Liturgical Tradition that traces its genealogy as far back as the foundation of the Church in Rome and is common to the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches, inspiring the liturgical practice of many Protestant traditions as well.
The word “liturgy” is derived from a Greek word that means “the work of the people.” The liturgy of the Holy Catholic Church strives to embrace two interpretations of that word: as the work performed by the people in their act of worshiping God, and as the work of redemption and sanctification performed for the people by God in their midst.
- The apostles’ teaching: worship is grounded in the apostles’ faith as witnessed in the Scriptures and the tradition of the early church.
- Fellowship: all people as members of Christ’s risen body are encouraged to participate actively in worship through a variety of liturgical ministries.
- The breaking of bread: worship is centered on celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
- The prayers: the offering of common prayers unites all people in the spirit of Christ as instruments of God’s work in the world.
from The Sacramentary of the Holy Catholic Church:
“The Mass is the central expression of the Catholic faith. Each particular celebration of the Mass represents the one sacrifice which Christ himself made of his own life on Calvary. Through the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass, the Holy Spirit gathers God's people at the foot of the Cross to take part in that one sacrifice, and to witness first-hand the mysteries of Christ's death and resurrection, through which are revealed “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We offer a prayer service at the foot of the Cross, keeping watch before the crucified Lord, and in the Sacrament we approach the Cross itself and take Christ's body into our own.
By hearing God's word we share our faith, by offering prayers for the Church and the world we share our hope, and by receiving the Holy Communion we share our love in Christ our Lord.
“The Sacramentary of the Holy Catholic Church contains all the prayers and ceremonies needed to celebrate the Mass throughout the Church year. The Ordinary of the Mass, and the proper prayers for each particular celebration, are firmly grounded in the western liturgical tradition, drawing at once on the rich history of the liturgy and on the modern spirit of liturgical renewal. The basic structure of the liturgy is that of the modern Roman Rite, with minor variations.
Some of the prayers are original compositions, written according to western liturgical convention; other texts have been borrowed from a variety of existing sources; including the ancient and modern Roman Rites, various editions of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and the liturgical heritage of the Lutheran churches. The goal of this Sacramentary is to provide a liturgy that embraces a diversity of traditions, while expressing a unity of faith. The combination of Roman, Anglican, Lutheran, and other elements into one rite ensures that the liturgy of the Holy Catholic Church is not exclusively Roman, Anglican, or Protestant.
At the same time, the prayers and ceremonies have been adapted so that all Christians who embrace the Catholic faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ can participate fully and unreservedly in the celebration of the Divine Mysteries.
What the liturgy borrows from individual traditions is incorporated to express and celebrate the faith that is common to each of these traditions. The result is that the liturgy of the Holy Catholic Church is not a mere collage pasted together from existing rites, but is truly a composite rite that unifies the various threads that come together in our remarkable community.