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Presentation: College Theology Society Annual Conference (Kansas City, Mo.)
June 3, 2016
I will be presenting a paper at the forthcoming CTS conference in Kansas City, Mo. at Rockhurst University.
“Not Emptied of Its Power”: Catholic Liturgical Theology and the Salience of “Spectacle” – A Pauline-Inspired Consideration
The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy presented the liturgical celebration of the Eucharistic as the “indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit,” and further indicated that pastors, and implicitly all those exercising leadership for the celebration of the Eucharist, should “energetically” undertake the proper formation of the Christian faithful in the “full and active participation by all the people” in the liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium, 14.). The constitution also indicated that such a formation of the faithful would have no hope of success unless liturgical leaders “become imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy” (ibid.).
In light of these teachings, it is worthwhile to consider what, precisely, is “the spirit and power of the liturgy” with which pastors, liturgical leaders and, indeed, the whole church, should be imbued. Additionally, it is important to evaluate what forms of contemporary Catholic liturgical practice are effective in conveying and amplifying the spirit and power of the liturgy, and, conversely, which forms of practice inhibit or diminish their effectiveness.
This study seeks to ground an understanding of the power of the liturgy from within Sacrosanctum concilium’s own presentation of the unique salvific efficacy of the event of Christ’s dying and rising, which is based, in part, on Paul’s understanding of the power of the cross in the New Testament. The paschal theology of the liturgy in the life of the church presented by the Council and the Pauline assessment of the power of God at work in the event of the cross (cf. 1 Cor. 1) will be analyzed. That analysis will be coordinated with a contemporary sociological and theological understanding of the ritual purpose and effect of “spectacle.” This correlation will serve as basis for the consideration and evaluation of specific examples of some inculturated liturgical practices and their use of elements of “spectacle” to convey the salvific reality of the cross in its personal and social dimensions. From these considerations, some ideas regarding the relationship between the liturgy’s paschal structure and the theological significance of “spectacle” will be offered.