Ever wonder why Catholics refer to church services as liturgies?
Why do Catholics have one church in every diocese called a cathedral? And why do Catholics stand, sit and kneel during the Mass?
These questions and a host of others will be answered in a new column beginning this week in The Record called “Liturgy Matters.” Its author, Dr. Judy Bullock, is the director of the Office of Worship for the Archdiocese of Louisville. She holds a masters degree in theology with a specialization in liturgy from the University of Notre Dame. And she holds a doctoral degree in education — focused on liturgical formation — from Spalding University.
“Liturgy Matters” will appear on page four every other week in the print edition and under the “Editorials and Columns” section of this website.
It will deal with all things related to “the official prayer of the church”— the texts, forms, symbols and meanings, Bullock said in an interview Monday, Jan. 7.
As she explains in this week’s column, “Liturgy is a comprehensive term which not only includes the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass), the source and summit of all the activity of the church, but also all celebrations of the sacraments, daily prayer, etc.
“The word ‘liturgy’ has its origin in the New Testament formation of the church or ecclesia,” she writes. “It originates from the Greek word leitourgia, which means the public work of and for the people.
“In the world of the New Testament church this term would have referred to public works — roads, law enforcement, utilities. This term was soon adapted by the early church to describe Christian gatherings since these were understood to have a similar purpose, the building up of the church. It is what Christians do: their prayer and good works to praise God and to benefit the people,” she writes.
Bullock said she’s writing the column to help Catholics become more engaged in their faith. She noted that the archdiocese conducted listening sessions several years ago during preparation for a new strategic plan. People who were interviewed said consistently that they wanted to know more about “why we do what we do,” said Bullock.
“Catholics go to Mass and attend sacramental celebrations once a week for their entire
lives. Yet many would be hard pressed to explain the various services that go on, what each part means, why we use a certain prayer text, why we use a particular ritual action,”
Bullock said. “Even the locations within the church that become focal points for particular rites are not well understood.
“People want to understand their faith better,” she added. “They want to understand why we do what we do in order to become more engaged in their faith.”
The first column, published today on page four, also answers why Catholics use the term “Mass” for some services. And it explains the form of the Mass, including explanations of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Columns scheduled for the next month or so will address the term “church” and explain the various focal points in the church building, including the sanctuary and altar.
The significance of the baptismal font, use of holy water, genuflection and the sign of the cross will be explained in other columns. Sacramental celebrations, the role of various clergy and the role of lay ecclesial ministers also will be the subject of future columns.
The new column is an extension of work Bullock already does in the archdiocese, along with the staff of the Worship Office, whose staff also includes Barry Mudd and Tammy Turner. The office assists in the formation of liturgical ministers, consults with priests and parishes on questions related to liturgy and coordinates certain archdiocesan liturgies.