Winter 2012

Introduction: Liturgy and Culture

In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes that “cult,” from which our words worship and culture both spring, “goes beyond the action of the liturgy. Ultimately, it embraces the ordering of the whole of human life.”1 Culture does not supersede liturgy, but rather points to the truth of the liturgy as inherently fruitful, spilling over naturally into the life of man, ordering culture precisely through its ordering of time and space. When understood to embrace all aspects of humanity, liturgy is properly seen also as pedagogy.

Liturgy is thus not meant to be a reflection of man back to himself, but rather an education in and through the mysteries and sacraments which take place. Ratzinger notes, “I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation.”2 The whole of man is at stake in the liturgy, and the entire world is implicated in its rites. “Worship,” writes the Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann, is “a reality with cosmic, historical and eschatological dimensions, the expression thus not merely of ‘piety,’ but of an all-embracing ‘world-view.’”3

In listening to and participating in the liturgy, one discovers depths of meaning of which one is not immediately aware. The articles in the present issue of Communio draw out this meaning by exploring different aspects of the culture’s rootedness in the liturgy and the liturgy’s implications for culture. The purpose is to show  how our own conformation to and participation in the liturgy is the deepest and most proper path to forming and renewing culture.

In “The Liturgy: Presence of a New Body, Source of a Fulfilled Time,” José Granados argues that modernity has lost the symbolic value of the world: nature and history are no longer, as for the ancients, imbued with order and meaning. The liturgy, says Granados, offers a way to recover this lost symbolism through the encounter of human experience with Christ’s revelation. By examining the relationship between the sacraments of marriage and the Eucharist, Granados demonstrates how body and time become a fabric wherein the mystery of God and man reveals itself, and life appears as a path for the divine image to shine at the core of human experience.

1. Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 20.

2. Ibid., 165.

3. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 123.