On Being Liturgical

A powerful article from Timothy O’Malley of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life writing on the significance of liturgical formation for living the Christian life. Drawing on the proclamation of Paul’s Letter to the Romans at the Easter Vigil, O’Malley goes on to highlight how much the Christian life is rooted in a liturgical life.

Christian existence is thus a liturgical phenomenon where rather than actualize the self, the Christian learns to give the self away in love. The liturgical self is formed through the act of oblation rather than remaining trapped in inward speculation about possibilities for improvement. In Catholicism, there is “no becoming your best self.” There is only giving up on the project of self-actualization. There is just Absolute love.

Liturgical formation in the Church is thus never complete because there is no absolute attunement of the liturgical self to such Absolute love. We turn again and again to prayer with the Psalms because we have never adequately desired God, confessed God’s grandeur, or come to terms with a mercy that rescues us from the pit of desolation. We celebrate feast after feast, again and again, because as temporal creatures there is always more of us to plunge into the mystery of divine love made manifest in Christ and his saints. We eat and drink Christ’s Body and Blood day after day, week after week, because we are likely to turn God into an idol of our own economy of scarcity rather than perceive in the Eucharistic mystery a gift that surpasses all gifts.

The liturgical imagination of the Church is thus not simply one dimension of Catholicism. Instead, it provides the form of life that makes Christian existence possible in the first place: a life in which we move away from “self-actualization” toward “self-gift.”