Both Charles Peguy and Leon Bloy are cited as saying, in one form or another, that the one tragedy of life is not to have been a saint. Listening to the teaching of the Lord in “the parable of the sower” (Mt 13:3-23), we can hear options and possibilities both for the tragedy of failure and the joy of success in finding and living our true vocation to holiness.
The Gospel has power! His word has potency! Yet the effect of the Word depends on the reception in the heart. A human heart can be a busily trodden path, hard as cement. A human heart can be a plot of rocky soil, having ready and quick receptivity, yet shallowness – no “depth of soil” because of the rocks. When the Gospel begins to cost something, the Word within withers and fails. The heart can be entangled with fruitless “thorns,” love of the world and delight in so-called riches, that choke the true and eternal treasure of the holy Word. But finally, the heart can be open, pliant, receptive, obedient, persevering. Such a heart is “good soil” to the saving Word, and is fruitful. His word is sent out not to return void, but to return in beautiful fruitfulness a hundredfold, or sixtyfold, or thirty.
The Word is preached, and celebrated, and received in Holy Mass: in the Liturgy. The Latin phrase that entitles this post is literally translated, “Law of prayer, law of belief.” The USCCB website has a paper that discusses the phrase:
Lex orandi, lex credendi has become something of a tenet of liturgical theology, especially in the years since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Literally translated, it means “the law of prayer [is] the law of belief.” This axiom is an adaptation of words of Prosper of Aquitaine, a fifth-century Christian writer and a contemporary of St. Augustine. The original version of the phrase, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi (“that the law of praying establishes the law of believing”), highlighted the understanding that the Church’s teaching (lex credendi) is articulated and made manifest in the celebration of the liturgy and prayer (lex orandi). We understand this to mean that prayer and worship is the first articulation of the faith. The liturgy engages belief in a way that simply thinking about God or studying the faith does not naturally do.
In other words, in an act of worship, the faithful are in dialogue with God and are engaged in an active and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and every individual member of the liturgical assem- bly is connected to one another as members of the mystical Body of Christ in the Holy Spirit, as they look together with hope for the salvation promised in the Kingdom of Heaven. Theology, christology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and eschatology are all expressed in word and deed, in sign and symbol, in liturgical acts.
I was very struck with the presumption of this paper. Does the writer know this for a fact? That
- in an act of worship, the faithful are in dialogue with God and
- are engaged in an active and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and
- every individual member of the liturgical assembly is connected to one another as members of the mystical Body of Christ in the Holy Spirit, as
- they look together with hope for the salvation promised in the Kingdom of Heaven.
One would hope that these are the realities present in worship! And if lex orandi, lex credendi, then our worship reveals our faith. Distracted, preoccupied and clock-watching worship reveals unstable and shallow faith. If worship is vibrant – if “full, conscious and active participation” among the members is the rule – then the faith is dynamic and vital and growing. As we pray, so we believe. But how do we pray, and what do we in truth believe?
If interest in growing in understanding the faith is any indication, the Church is in big trouble. The vast majority in every parish I have been associated with, has had relatively little interest in growing in understanding the faith. With very few exceptions among the pastors of those parishes, they do not personally and consistently encourage adult faith formation, and the people mostly do not participate in it. What is the Latin for, “as the priests, so also the people”?
Lex orandi, lex credendi, and lex credendi, lex orandi. The two are not separable. His grace in human lives manifests itself and flows from faith to worship to human lives of fruitfulness – thirtyfold, or sixty or a hundred.
A dear and holy priest once told me, “It a mess – but we have the Holy Spirit. It’s going to be alright.” Let us pray that we are open to His Spirit, and responsive to His urgings and direction! He can use the little that we offer to bring forth great things. Let us be sure that we do offer Him our all.