LITURGY Q & A: Other Liturgical Acts

Fr. Edward McNamara Says These Include Blessings and Exorcisms

Light of candles into a church

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Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

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Q: Could you please give more examples of liturgical acts other than the sacraments, Liturgy of the Hours and religious profession? — T.C., Manila, Philippines

A: Although our reader has mentioned the most important liturgical acts, the sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as religious profession, he has left open a wide range of other possibilities which are truly liturgical, especially the vast area of liturgical sacramentals.

Some liturgical acts are intimately related to the sacraments. Thus the rites of exposition and Benediction follow from the holy sacrifice of the Mass but are not in themselves sacraments. In the same manner are all rites in which Communion is distributed to the faithful.

The rites for blessing the holy oils are also liturgical and, while necessary for the sacraments, are not in themselves sacraments.

Similarly, the various prayers for the sick, dying and deceased are tied to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick but can also be separated from it in accordance with the ritual books. Funerals celebrated outside of Mass are also fully liturgical rites.

The rite of admission as a candidate for sacred orders is also a liturgical rite. Likewise the rites of instituting lectors and acolytes are steps toward the sacrament of holy orders, albeit not exclusive to this sacrament.

Analogous to religious profession, but not quite the same thing, is the rite of Consecration of Virgins before the bishop. There is also the solemn blessing of an abbot or abbess.

In earlier times, the consecration of a sovereign king or queen was numbered among these rites.

There are also the prayers found in the Book of Blessings. These blessings can range from the solemn blessing of holy water to the simple blessing of a meal. Some of these blessing are always celebrated within Mass, others occasionally, and still others never. Yet, all are considered liturgical, including those invoked by a layperson, insofar as the book is promulgated as a liturgical book by the Church as her proper prayer.

We must not forget the rite of exorcisms also falls under the general heading of liturgical sacramental, even though its use is reserved to authorized priests.

A Celebration of the Word, even though it follows an approved scheme or outline rather than an approved text, would also be liturgical as the Church has specifically contemplated this possibility.

The Ceremonial of Bishops also lists some rites which are usually reserved to him, some of which would usually be celebrated within Mass. For example, there is the laying of foundation stones, the dedication or blessing of a church and altar, and the blessings of a baptismal font, crosses and bells. There is also the crowning of an image of Our Lady, the blessing of a cemetery, and the prayers after a desecration.

There are some rites proper to the bishop, such as taking possession of his diocese and cathedral, investiture with the pallium for resident archbishops, and the rites for creating cardinals.

On rarer occasions there are rites proper to the various stages of the canonical process for canonization.

This list is probably not exhaustive. However, I believe I have touched upon the most important liturgical rites.

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Readers may send questions to [email protected]. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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