Why pray the Breviary? (ii)

… because the Breviary is the liturgical Prayer of the Church.

The Church

Who or what is the Church in the phrase “Prayer of the Church” ? To answer that we might take a look at the word “liturgy.” The word liturgy is popularly explained as “the work of the people” where the people is understood to be “the Christian community gathered to worship” the emphasis very much upon the individuals presently gathered to perform an act of worship. Liturgy is considered and act of community it is about all the gathered people (ministers and everyone else) “doing the work together.” This explanation of the word liturgy is by no means limited to Andy Roeder Moody or to popular writing. Catherine Pickstock, neither light nor widely popular reading, wrote in her academic and philosophical masterwork After Writing in similar terms concerning the liturgy:

This manifestation in time of the effects of the historical body of Jesus in the communion of the Church and the sacrament opened the space of the liturgy as the “site” where the visible community (laos) and the mysterious work (ergon) combined, …

Catherine Pickstock, After Writing: On the liturgical consummation of Philosophy, p. 159.

Pickstock is exegeting Henri de Lubac’s liturgical theology as she finds it in the conclusion of his Corpus Mysticum (which I must confess I have not read) and in the process explains the word “leitourgia” from its two component parts: laos and ergon. Just like Andy Moody above liturgy is taken to mean “work of the people.” More specifically this visible community gathered presently for the purpose of worship. The liturgy is the “site” or “place” where the people (the visible community gathered for worship), performs the “mysterious work” (of liturgical worship). The same idea was also expressed by my professor of liturgical theology at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and it was also popular among many of my friends: liturgy is the work of the (visible) people gathered for worship.

Laos or the People of God

A different, and in my view a better, way of looking at liturgy is given in The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1069 and 1070. Referencing the teaching of the Second Vatican Council the Catechism explains that the liturgy is the work of/on behalf of the people of God. It is the “participation of the People of God in the work of God.” The laos or people does not primarily refer to the visible community gathered to worship. Rather it refers to the “Mystical Body of Christ” Laurence Paul Hemming explains:

If liturgy is the ‘work’ of the ‘people’ (to give it its most naked and basic reading), the laos is not ever the visible people or ‘community,’ but rather the invisible stem and root, the tribe or nation, implied and made manifest by this one here, this man or woman who is variously, perhaps, a Briton a Catholic, and so forth.

Laurence Paul Hemming, Worship as a Revelation: the past present and future of Catholic Liturgy, p. 77.

In other words the “people” is not referring to the laity and clergy working together in this house of worship, at this time, but the Universal Church as the Body of Christ. Not the Anglican Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, or even the Roman Catholic Church but all of them together as they all are what it is to be the Body of Christ. The Anglican Breviary is the prayer of that Church as it is practiced in Anglicanized form. Again Laurence Hemming explains:

The members of the laos are the ones who represent and bring to visibility the loas as such and in itself, but they are not, even in their entirety, the entirety of the laos.

Ibid, p. 77.

This local and visible combination of clergy and laity gathered here in this house of worship at this time represents – makes visible – the People of God (Mystical Body of Christ). It is important to understand the distinction and connection between the visible community and the Body of Christ as such. The Church is what individual members are gathered into by Baptism and becomes visible (manifest) in a concrete place at a specific time in our world. To conclude with Fr. Pius Parsch: “When I speak of the prayer of the Church, I have in mind the “Church” in this exalted sense (The Breviary Explained, p. 3-4).”

(to be continued)

Gregory Wassen +


About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
This entry was posted in Anglican Breviary, Roman Breviary. Bookmark the permalink.

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