Dominican Life is Liturgical (First and Foremost!)
By Mr. Pedro A. Moreno, O.P.
This is Part 4 of a Series on what it means to be a Lay Dominican. Part 3 is here.
Dominican Spirituality: Principles and Practice by Fr. William A. Hinnebusch, O.P., chapter V, Dominican Life is Liturgical, begins with these words:
“We have examined the ends of the Order — contemplation and the apostolate, the first fructifying in the second. These are the noble goals that the Order sets before the Dominican. However, it is not enough to have marvelous ideals. It is necessary to have suitable means to achieve them.”
He reminds us that:
- Contemplation and Apostolate are the ends of the Order.
- Liturgy can lead us to contemplation, and is distinct from it.
- Liturgy is a prerequisite to our apostolate of preaching because it feeds our ministry with life.
- Liturgy, how we Praise and Bless God, is our most important, foundational and essential act.
This chapter presents Liturgy as the means to achieve the ends of the Order, contemplata aliis tradere. It presents us with basic principles on the liturgy in Dominican Life that will always stand the test of time and councils.
Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, written before the final 1965 adaption of Fr. Hinnebusch’s 1962 Lenten Conferences to the Dominican Sisters in Amityville, NY, states in paragraph 10 something similar for the whole church:
“… the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper… the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.”
Liturgy, primarily the celebration of the Eucharist, and then the praying of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, is how we, on a regular basis, worship. It is how we give God his just due and affirm the primacy of God in our lives.
God’s love for us and our love for Him, through the re-presentation of the Paschal Mystery, is ritualized, proclaimed and celebrated. Liturgy is our reaffirmation, and personal reminder, that God is the most important, and most loved, being in our lives.
He’s #1, and we are totally dependent on Him. Liturgy is our communal thanksgiving of being saved by the God that loves us more than we can ever understand. Liturgy is life and this life is not optional!
The primacy of God in the life of every member of the Dominican Family is a principle reaffirmed by St. John Paul II in a letter he wrote to the Order back in March of 1983,
“The Church continues to propose these principles as the foundations of Christian wisdom and as the axis of apostolate… The first of these principles is that which affirms the absolute primacy of God in the intelligence, in the heart, in the life of man. You know well how Saint Dominic responded to this requirement of faith in his religious life: “He spoke only with God or of God.” You also know how, on the level of doctrine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, beginning with the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, envisioned this primacy of God and how he supported it with the force and consistency of his metaphysical and theological thought, using the analogy of being which permits the recognition of the worth of the creature, but as dependent on the creative love of God.”
Liturgy is receiving the oxygen we need to be able to speak the Word! Liturgy is communing with Veritas so as to be able to share Veritas with others. Liturgy is when we Praise and Bless so we are then able to Preach. Liturgy is our community’s lifeblood. Liturgy is what keeps the Dominican Family united as one with Christ first and then, through Christ, unity with each other.
In a paragraph dedicated to all Lay Dominicans Fr Hinnebusch states…
“Tertiaries follow a rule which, in accord with their life in the world, parallels that of the fathers and sisters. They promise to live according to the Order’s spirit, attend Mass every day, if possible, and recite either the Office of the Blessed Mother or the fifteen mysteries of the rosary. They hold their monthly chapter meeting and endeavor to achieve a deeper understanding of the truths of the faith. In all branches of the Dominican family the same goals are pursued, fundamentally the same means are employed, and the same spirit is engendered and maintained. In this chapter we shall discuss only the prayer life of the Dominican.”
What follows in the chapter are clear recommendations for those living a conventual life. References are made to the vowed life, leaving the cloister and how the liturgy is a key part of life in these houses. Recommendations that are clearly not with the Lay Dominican in mind. Here is an example that clearly does not apply in my home:
“… an atmosphere of prayer in its houses, enjoining silence as the essential environment in which Dominicans shall lead their lives.”
It is clear that the late Fr. Hinnebusch never visited my house between 1990 and 2010 when my three daughters were teenagers! This reminds me of a favorite family meme, “We’re not loud, We’re Puertorrican!”. Silence in our house back then meant that we were either traveling, or, it was 3:00AM and we are finally all asleep.
As a Lay Dominican it is my responsibility to find or create moments and places for my personal prayer. While never equaling the silence of conventual life spaces for prayer are available if you take the time to look around. I sometimes lock myself in the bedroom, or even the bathroom. (Thank God we have more than one!) After finding a place I then, if possible, set up some classical or instrumental music, open a Bible or the Liturgy of the Hours and spend some quality time with the Lord.
Sometimes I just stay in the car, or just stay at the office, after 5:00PM when everything calms down a bit. If I didn’t get to Mass yet then I would search for an evening Mass or an opportunity for quiet adoration. All of this is essential for the preaching life. We all need to Praise, Bless and then, after some serious study, Preach.
Regarding the Divine Office, a.k.a. the Liturgy of the Hours, it is more common for today’s laity to participate in this liturgical prayer. Here is a quote from Laudis Canticum, the Apostolic Constitution promulgating the revised book of the Liturgy of the Hours, from 1970:
“The Office has been drawn up and arranged in such a way that not only clergy but also religious and indeed laity may participate in it, since it is the prayer of the whole people of God. People of different callings and circumstances, with their individual needs, were kept in mind and a variety of ways of celebrating the office has been provided, by means of which the prayer can be adapted to suit the way of life and vocation of different groups dedicated to the Liturgy of the Hours.”
Chapter V once again speaks specifically to Lay Dominicans, or Tertiaries, and they are mentioned in reference to the “Little Office”:
“The spirituality of Dominican sisters and tertiaries, shared with a priestly and apostolic Order, is also liturgical. The little Office of the Blessed Mother which they recite fashions and molds them in the spirit of Mary, teaching them how to do everything in her, through her, by her, and for her. They contemplate the Mother of God, who, “kept in mind all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke, 2:19). They love souls because Mary, the mother of souls, loves then. They are anxious to save souls because she, the Mother of the Savior, wants to save them.”
The “Little Office of the Blessed Mother” also known as “Hours of the Virgin”, is a simplified version of Liturgy of the Hours and has a cycle of psalms, hymns, scripture and other readings highlighting and promoting the devotion to our Blessed Mother.
I thank Fr. Hinnebusch for the examples of saints and their prayer lives, beginning with St. Dominic. He ends that section with a clear warning:
“If a Dominican is not devoted to prayer and praise, he cannot contemplate; he cannot even hope to contemplate. Without prayer, he will never penetrate the truths of faith. Speaking of Our Lord’s mysteries, St. Thomas writes:
If anyone would diligently and piously consider the mysteries of the Incarnation, he would find such a profundity of wisdom that it would exceed all human knowledge… the wonderful meaning of this mystery is manifested more and more to him who piously ponders it.”
To contemplate, piously ponder or lovingly gaze, is a special supernatural grace given freely by God to many of those that Praise and Bless so they may Preach. No liturgy means no true contemplation and no contemplation means no preaching that is consonant to our call. May God grant us the gift of perseverance in our prayer life, both liturgical and private.
The last section in chapter V is a reflection on, The Prayer of the Dominican Family. It begins with these words:
“As the Church is a family, the Mystical Body of Christ, so also the Order of Preachers is a mystical family. Its members, numbered in thousands, are joined to their holy father, St. Dominic, and to one another by the bonds of profession. By birth men are related to their parents, brothers, and sisters by ties of blood. Religious profession joins the Dominican in a spiritual relationship with his Founder and all his children on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. This union is closer than the bond of blood linking earthly parents and children because it is supernatural.”
Paragraph 3 of The Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic reminds us that all Lay Dominicans are united in communities and constitute, with other groups of the Order, one Family. And, as Father Patrick Peyton use to say, “The Family that prays together, stays together.”.
I end with a slight variation on the ending of chapter V.
When the Dominican Family prays, we all benefit. Our prayers make us fervent, intimate friends of God. We also help the other members of the Dominican Family, and all their neighbors everywhere. Prayerful Dominican save more souls by prayer and contemplation than by words and action. When we participate at Mass or pray the Liturgy of the Hours, St. Dominic stands in spirit with us as he did 800 years ago in Bologna. He encourages us to put our whole heart into it. When we listen to him, we place our prayers in his hands. In turn, he bows toward the Holy Trinity, offering the combined homage and adoration of the entire mystical body of the Dominican Family.
Thank you Fr. William A. Hinnebusch, O.P., for this book that stills gives fruit after almost 60 years.
Next up: Dominican Life is Doctrinal
I thought it might be interesting for everyone to understand the concept of liturgy from a practical mundane standpoint. I found this definition of the word separated from the usual religious trappings; I think it applies to us as Lay Dominicans and is something to keep in mind when we engage in public worship:
In ancient Greece, particularly at Athens, a form of personal service to the state which citizens possessing property to a certain amount were bound, when called upon, to perform at their own cost. These liturgies were ordinary, including the presentation of dramatic performances, musical and poetic contests, etc., the celebration of some festivals, and other public functions entailing expense upon the incumbent; or extraordinary, as the fitting out of a trireme in case of war. [Century Dictionary]
Liturgy is a form of personal service. (Mr. Mark Connolly, OP)
Thank you for writing this Pedro. This sentence grabbed me and shook me a bit: “Liturgy is what keeps the Dominican Family united as one with Christ first and then, through Christ, unity with each other.” I am suddenly very sad that I seldom stay after our chapter meetings to pray evening prayer with the fryers. What am I thinking?