PART ONE: THE ESSENCE OF LITURGY
In the 20’s it was common to describe liturgy with the analogy of a game (having its own rules, stepping outside the pressures of daily life, often being “a rehearsal for later life,”  and thus allowing us to see daily life as a prelude to eternal life – offering us hope). This analogy, however, lacks a concrete orientation towards eternal life and towards God Himself, so Ratzinger wishes to offer us a new approach [which is really an old approach looked at anew]: liturgy as revealed in the Bible, particularly the Exodus.
The importance of worship.
Cult, then, “goes beyond the action of the liturgy . . . embrac[ing] the ordering of the world of human life.”  Worship is “man glorifying God” and man does this “when he lives by looking toward God.”  Law and ethics must be “anchored in the liturgical center and inspired by it.”  Man’s relationship with God (liturgy) must first be right before his other relationships (with other men, with creation – law, ethics) can be rightly ordered. [God gives man his relational orientation. Man must first encounter the Truth, Goodness, Justice, Love that God is in order to know how to be truly true, good, just and loving.] “The right kind of cult, or relationship with God, is essential for the right kind of human existence in the world. It is so precisely because it reaches beyond everyday life.” Worship takes us out of the world and gives us a taste of Heaven. Life without that foretaste is empty, so those without true cult end up creating ‘their own forms of cult, though, of course, they can be only an allusion and strive in vain by bombastic trumpeting, to conceal their nothingness.” 
[I’m reminded of this at the end of every Super Bowl (or other sports finales). The whole profession is “bombastically trumpeted” with fancy graphics, lively commentators, jarring music, and memorabilia galore, which all conceal their real nothingness. I used to be a devout follower of the worship of football. Ever since I was introduced to it, I have loved to play the game, so it only naturally followed that I would love to watch the professionals play the game. Growing up, my family had our Sunday tradition of watching the games together. I was enthralled by the games, looking up statistics, buying the video games, collecting the cards, and eventually playing fantasy football. None of these are bad in themselves, but they can become dominant foci in someone’s life–as it did in mine. Every year, though, as the confetti paper fluttered in the air to mark the end of that year’s Super Bowl, something about it seemed anti-climactic. All this build up throughout the year (and intensifying as the game day drew nearer) seemed to leave me with an empty feeling when the game was accomplished. As the years went by, that emptiness pointed to something: all the hype around this contest is really hiding that it’s just a game. It’s entertaining to watch them compete, but the flashy decorations are all ways that they try to make the game seem as though it has some great importance.]
We must receive worship, not create it.
True Worship is the worship that God reveals. Man cannot “creatively” plan worship how he wishes. It must be received, otherwise “man is clutching empty space.”  “Real liturgy implies that God reveals how we can worship him . . . [in bad liturgy] worship is no longer going up to God, but drawing God down into one’s own world.”  He gives, as an example, the Golden Calf narrative–the people created their own version of God and worshipped him how they felt like worshipping him. They weren’t patient enough to receive the proper form of worship from God. Ratzinger says that this narrative “is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship.”  When man tries to create his own worship, “man is using God . . . a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself . . . no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternate world, manufactured from one’s own resources . . . an apostasy in sacral disguise. All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness. There is no experience of that liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God.”  [Here, Ratzinger turns the spotlight from the banal pursuits of secular society’s worship of empty things to those who try to impose such empty things into the received worship of God (particularly the Mass). This is one of the greatest travesties of our time. As we saw above, man needs proper worship, so that he can be directed outside of himself and rightly oriented to God (and thereby rightly oriented to all of creation), yet so often today, people who style themselves as “liturgists” try to turn this received worship into a display of their own “creativity.” In doing so, they turn the focus of the liturgy away from God and onto the people (either the ones performing the “creative” innovation or the community gathered in the pews). Later, Ratzinger will describe this as “replacing the true essence of the liturgy with a kind of religious entertainment.” How true his words are! All too often, I have attended Masses where it seems like the priest is trying to entertain the people instead of point them toward almighty God. The few I have questioned about this have made comments about “not wanting to be too ‘high Church’ for the people” or “wanting to make people feel welcome,” etc. This makes me sick. I can’t believe that someone would forego thousands of years of cultivated Church practice (based on revelation and handed on to us faithfully by the Magisterium and which has drawn countless people toward sainthood) for the sake of what amounts to creature comforts. It becomes a form of settling for the lowest common denominator instead of a pursuit of what is highest.]
|Good liturgy: solemn, dignified, beautiful, inspiring, directing us beyond ourselves/daily life and toward God
It orients us to a proper relationship with God.