Today’s Question: Liturgy and the Environment
In the early 1920’s and 30’s Virgil Michel, OSB worked tirelessly to explore the connection between social justice and the liturgy. Getting others to see the connection was not an easy task, but now liturgists take for granted the connection between the two. Whether the faithful do today is another question. Virgil Michel’s work was perfectly timed. It followed the larger cultural Progressive Era of the time marked by the push for women’s suffrage as well as a greater concern for philanthropy. It began before the Great Depression and proceeded the larger social awakening of the Catholic Church in the United States as movements like the Catholic Worker Movement were founded. The advocacy Virgil Michel and others performed for the social justice movement is hailed by many.
As social justice concerns dominated American and European discourse in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an environmental movement was only slowly beginning to form. By the late 19th century individuals were beginning to discuss the toll of the Industrial Revolution on the environment. By the mid-20th century, conservation and environmental protection societies had begun to pick up steam. It was not, however, until the late 1960’s that ecological concerns came to the forefront.
Unfortunately, liturgists today have not been as interested in developing the connection between the environment and liturgical practice. The ecological dimensions of liturgical life are not being developed like the social dimensions once were. The liturgy is also not being used to call attention to the need for greater environmental awareness and protection. Perhaps it is because the liturgy is not the powerful source for cultural change it was once thought to be. But that applies, it seems, to the Church at large as well.
I am curious how others envision the relationship between the liturgy and the environment. How do our current rites support or stifle the call for a stronger environmental consciousness? What steps can we take to be more sensitive to the environment in our current liturgical practices? Let us know how your community’s concern for the environment is made manifest in the liturgy.
Moderator’s note: “Non solum” is a feature at Pray Tell for our readership community to discuss practical liturgical issues. The title comes from article 11 of the Vatican II liturgy constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Therefore there is to be vigilance among holy pastors that in liturgical action not only are laws for valid and licit celebration to be observed, but that the faithful should participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully.” (Ideo sacris pastoribus advigilandum est ut in actione liturgica non solum observentur leges ad validam et licitam celebrationem, sed ut fideles scienter, actuose et fructuose eandem participent.) May the series contribute to good liturgical practice – not only following the law, but especially grasping the spirit of the liturgy!