Pray Tell continues with a new series, “My New Book,” in which authors answer a few questions about their recently-released book.
What’s the point of your book, in twenty words or less?
The Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist should be seen as a united whole.
Why did you write the book?
I have a family member who occasionally asks me what she is supposed to take away from some of the especially obscure first readings in the weekday lectionary. These usually have something to do with a prophetic action, a family tree, or the instructions for a biblical construction project. I wanted to write a book that would help people to make meaningful connections between obscure or undervalued elements of the liturgy.
What do you think is the most interesting thing you say in the book?
I bring out the prophetic dimension of Jesus’ life and Last Supper. That is, in the first chapter, I suggest that one way to see the inherent unity of the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist is to consider the Church’s sacramental actions in the context of the symbolic actions of the Old Testament prophets. This is really a Christological argument that hinges on an understanding of Jesus as a prophet (as well as Second Person of the Trinity) who acted authentically in his own religious tradition. I argue that the Church as Body of Christ continues to act prophetically through the sacraments because Jesus acted prophetically. In terms of the liturgy, obscure first readings about the prophets are not window dressing but can be vital to understanding our sacramental tradition.
What’s the most controversial thing you say in it?
If it is controversial to say that we need to take the Second Vatican Council seriously and continue with the task of reception, then it will be controversial. If that is not controversial, it will be at least surprising to see how some neglected or forgotten ideas from the tradition come together in unexpected ways.
Why should I buy your book?
The book will give you a little background on the Second Vatican Council and the interpretation of Dei Verbum. If you buy it, you will probably find yourself noticing the way that elements traditionally associated with either the Liturgy of the Word or the Liturgy of the Eucharist (like invocations of the Holy Spirit, prophetic actions, and sacramental language) also show up in unexpected other places in the liturgy. You might also learn a few things about Philo of Alexandria, theories of preaching, and the Wisdom-Logos-Memra traditions.
Who will like your book? Who won’t?
If you are interested in some fresh perspectives on the liturgy, you will probably like it. The grade-school catechist who taught me that you just have to make it into the church building before the end of the Gospel and be present until communion, might be challenged to expand her thinking—although hopefully she already has!
What do you hope might change in the church because of your book?
I hope that my book will help Catholics to have a deeper appreciation of the Liturgy of the Word. It is not only a preparation for the sacraments, but, as Sacrosanctum Concilium 7 tells us, it is also a place of encounter with Christ. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have long valued proclamation and preaching and I hope that my book will help Catholics to move closer to this perspective while maintaining, and even appreciating more deeply, our own historical commitment to the sacraments.
Anything you didn’t include that might be in your next book?
One thing that I came across too late is the history of epicletic prayers associated with the Liturgy of the Word. I now know that that these have been maintained in some of the Reformed traditions and I am looking forward to learning more about their current usage.
Rhodora Beaton’s book can be purchased through Liturgical Press.