Please Explain Rituals of Liturgy

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I help teach a bible study to Evangelicals and they do not understand why Catholic service (liturgy) is so ritualistic. Why is it not modern and free form?

Mr. Moore


Dear Mr. Moore,

This is a great question and there are many ways of approaching it. I'll just touch upon a few of them, realizing that the more central issue is the sacramental nature of the Church, in which the saving action of Christ described in Sacred Scripture comes alive and effective in our lives today through the external signs, or rites, of the Church.

The liturgy of the New Covenant was instituted by Christ and entrusted to His Apostles and their successors to "do this in memory of me" (Lk. 22:19). When Christ commissioned the Apostles to evangelize, this commission included baptizing, or introducing the new converts into the life of the Church (Mt. 28:19), and teaching them to "observe all that I commanded" (Mt. 28:20), which would include participation in the sacramental life of the Church, especially doing this (i.e., celebrating the Eucharist) in remembrance of Christ. The liturgy is the legacy of Christ to His Church, and is vivified by the action of the Holy Spirit. So fidelity to the Church's liturgy down through the centuries up to the present is our participation in the ongoing mission of the Holy Spirit.

An approach I've personally found convincing is to understand the liturgy not as something we do or create, but rather as something into which we join. Bible Christians would understand that when we accept Christ, we in a sense bring ourselves into the story of the Bible, which suddenly becomes our family album. But the Bible (and the Church) would be there even if we didn't enter the pages. Similarly, the liturgy isn't about how well we sing or about how well the church is furnished or how well the pastor preaches, even though all those things are important and add to the celebration. Rather, it's about our entering into the heavenly liturgy, enjoying a foretaste of eternity. (See Catechism, no. 1090.) This heavenly liturgy is described in the Book of Revelation. Your students may well benefit from a dynamic new Catholic Bible study on the Book of Revelation entitled "Coming Soon." It's available at

A third approach might similarly emphasize the divine element of sacred liturgy. The Bible is both a collection of ancient human writings and at the same time the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Our Lord Himself is both fully human like us in all things but sin, but also fully divine. The same principal applies by analogy to the sacred liturgy. The human dimension is important, and some inculturation — taking into account cultural, language, and ethnic differences — has a place. After all, each of us needs to "connect" with the liturgy so as to fully and actively participate in the saving work of Christ that's taking place on the altar. But at the same time, the liturgy is primarily a work of the Holy Trinity. Just as we can't save ourselves, we can't concoct our own liturgical "potions" or services that will bring to us divine grace. Christ has already given us the blueprint for this, and it is up to us to receive the sacred rites, not create them. It seems to me such an approach demonstrates the Catholic affirmation of God's sovereignty and the primacy of divine grace, which Evangelicals would appreciate.

United in the Faith,

Leon Suprenant

Catholics United for the Faith
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  • Guest

    also Mr. Moore,

    it seem just to be a ritual but we are celebrating or shall i say that we are in actual communion with Christ Himself as He is really present both in body and blood in the holy sacrifice of the mass. Thus, any modernization of such is not needed as it is the fullness of all rituals. It is an experience indeed as Mr. Leon has well said. The presence of Jesus suffices everything, teach your students to be more sensitive through the works of the Holy Spirit.

    I suggest that you read the book "Rome Sweet Home" by Scott and Kimberly Hahn.

    May God bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

    Erwin Salubre


  • Guest

    Of course the main reason we celebrate the Eucharist is becouse we have been told to do so in memory of Our Lord Jesus Christ.   So the primary reason for the mass is rooted in obedience to Our Lord's word.


    Thoughts on the rituals surrounding the consecration.

    We as humans need to be reminded of what is truly important.  One way to view the ritual of mass is as the setting surrounding the pearl without price.


    Without constant reminders of the truth, we gradually lose our way.   So the ritual of mass means that we will every Sunday will gather as a community to be reminded of the need to repent of our sins, the Word of God, the chief truths of our faith, will pray  for the needs of our community, as a community, will join in Jesus's offering of Himself, will offer praise and glory to God as we should ….


       Every important event in my life has had rituals connected to it from the annual celebration of my birth with the ritual candles and singing to the simple ritual surrounding the family meal.  The more important something is to society and/or a family, the more rituals surround it even if we do not always realize they are rituals.  Our celebration of the Gift of God to us all, the most important Sacrifice possible is naturally full of ritual.