The First Sunday of Advent will see the introduction of a new missal in the Catholic Church, one that has been in preparation for five hundred years.
Known as Divine Worship: The Missal, it has been handsomely published by the Catholic Truth Society to serve the communities and parishes of the personal ordinariates —structures similar to dioceses, established to provide a home in the Catholic Church for those from the Anglican tradition.
Divine Worship: The Missal obviously didn’t really take five hundred years to prepare, but it is the product of the prayers of almost half a millennium. It represents, in a very real way, the fruit of the sacrifices made by Catholics during the so-called Reformation, and embodies the longed-for unity of Christians articulated by the documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
In his encyclical letter on Christian unity, Ut unum sint, Pope Saint John Paul II said that
“legitimate diversity is no way opposed to the Church’s unity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes treating to the fulfillment of her mission.”
This principle is at work in Divine Worship. Our distinctive liturgical life in the personal ordinariates is at once a sign of that legitimate diversity, and of a tradition which has been grafted to the vine from which it was so brutally severed—the rock from which it was hewn (Isaiah 51:1).
In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the liturgical life of the personal ordinariates and so Divine Worship: The Missal, may be seen as
“a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the ordinariate and . . . a treasure to be shared.”
This is why Divine Worship: The Missal matters to us all, whether or not we are members of a personal ordinariate; whether or not we are ourselves even former Anglicans. As Archbishop Augustine Di Noia from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently said,
“Divine Worship and the personal ordinariates represent, in many ways, a realized ecumenism.”
That is to say, this new missal is a fruit of our prayer for Christian Unity. It is what Pope Benedict called, “a prophetic gesture … [that] sets our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion.” The introduction of Divine Worship, then, represents a hugely important moment in the life of the communities of the personal ordinariates, as we seek to implement in an authentic way the vision set before us by the Church and for which we have prayed for so long. It is also a moment of historic significance for the whole Church, as the liturgical patrimony of Christians from a community forged in the crucible of the Protestant Reformation is refined and repatriated to the fullness of Catholic communion. All Catholics can rejoice in this work and support us in this task: Visit our communities! Get to know our people! Come and experience our worship! Above all, continue to take up the Lord’s challenge given on the night that he was betrayed, to pray that all may be one in him, that the world might believe (John 17: 21).
Also available from CTS:
More Images of Divine Worship: The Missal
Father James Bradley is a Priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and a graduate student of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, DC.