General and Introductory Materials
Part 4 Liturgical Issues

Chapter d43 The Structure and Elements of a Liturgical Rite

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Structure and Elements of a Rite

Individual Elements

Incense

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

 

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Bibliography

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Structure and Elements of a Rite
(Christmas Tree Analogy)

1.  An understanding of the structure and elements of a liturgical rite is important first of all because the methodology of liturgical/sacramental theology begins with the celebration of the rite itself. 

2.  Each liturgical rite or celebration is composed of  various elements (prayers, songs, readings, intercessions, processions, incense, etc) arranged in a certain structure or order.  A key to understanding the liturgical celebration is found in understanding the nature, meaning, and function of the various liturgical elements, and understanding how they are put together (structured).

3.  The notion of the structure and elements of a liturgical rite can be illustrated by an artificial Christmas Tree.  (I know this is a silly example, but the silliness can be a help to remembering it.)  I go to the discount store and buy an artificial Christmas tree.  When I come home to assemble it, I need certain pieces (elements) and I need to know how they fit together (structure)

Elements: The two brown poles, the red stand, and the various lengths of green, fuzzy pieces

Structure: the shape of a Christmas tree. The way in which the elements are arranged.  The "Structure" or "Form" makes the symbol, gives the rite memories or "Prehension"


Primary and secondary elements.  Not all the elements are of the same importance. The brown poles are essential, the red stand is necessary, and at least some of the green fuzzy pieces are necessary, but not all of them. Lights, tinsel, ornaments, secondary, but important!

Occasional elements.   Sometimes the box contains pieces you don't need in every circumstance:  e.g. guide wires for high winds; or a transformer for 220 current; or an adaptor for a German electric socket.

Essential Structure / Optional elements. There is more than one way to decorate the tree.

Combining Elements.  To combine two sets, e.g. two artificial trees, to make one big tree, you must know how the elements function. You don't need all the pieces of both sets.

Directions for Assembly.  Often you need to know shape by heart (e.g. when the Christmas tree directions are in Japanese.  Or when you have a wet baby in one hand and a pitcher of Chrism in the other.)

4.  Knowledge of the elements of a liturgical rite is important because of the principle Age quod agis. (literally "Do what you are doing" that is, "In order to do well what you are doing, you must know what it is that you are doing.")  When you are thanking, be thankful.  When you are remembering, remember, etc.

5.  Knowledge of the structure of a liturgica rite is important in order for the celebration to proceed properly.  For example, when celebrating a wedding during the Eucharist, both the Rite of Marriage, and the Eucharist have a "Gathering Rite" however when the two rites are combined only one "Gathering Rite" is necessary or useful.

6.  The Eucharist is the model of all the sacraments and gives each of the rites a four-fold structure similar to that of the Eucharist:  gathering, story telling, meal sharing, commissioning. 

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Incense

Tom Richstatter on Incense

1.   The focus is on smell not smoke.

2.  The historical origins are found in purification, and hence honor.  This is why the incense always leads the procession, ahead of the cross, candles, book, or anything or anyone else.

3.  The archetype involved here is "up" -- Let my prayers go up...

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To Think About

1.  Outline from memory the structure of the Eucharist; the Rite of Marriage.  Each of the other sacraments.

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at tomrichs@psci.net.