Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: [In regards to your July 18 column on the Liturgy of the Hours], why are you so legalistic — do you think in this way you will make the People of God (clergy included) love the liturgy? Besides, I think you are wrong on the following point. How can you argue that “Effectively this is an obligation inherent to orders”? This is a Church law which should be obeyed in the same manner other Church laws are to be obeyed. But it’s not inherent to orders. The same could be said of the law of celibacy of the diocesan clergy! – J.I., Ghaxaq, Malta
A: I suppose that being a tad legalistic is inherent, or at least endemic, to being a liturgist. But in all honesty, if a person asks me a question on liturgical law it seems only respectful and fair to the inquirer to frame the reply in legal terms. One tries to also present the spiritual dimension, but I attempt to answer the question I’m asked.
That said, I do think our reader has a point, although I would make a distinction.
What is inherent to orders is the priest’s role as intercessor and mediator. As the Letter to the Hebrews 5:1 states: “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”
This is why the document from the Holy See that we quoted was able to say:
“Sacred ministers, along with the Bishops, find themselves joined in the ministry of intercession for the People of God who have been entrusted to them, as they were to Moses (Ex 17, 8-16), to the Apostles (1 Tim 2, 1-6) and to the same Jesus Christ ‘who is at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us’ (Rom 8, 34). Similarly, the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, no. 108 states: ‘Those who pray the psalms in the liturgy of the hours do so not so much in their own name as in the name of the entire Body of Christ.'”
The law of the Church is the concrete determination that this role of intercession be carried out through praying the Liturgy of the Hours as well as other liturgical prayers especially the Eucharist.
Once more from the above-mentioned document: “This recitation does not have for its part the nature of a private devotion or of a pious exercise realized by the personal will alone of the cleric but rather is an act proper to the sacred ministry and pastoral office.”