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admin | frugal living tips and ideas | 10.03.2016
Since Robert Bellah’s insightful reading of American life, liturgical and pastoral theologians have been aware of the subtle ways that individualism shapes American religious practice.
Yet, how might one form a Christian in such a way that orientation toward community does not “erase” individuality? In many ways, Peter Damian’s treatise on the Dominus vobiscum¬†(The Lord be with you) deals uniquely with the problem of the individual and the Church.
Damian solves here a problem, which has puzzled those who have sought to integrate an ecclesiology of the mystical body into a robust individual spirituality. In many ways, this teaching is not new to those of us in the post-conciliar era, but it is often forgotten by pastoral liturgists.

What might we learn from Damian’s small treatise, particularly related to forming Christians in the art of prayer in a culture of individualism? And so the priest before he offers sacrifice and prayers to God shows by this mutual greeting that he is bound to the faithful by the bond of brotherly love; he does this so that he may make this commandment of the Lord clear by his outward actions, as well as keeping it in his heart. As the individual prays with the Church, he or she comes to envision those other members of the Church with whom the individual shares in communion. Therefore, the salve for individualism is not placing the communal above the individual, requiring ¬†that every experience of prayer be performed in a community. Particularly dangerous for liturgical traditions, such individualism denudes any sense of long-term communal memory.

First, the ministers of the Church may find that communal liturgical prayer becomes easier, if they seek to cultivate solitude among individual Christians. Peter Damian (1007-72) offers a Eucharistic ecclesiology through an explication of individual and communal prayer. We have focused (almost to a fault) on building a liturgical spirituality, not recognizing that the human person is in fact a unity of body, soul, and mind, and therefore liturgical prayer also requires a person who has simply learned to pray as an ecclesial being.

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