The Ministry of Liturgical Environment

by Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.


While the principles and directives on liturgical environment are not new, what is new is our understanding of this ministry is not insignificant, our practice of them, our engagement with them. Since liturgical communities are ever growing and changing (or at least they ought to be), it makes sense that the environment in which they worship will also grow and change. And it has. This is reflected not only in the revised content of these seven chapters but also in the new order in which the chapters appear, In this revised edition of the Ministry of Liturgical Environment, the content of the chapters moves from people(first two chapters)to space (next three chapters) to action (last two chapters). This alerts us to something of a liturgical priestly when it comes to the environment of the sacred space. People are our most important “commodity.” In fact, in many ways the people in church—the gathered assembly, the church made visible—is the environment. Why and how the people are there, the deportment and even dress of the people, the participation and commitment of the people, all affect the liturgical environment far more than we might imagine, and men certainly affect the liturgical celebration itself. All the added decorations in the world won’t do what the liturgical environment must do-lead the people into mystery of Christ bring celebrated—if the people are not properly disposed as to why they are gathered in the place. The ministry of those directly responsible for the liturgical environment, then is really directed to why the assembly gathers. Who are these people—these liturgical environment ministers? This is actually not an easy question to answer! This ministry involves much more than adding decorations to a building. The ministry is often very, very broad and can even apply to other ministers. Most often the other ministers are taken for granted It just gets done. Yes, it is all these behind the scenes people who tirelessly do so much week after week who contribute so much to the liturgy. Their ministry may be behind the scenes, but it is so very important. The questions at the end of the chapters makes their ministry clear.


Because each liturgical environment is different, the principles and especially the practical suggestions of this book do not apply equally and in the same way to all spaces. Therefore, readers must be actively engaged in doing more than simply reading this book; readers must constantly evaluate, critique, and apply what is written here for a particular space. For example, if the sacred space is a small chapel, some things will be applied in a different way from how they would be applied for a cathedral space. Another example: if the sacred space is relatively new with seating configured more in the round or in a fan shape, some things will be applied in a different way from how they would be applied in a traditional, elongated Gothic structure. No two spaces are alike. For a sacred space to work well, everything about it must be directed to the celebration of a liturgy in this particular space for this specific occasion with this unique assembly.


In chapter 4 on Sacred Space the author has us reflect on these questions: What are the advantages and disadvantages if the members of the assembly all enter through the same door) What is the symbolism this conveys/ How well do I prepare for Sunday liturgy? How is the way I live my everyday life a preparation for liturgy? What in the sacred space seems out of place? What is missing? What do I wish were there? How would this help/hinder my parish’s worship? How does the beauty and dignity of the liturgical environment draw me into liturgy? Throughout the book, questions are proposed for reflection and thought so that we may continuously deepen our love and understanding of liturgy. This is an excellent book for all who wish to improve their understanding and love for liturgy.

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