Liturgy Institute London

For a detailed and peaceful study of Liturgy

Liturgical Hermeneutics

image of Daniel McCarthy17 – 28 July 2023, weekdays

IL: L704;
KULeuven: B-KUL-A0718A, 4 study points

Taught byProf. Daniel McCarthy OSB

Aims: At the end of the course each student will be prepared:
i. to interpret a liturgical prayer and its rite using a selection of analytical tools and liturgical dimensions,
ii. describe the proper contribution of each analytical tool and liturgical dimension, for the interpretation of a specific text or rite,
iii. situate another person’s interpretation of a liturgical prayer or rite according to these interpretative tools and liturgical dimensions

Dates: 17-28 July 2023, weekdays

Cost: £280

Hours: 10.00-13.00 (including a break)

The course anticipates the student will spend 60 hours in personal reading and study.

Location: Benedictine Study and Arts Centre (at Ealing Abbey)
74 Castlebar Road Ealing London, W5 2DD, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)20 8194 2320
For further details or to register contact the Centre at:
E-mail: il AT liturgyinstitute DOT com

KU Leuven awards 4 study points to this graduate course. This course fulfils the required elective course for the award in Liturgical Studies offered by the Institutum Liturgicum.

Previous knowledge

It is recommended that students be familiar with the history of western civilisation in the Christian period and, in particular, with the various liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church. Analysis of liturgical texts assumes a working ability in Latin.


We follow the hermeneutical method presented by Prof. Renato De Zan in the articles “How to Interpret a Collect” and “Criticism and Interpretation of Liturgical Texts”. After a brief historical survey of method, we examine the theology of liturgical prayer in its ritual context according to the dimensions: anamnesis-mimesis, epiclesis, theandric-divinisation, ecclesial. We next apply the following forms of analysis: textual, philological, semantic, historical, literary and celebrative. In each session we:

  • examine selected prayers in their ritual context from liturgical books,
  • apply the liturgical dimension or analytical tool currently under consideration while reviewing those already considered,
  • analyse the meaning of the text in its ritual context.

To help the student synthesize this material, at the beginning of the course the instructor and each student agree on a liturgical prayer text in its ritual context for the student to study. As each dimension of the liturgy or analytical tool is presented, the student applies these to the agreed upon text in its ritual context and prepares written notes on the liturgical dimensions and analytical tools learned in class and applied by the student.

Course Material

♦ DE ZAN, R., “How to Interpret a Collect”, in Appreciating the Collect, ed. J.G. Leachman, 57-77; “Criticism and Interpretation of Liturgical Texts”, in Introduction to the Liturgy, ed. A.J. Chupungco (Handbook for Liturgical Studies 1), Liturgical Press (A Pueblo Book), Collegeville MN 1997, 331-365 -365. These are our primary guides.
Appreciating the Collect: An Irenic Methodology, ed. J.G. Leachman – D.P. McCarthy (Documenta rerum ecclesiasticarum instaurata, Liturgiam aestimare: Appreciating the Liturgy) St. Michael’s Abbey Press, Farnborough, England 2008.
♦ MCCARTHY, D.P. – J..G. LEACHMAN, Listen to the Word, (Documenta rerum ecclesiasticarum instaurata, Varia), The Tablet Trust, London 2009.
♦ LEACHMAN, J.G., “A Liturgical Study of the Proper Prayers for St Charles of St Andrew Houben, C.P.: (1) The Opening Prayer, Questions liturgiques/Studies in Liturgy 92 (2011) 29-45.
♦ LEACHMAN, J..G., – D.P. MCCARTHY, “Preparation for the Piazza”, Societas Liturgica Conference, August 12th 2007, in Studia Liturgica 38 (2008), 114-133.

Course activities

♦ In personal study time, students read the assigned part of the article by De Zan.
♦ The instructor presents and all discuss the historical survey and each dimension of the liturgy and analytical tool.
♦ All analyse a selection of liturgical prayer texts in their ritual contexts according to each liturgical dimension or interpretative tool.
♦ Students and instructor evaluate the contribution of each method to the interpretation.
♦ In personal study time, each student applies the liturgical dimensions and interpretative tools to one’s own approved prayer.
♦ In personal study time, each student writes notes in preparation for an oral exam.

Evaluation description

Examination type: oral (100%); with written notes made throughout the course.

When: oral exam is conducted at the end of the final session.

Explanation: A copy of the student’s notes is handed in at the beginning of the oral exam and kept on record for one year. The student uses notes and printed books during the exam. The student prepares all the material from the course, but chooses and presents in depth one liturgical dimension or analytical tool and its application to the agreed on prayer in context. The instructor chooses another liturgical dimension or analytical tool. The student uses 20 minutes to prepare. During the oral exam the student first presents the topic of one’s own choice, then the topic of the instructor’s choice. During the discussion the instructor asks questions that help the student complete the student’s presentation and to probe the clarity and comprehensiveness of the student’s knowledge, understanding and evaluation of the theory of these two topics and the application of them to the prayer in its ritual context.

Criteria for evaluation: The written essay is required before the discussion, but the full mark (100%) is based on the student’s oral presentation of the student’s knowledge, understanding and evaluation of the theory and its application.

Second opportunity to sit the exam: Because this is an intensive summer course, the opportunity for a second exam is by appointment and depends upon the availability of the instructor.

Note: Students must be over 18 years of age.

The course anticipates the student will spend 60 hours in personal reading and study.

This course is designed so that prepared students may also enrol in another course, but students may wish to prepare for the intensive schedule by reading suggested texts before the course begins.

The instructor will arrange with the students to be available in the Study Centre and also available by appointment.

Students and the public are invited to attend the annual St Bede Lecture, to be held at Ealing Abbey on Saturday afternoon 8 July at 2.30 PM.


Non residential day students are welcome.

Limited accommodation is available through Ealing Abbey house for guests or other religious houses or nearby.

Additional information from KU Leuven course web-site

 Academic year: 2023−2024

 Study points: 4

 Language: English

 Difficulty: Graduate-Intermediate

 Duration: 26.0 hours

 Periodicity: Taught biennially in Block II

 POC: POC Theology and Religious Studies

This course is included in

Master of Theology and Religious Studies Study Abroad Programme in European Culture and Society (PECS).

A link to the course descriptor at KU Leuven is here. The course is based on one offered in Italian, “Critica ed ermeneutica dei test liturgici (1 parte) by Prof. Renato De Zan at the Ateneo Sant’Anselmo, Rome.

web-page updated on 19 December 2022 by DM