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THCT607 Liturgical Theology

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Christian theology is rooted and expressed most richly in the Church’s liturgy. This unit explores the discipline of liturgical theology, which is the doing of theology from the perspective of the Church’s rites, their texts and contexts (including word, symbol, ritual action, prayer, space/time and the liturgical arts). The ancient origins of liturgical theology will be explored, along with its re-emergence during the Liturgical Movement and its contemporary iterations within the ongoing process of liturgical renewal. Foundational works in the field will be studied alongside more recent approaches to doing liturgical theology. Particular rites of the Church will be analysed in light of historical and theological insights so that the inseparable nature of the Church’s liturgical life and what it means to be Christian can be recognised, and so that the importance of preparing and celebrating liturgy well can be understood more fully. This unit aims to provide students with a broad understanding of principles of liturgical theology and the historical development, theory, ecclesial legislation and ritual ramifications of understanding the liturgy as enacted theology.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Demonstrate an understanding of the historical origins of liturgical theology (GA4)

LO2 - Use and understand the various sources of liturgical theology, including word, ritual, prayer, symbol, time/space, and liturgical arts (GA5)

LO3 - Analyse the Rite for Dedication of a Church (Prayer of Dedication + Anointing) from a liturgical-theological perspective (GA8)

LO4 - Identify and explain various ways of doing liturgical theology (GA4, GA8)

LO5 - Articulate a liturgical theology of the Order of Christian Funerals (Funeral Liturgy outside Mass) utilising a specific methodology (GA5, GA8)

LO6 - Demonstrate an understanding of the relevance of liturgical theology to the life of the Church and the Christian life (GA4)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

  • The origins and meaning of the principle lex orandi, lex credendi
  • Ancient precursors to liturgical theology
  • The re-emergence of liturgical theology during the Liturgical Movement
  • The approach of foundational liturgical theologians
  • Contemporary approaches to liturgical theology
  • Texts and contexts for liturgical-theological analysis
  • Word
  • Symbol
  • Prayer
  • Ritual action
  • Time/Space
  • Music/Arts
  • The Church’s rites as theological sources
  • Theology of the liturgy
  • Theology from the liturgy
  • Implications of liturgical theology for liturgical life and practice
  • The future of liturgical theology 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

The unit is normally offered in intensive face-to-face mode which enables students to interact directly with the lecturer and fellow class members as they consider carefully structured and sequenced unit materials designed to support the achievement of the unit’s learning outcomes. In face-to-face class sessions students are provided with the opportunity to learn with experts in liturgical theology and to work collaboratively in groups to discuss key principles and critically analyse their application to specific practical examples; identify and assess their own presuppositions and current perceptions regarding liturgical theology and how these might change in light of exposure to unit content; and engage in practical activities which enable them to reflect critically on key unit content, analyse and integrate new information with existing knowledge, draw meaningful new connections, and then work individually to apply what they have learned in assessment tasks . Assessment tasks are designed to provide a variety of opportunities for students to demonstrate their achievement of the unit’s learning outcomes and to enable them to go beyond the unit materials presented during the face-to-face classes so that they can engage in analysis and research tasks which require them to apply the knowledge they have gained through exposure to the unit’s lectures, tutorials, readings, analyses and exercises. 

The intensive face-to-face mode of learning requires students to attend class sessions and interact actively with the lecturer and fellow class members during those sessions to consider and begin integrating key concepts covered in the unit. Following the class, students are expected to work independently to integrate and embed concepts, information and principles covered during the class sessions through follow-up reading, individual research, writing and submission of assessment tasks.

Assessment strategy and rationale

To pass this unit students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve a cumulative grade of Pass (50% or higher). The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to enable students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.

Assessment task 1: Practical Exercises with Critical Reflection require students to engage in a critical reflection on aspects of liturgical theology and how it is expressed in the rituals of the Church. This assessment task provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate and articulate their understanding of key concepts of the materials and concepts under consideration in this unit in a focused manner.

Assessment task 2: Analysis: requires students to undertake a liturgical-theological analysis of a major rite of the Church, closely reading the rite as it appears in the official ritual book, and identifying the major theological concepts embedded in the ritual texts, rubrics and actions.

Assessment task 3: Major Essay – utilising the knowledge gained through lectures, exercises unit materials and readings, (along with relevant additional primary and secondary bibliographic references), students will research and write a major essay which enables them to engage in an extended investigation and critical consideration of a topic central to the unit. This assessment offers students the chance to demonstrate a synthesis of knowledge and insight gained throughout the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Practical Exercises with Critical Reflection: requires students to engage in a critical reflection on the historical development of liturgical theology and the roles particular dimensions of ritual play in expressing liturgical theology.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5

Analysis: requires students to engage in a liturgical-theological analysis of a major rite of the Church (e.g., Rite for Dedication of a Church, Prayer of Dedication and Anointing). 


LO2, LO3, LO6

GA4, GA5, GA8

Essay: requires students to research and write a liturgical-theological essay applying the methodology of Kevin Irwin to the Order of Christian Funerals, Funeral Liturgy outside Mass.


LO4, LO5, LO6

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Fagerberg, David. Theologia Prima: What is Liturgical Theology. Chicago: Hillenbrand, 2012.

Irwin, Kevin. Context and Text: Method in Liturgical Theology. Second Edition. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2017.

The Sacraments: Historical Foundations and Liturgical Theology. New York: Paulist, 2016.

Kavanagh, Aidan. On Liturgical Theology. Collegeville: Liturgical, 1984.

Kelleher, Margaret Mary. “Liturgical Theology: A Task and a Method” Worship 62 (1988): 2-25.

Lathrop, Gordon. Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993.

Saliers, Donald. Worship as Theology: Foretaste of Glory Divine. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.

Schmemann, Alexander. Introduction to Liturgical Theology. Crestwood: St Vladimir’s, 1966.

Vincie, Catherine. Celebrating Divine Mystery: A Primer in Liturgical Theology. Collegeville: Liturgical/Michael Glazier, 2009.

Vogel, Dwight. Primary Sources of Liturgical Theology: A Reader. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2000.

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