Since I discovered "liturgy" at Gettysburg Sem (thanks in major part to my late mentor, Leigh Jordahl, of blessed memory), I have been bemused by the efforts to define the liturgical action -- by which I mean the full eucharistic liturgy, or "mass" -- around a certain number of "actions." There seems to be a real need to "organize" what happens in the liturgy into (perhaps interrelated, but) separate scenes or acts: Perhaps hope springs eternal that we can interpose intermissions into the mass, I don't know.
In my training, Dom Gregory Dix, the great British monk who wrote The Shape of the Liturgy (which at least used to be the single-source reference that all people serious about liturgy had read and stored on their shelves -- even seminarians like me, who had to shell out it seemed like a thousand dollars to get a new copy of the British-published book) set the stage (to continue the metaphor): He defined the liturgical action around the institution narrative of the eucharist -- viz., Our Lord took (bread/wine), gave thanks/blessed (it), broke it, and gave it to his disciples.
More recently, we have sought to structure the liturgy around another great four -- gathering, listening (to God's Word), communing, and leaving (for service to the world). I think that this arrangement rather trivializes the matter by being so painfully obvious. Of course, we must gather -- and I grant that such is a liturgical action. (My liturgical guru, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, of most revered memory, convinced me that the first act of worship on Sunday is getting out of bed as preparation for going to mass.) But gathering is a rather pedestrian phenomenon when set side-by-side with communing, isn't it? And hearing God's word and communing are not actually separate experiences -- no matter how much Lutheran congregations think they can do one (especially the "Liturgy of the Word") without the other (the so-called "Liturgy of the Meal").
Now comes to my attention this meditation on the mass by a pious Roman Catholic woman in Milwaukee (a beloved town in my life): I don't know why exactly, but I'm quite taken with it. And I think it would be a helpful model by which congregations could develop a resource for inquirers, catechumens, and others who wonder what we're doing when we "worship."
The author identifies six stages -- or movements -- to the mass, which I think is a more reasonable number, though I wonder if we can't somehow get seven or eight to make it more biblical. And she is rather heavy on the priest/bishop language -- which will not be all that familiar to protestants. And I can hear Lutherans screaming protest about all the attention to the offering/collection. (The ur-Lutheran Oliver Olson, with whom I have discussed liturgy to the satisfaction of neither of us, will have a stroke over this.) But I think such complaint betrays a lack of perspective on history and liturgy -- or an oversensitivity to Lutheran formulae. And I'm not sure about distinguishing praying the Great Thanksgiving from the communion is right: I'd prefer attention to the intercessions (which get short -- virtually no -- schrift here). (Of course, while the Roman tradition does have a separate section of the mass for intercessions -- prayers of the people -- it also includes them in the Great Thanksgiving. So maybe that's the issue for the author.) But I did call this a model, not a reprint, eh?
The "shape" of the liturgy is important, but for me the greater issue is the integrity of the mass: It's one action, with many parts -- sort of like Shakespeare's "seven ages of man" which highlight the developmental stages of human growth, but place them in the context of the integrity of the one person's life.
I think this meditation helps balance things nicely. When I retire, maybe I'll try to write my own.