So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Living Liturgically

What does it mean to live liturgically?

Catholics immerse themselves in the mysteries, the sacraments, which are given by Christ to His Church to sanctify His people so that:
  1. we may express our love, praise, thanksgiving and adoration to God Who made and redeemed man;
  2. hearing God's word, and receiving His most Precious Body and Blood, we are configured to Him in the Holy Eucharist and grow in holiness;
  3. we may enjoy God's gift of a foretaste of heaven in this life;
  4. we may lead others to Jesus Christ so they, too may share in His offer of salvation; 
  5. with hope for salvation in Christ, we may enter paradise when this life comes to an end.
We would be hard pressed to exhaust the meaning of the signs God gives to us. The mysteries, i.e., the sacraments, because they are revelations of God, are infinitely rich in meaning. Think of the many blessings of the Sacrament of Matrimony, for example. Also, connected to point number five above is the hope-filled freedom which is brought about by Christ as He extends to us His infinite mercy in the Sacrament of Penance, the gift of mercy that sustains us in our journey home to God.

S.S.A.M.
  • Saturation. Attend daily Mass and saturate your life with the Presence of Jesus. 
  • Holy Mass is the meeting of heaven and earth. Jesus is present with His people at every Mass. 
  • The Mass is filled with the wisdom of God, the wisdom we hear in the reading of Holy Scripture. If you do not already know, by attending daily Mass you will hear almost the entire Bible read over the period of two years. We can share that wisdom with others, with a spouse, one's children, with friends, neighbours, employers and coworkers. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.—St. John 14:21. 
  • When we hear the word of God, we are, by the grace of God, transformed by His sacred word. The Church reminds us that one of the presences of Jesus during the Mass is during the reading of Holy Scripture, especially the Holy Gospel. Allow yourself to be immersed in the word of God by placing yourself at the feet of the Master, the altar of the word where one meets the Word of God.
  • Sanctification. Growing in holiness is the goal and joy of the Catholic.
  • To grow in holiness is to grow in mercy, to grow in love for God and neighbour, to take up one's cross and imitate the Master, to reject sin and live for truth and justice. To be holy is to think with the mind of Christ and act with His heart. To be holy is to be in harmony with the Church.
  • Suffering is part of the human condition. Christ's wounds open in Him a place for man; suffering opens in man a place for God. By Jesus' wounds we are healed.—Isaiah 53:5.
  • The Holy Spirit sustains us in the Faith. We must pray that Jesus will give us His Spirit. The love of God and neighbour, especially love for one's enemies, is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit.
  • Adoration. At Mass we meet the living God. He who has seen me has seen the Father.—St. John 14:8. So, too, at Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • To behold the Lamb of God is truly a wondrous encounter that invites a lifetime of meditation on that reality. Being in the Presence of Christ is a gift of incomparable magnitude.
  • For altar servers, serving at the altar is a blessing beyond words.
  • Jesus gives us His very Body and Blood at every Mass. Remember what He said: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.—St. John 6:54. Jesus is true to His promises. 
  • To be present to the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is to be washed in the light of Eternal God. If you have never spent an hour in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, then as soon as possible you should make the effort and put yourself in His Presence. "The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in Heaven, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth."—Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
  • According to Pope Benedict XVI the two etymologies of the word « adoration » correspond to its two dimensions: « The Greek word is proskynesis. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good. This gesture is necessary even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it. We can only fully accept it when we take the second step that the Last Supper proposes to us. The Latin word for adoration is ad-oratio - mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence, ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within. » (Benedict XVI, Homily WYD, Cologne 2005).
  • Maturation. Notice that the kind of submission described above is very different from that which the world or even other religions mean by submission.
  • For the Christian, submission becomes union, union with God by the grace of God. Jesus came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.— St. John 10:10. As we mature in the Faith we grow in trust of God. 
  • Keep close to Jesus, especially in the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). This great sacrament is, tragically, under utilized. Freed of guilt, we can live in the freedom Jesus offers each one of us. Jesus, through the priest, forgives us our sins.
The Mass gives to life focus and meaning. Exposed to the wisdom of God, we learn the purpose of being human. Awareness of that purpose is more than mere head knowledge. It is knowledge that is woven into the very fabric of our being and expressed in our loving gestures.



In the Mass, this life intersects with eternity. We are surrounded by the holy angels. We become present to Jesus' Sacrifice on Calvary. We enter into His Sacrifice; we offer to God our lives, our daily struggles and joys. Immersed in the love-exchange between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, one's being may become oriented to gratitude. The Eucharist, which means thanksgiving, shapes us in the way of gratitude and mercy. We Catholics literally feed on the Lord Whose Sacrifice saves us from death so that we may love and live life to the full. Surely that is ample reason to give thanks to God.

The structure of the Mass begins to structure our daily activities when we embrace the mystery of the Cross. The Cross is at the heart of the Mass. The rubrics of the Liturgy are at once practical and deeply meaningful, guiding our awareness and understanding to Jesus Who is the principal actor in the Liturgy. The rubrics serve to design in us the pattern of the Cross. If the Mass was merely a "prayer service", or praise and worship gathering of some kind instead of Jesus present to us in His word, in the person of the priest, the congregation gathered in Jesus' name, and most sublimely when He becomes present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist, then what's the point? Our human actions would merely be a fashioning of God in our own image instead of Jesus refashioning us in His image, the very image of God.

To put it another way, the Mass is not our doing but Christ's. The Mass is not based on our design but on the very design given to the Apostles on that night when Jesus gathered the Twelve around Him and instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Our prayer, then, is an entry into the prayer of Christ, which is all the more reason we ought to ensure the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered in a manner that is beautiful, true and good so that perception of the mystery of Redemption is not obscured through abuse.

Jesus calls us to holiness, but He does not abandon us to our own weak efforts. He "informs" our efforts by becoming present and allowing us to feed on His Body and Blood, to receive His life into our lives and be taken up into the mystery of His life, death and resurrection. Prayer-filled gestures during the celebration of the Mass teach us how we might live each day all day long:
  • bowing - there are three kinds of bows that may be described as follows: head, shoulder (deep), and from the waist (profound). When servers bow to the priest it is because they recognize he is alter Christus, acting in persona christi. An ancient and venerable custom is to bow at the mention of the name of Jesus during the orations and chants of the Mass. A server usually bows, for example, at the mention of the name of Jesus (in the orations and chants of the Mass, e.g. the CollectGloria, etc.) and at the mention of the Holy Trinity. A bow may be made at the mention of the Virgin Mary or at the mention of a particular saint during a Mass commemorating that saint.
  • genuflecting - the soul is inclined to God in adoration of the Triune God Who alone is worthy of latria. Let us bend the knee in the Presence of the Living God.
  • the hand position servers typically observe (palms held lightly together at the centre of the chest near the heart, right thumb crossed over left) reminds one of a flame indicating the heart, directed heavenward, is on fire for God.
  • responses & acclamations are acts of reception; we receive the Word of God in Holy Scripture; we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Our action is a response to God's invitation, a response made possible by our cooperation with God's grace.
The gestures handed down to us direct our bodies and minds to Christ. The fruit of a prayerfully made gesture can be humility, awe of the Lord, love and respect for our neighbours, reverence of the body, a disciplined mind, and so forth. Our gestures at Mass flow out of the orientation each person experiences and thus expresses in, for example, the Confiteor, the Credo, the Mysterium Fidei, and the Domine Non Sum Dignus. That orientation is I believe! I confess, I believe—this "I" of which we speak is both the corporate "I" of the Church, the entire Church assembled before the Lord and the "I" of the individual believer who, obedient to the Truth of God, finds meaning and fulfillment in Christ.

Because the Church is one, everyone in Christ's Church is praying as one. We are members of one body, a sacred fellowship visibly united forming one communion that spans heaven, purgatory and earth—the Communion of the Saints.
In recent years it has become less fashionable to speak of the various distinctions in the Communion of the Saints, especially when it comes to identifying the Church Militant. It seems fairly easy to acknowledge the Church Triumphant, i.e., the souls who are with God in Paradise. The Church Suffering, i.e., the souls who are undergoing purification in Purgatory, is an aspect of the Communion that affords the living much hope. But when it comes to the Church Militant, people tend to blanch at the idea we are supposed to be warriors in any kind of a battle. Well, there is a battle, a battle between the Light and darkness, between God and His holy angles on one side, and Satan and the demons on the other. The Liturgy is the camp of the Lord wherein we soldiers are equipped with the necessary spiritual weapons to fight the battle for souls.
We know that God has already won the war. Nevertheless, Lucifer will rail against the Church and attempt to divide us, the true Church. Satan does not worry about sects that purport to be Christ's Church. Those groups which have embraced the world are prisoners of war. Satan has a hold on the groups which claim to be more christian than the one Church that Christ established. It's up to Catholics to wage war and rescue those who, through no fault of their own, have embraced communities which have abandoned the commandments of Jesus for another gospel, a false gospel that lauds hedonism, abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage, aberrant sexual behaviour, women's "ordination", etc. It's our privilege as Catholics to share the Good News of Salvation and to lead others to the true worship of God. It's our duty to serve as bearers of the Good News to people under siege.

How do we serve those who are most in need of the mercy of Jesus? We begin and proceed one soul at a time, just as we have always done. We are present to the one person with whom we are sharing the Gospel, by living the Gospel which is the heart of the Liturgy. The heart of the Gospel and the Mass is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ.
Corporal Works of Mercy 
To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead. 
Spiritual Works of Mercy 
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.
Sound familiar? And who is it that we serve in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked... ?
“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”—Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 25:31-46



The Liturgy—a.k.a., the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Qurbana—is the fount of life from which we draw wisdom and strength. The Liturgy is the oasis from which we draw living water. The Liturgy is the home in which we find peace and the transformation of suffering. The Liturgy takes us to the Upper Room and Calvary. We are present to Christ Who is present to time and eternity. We stand in awe of the majesty of Christ, the Lord of history, the Lord of heaven and earth. May that sense of awe inform our daily lives and thereby lead others to salvation in Christ.

If we truly love the Lord, then we will also fully embrace His call to live as His disciples, disciples who love the Lord by keeping His commandments.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
—Gospel according to St. John 14:15

No comments:

Post a Comment

"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.