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).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Liturgy is Life: a meditation.

The Mass offers man a way to spiritual harmony: harmony with God; harmony with other human beings. Ideally, the various sections of the Mass flow into each other in a lyrical and mighty progression toward God. Each section is a movement in a spiritual symphony of praise, adoration, thanksgiving and supplication offered through Christ and with Him and in Him.

Why must the Mass be celebrated with decorum, that is, with dignity and reverence? Can we offer God anything less than our best, our hearts made manifest in beautiful ritual, sacred music, awe inspiring architecture, sublime statuary and magnificent mosaics that tease other hearts into an embrace with the Incarnate Word? Perhaps our worship has gone off the rails because our hearts are hollowed out by low expectations, a low view of man and a low view of God. Worship is, in many ways, a reflection of where our hearts are at and upon whom our hearts are centred. If liturgy is a mirror, then the Sunday Mass in most churches might be telling parishioners that they are worshipping themselves or some caricature of God instead of the living God to Whom the Sacred Liturgy belongs.

Mass or mess?

Our participation in the Mass is not meant to be a cacophony of activity but rather an inner orientation toward God that issues forth in right action. This participation is guided by the liturgical norms which, if observed, focus the heart on Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. Being liturgical busybodies is not what the Second Vatican Council intended.
Authentic Participation 
52. The Second Vatican Council rightly emphasized the active, full and fruitful participation of the entire People of God in the eucharistic celebration (155). Certainly, the renewal carried out in these past decades has made considerable progress towards fulfilling the wishes of the Council Fathers. Yet we must not overlook the fact that some misunderstanding has occasionally arisen concerning the precise meaning of this participation. It should be made clear that the word "participation" does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life. The conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium encouraged the faithful to take part in the eucharistic liturgy not "as strangers or silent spectators," but as participants "in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, actively and devoutly" (156). This exhortation has lost none of its force. The Council went on to say that the faithful "should be instructed by God's word, and nourished at the table of the Lord's Body. They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to make an offering of themselves. Through Christ, the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and each other" (157).—Sacramentum Caritatis.
So then, let us begin!

Liturgy is life.

The Greeting: Hospitality, reverence, blessing.
  • Gracious language.
  • Grace-filled living.
The introductory rites of the Sacred Liturgy remind us that we are brothers and sisters in the family of God and that God is with His Church (cf. Familiaris Consortio).

Daily greetings were once godly phrases: good day = God give you a good day; goodbye = God be with ye. Imagine if, in common interactions outside Mass, we bid each other welcome and farewell with a brief prayer as we do at Mass.

All Catholic worship begins with an entrance into the mystery of the Cross. Together we make the Sign of the Cross as we enter into the sublime prayer that is the Mass. We greet each other in the name of the Lord. If we are greeting each other in His holy Name, then, indeed, we had better take our greetings seriously. The Cross crucifies out limited expectations and shatters our focus on the limited horizon we often create for ourselves. The Cross refocusses our gaze on the transcendent Holy Trinity, the One in Whose image man is created.

The more we enter into the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the more we realize that life is the Cross and the Cross is life. The Cross of Christ is the quintessential sign of the mystery of love conquering the mystery of iniquity, the triumph of love over death. In that mystery of love, time meets eternity.

When we make the Sign of the Cross, we invite the Most Holy Trinity to bless us as we enter into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Penitential Rite: Purifying the heart and mind; dying to self.
  • Love requires that we are accountable for our actions.
  • Love means saying sorry.
  • Love means offering mercy and forgiveness.
  • Love means respect for the dignity of man.
  • Love forms and informs conscience.
  • Love means embracing our enemies.
  • Love brings healing.
What is life without forgiveness? Is there anyone among us who can say they are without sin? The Penitential Rite reminds us of who we are and that we need Jesus to rescue us from our sins. The Rite remits venial sins that wound the soul, but it also points us in the direction of the Sacrament of Penance so that, in that forum, we confess our most serious sins that kill the life of God in the soul and, having made our act of contrition, we are absolved of our sins at the hands of God's priest.

Liturgy of the Word: Wisdom for life.
  • Wisdom forms us.
  • Wisdom purifies us.
  • We discover Jesus in and through His word.
  • We honour and embrace the wisdom of God preserved for us by our elders.
  • We mature in the Faith.
The ambo upon which rests the Lectionary and the Book of the Gospels is a throne and an altar. We approach the mystery of the Incarnation, God with us, by listening to His word, the word of God. Man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (St. Matthew 4:4). Formed in the word, we begin to approach the mystery of the Cross in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The entire Mass is really a liturgy of the Word, for Jesus "permeates" His Divine Liturgy.

Credo

We sing or say our conviction, our love of the Most Holy Trinity in Whose image we are formed. The Creed reminds us that the sure sign of the Catholic Christian is obedience to God and His Church. The Creed is a prayer that engages us in relationship with the Most Holy Trinity by providing the "terms" of that relationship. We enunciate Who God is and who we are.

As disciples we are disciplined in or by the word of God, i.e., refined and configured to Christ. We become living "creeds" espoused to Christ in the world and in His Church. We receive our identity in and through the Word to be word(s), reflections of the one Word. In the Holy Spirit we are words of faith, hope, love and joy to and for a world of souls who desperately need the saving love of Jesus Christ.

Universal Prayer | Prayer of the Faithful

As "words" of God, we offer our petitions for a suffering world. We are members of a communion. The communion of the saints is a fellowship extending from time into eternity: the Church Militant is the Church on earth; the Church Suffering refers to those who have died and are being purified of any obstacles (venial sins) remaining after death; the Church Triumphant is comprised of the saints who enjoy the beatific vision of God in Paradise. We offer prayers for the Church Militant and Suffering and request of the saints in heaven prayers to God on our behalf and in support of those undergoing their particular purification.

Liturgy of the Eucharist: Love and Gratitude.
  • Thanksgiving.
  • Gratitude.
  • Acknowledging and depending on our Creator for life.
  • Sacrificial love.
  • Sign of Peace: peace making.
  • Communion.
  • Life giving sustenance.
The Holy Eucharist, the Mass, has been described as the source and summit of the life of the Church (CCC1324). In the Mass we meet Christ. We are present to His crucifixion on Calvary because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the one and same Sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. In the Mass we also witness the Last Supper. We are actually present to that first Mass because the Mass transcends time and space. In the Mass, time meets eternity.

Concluding Rites: Purpose.
  • We are blessed.
  • We walk with God.
  • We are sent forth to share the message of hope.
  • We bring the Gospel to the public square to transform culture.
We are sent forth to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News to a broken world. We who are Christian are called to be like Christ, broken as bread and given to a hungry world.
Permit me to imitate my suffering God ... I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.—Saint Ignatius of Antioch.
Having courage to speak and act the Faith does not mean one is necessarily without fear. Courage means overcoming fear with a perfect love for Christ. In the midst of the perfect suffering of the martyrs—perfect because Christ resides in the hearts of the persecuted and suffering—perfect love casts out all fear.
Jesus will make His home in you if you ask Him.
The various forms of dismissal at the conclusion of the Mass remind us that, because we are called by Christ, we are also sent: Ite missa est—literally "Go, it is sent."
51. Finally, I would like to comment briefly on the observations of the Synod Fathers regarding the dismissal at the end of the eucharistic celebration. After the blessing, the deacon or the priest dismisses the people with the words: Ite, missa est. These words help us to grasp the relationship between the Mass just celebrated and the mission of Christians in the world. In antiquity, missa simply meant "dismissal." However in Christian usage it gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word "dismissal" has come to imply a "mission." These few words succinctly express the missionary nature of the Church. The People of God might be helped to understand more clearly this essential dimension of the Church's life, taking the dismissal as a starting point. In this context, it might also be helpful to provide new texts, duly approved, for the prayer over the people and the final blessing, in order to make this connection clear (154).Sacramentum Caritatis.
Deo gratias. Thanks be to God. As we are sent forth as icons of Christ, our gratitude becomes resolve, the resolve to find Christ in others and to serve Christ in others.
Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me 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 nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

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