Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Holy Mass needs to be set at the centre of the Christian life and celebrated in a dignified manner by every community, in accordance with established norms, with the participation of the assembly, with the presence of ministers who carry out their assigned tasks, and with a serious concern that singing and liturgical music be suitably "sacred".... The best way to enter into the mystery of salvation made present in the sacred "signs" remains that of following faithfully the unfolding of the liturgical year.
John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine #17

In one of the many adventures of the intrepid crew of the Enterprise, the crew makes first contact with a species that communicates only in metaphors. The crew are frustrated and confused, until they understand what metaphors refer to. In other words, the symbols made sense once the crew knew what they stood for. The Sacred Liturgy functions in the same way.

The source and summit of the Christian faith is the Holy Mass. In the Holy Mass, Christ’s paschal mystery, His passion, death, and resurrection, are presented again to us, so that we may assent to them. In our assent, we commit ourselves to living in accord with the Covenant God has made with Man. The liturgy communicates this through its words and ritual gestures. Taken as a whole, these words and gestures are called a particular Rite.

While in the Church’s history, various Rites all had the same goal in mind: to unite Christ’s people in the act of worship before God. The Holy Mass allows us to return to God what is properly His, namely our praise and adoration (cf. CCC #1348-1355, 1368). Therefore, over time, the Church more carefully specified what were proper gestures for the Sacred Liturgy. Anything that might obscure the purpose of the Liturgy was curtailed or eliminated. We can see this present even in the letters of Saint Paul (I Corinthians 11:17-22, 33).

At the time of the Second Vatican Council, a great desire was expressed to reform the Sacred Liturgy, that is, to return to its roots. Unfortunately, a great deal of experimentation that the Council had not approved took place, leaving us with a great deal of confusion as to what is proper to the litugy. Most damaging of all has been a widespread notion that somehow the focus of the liturgy is the gathered congregation, rather than worship of the Eternal God. The Council’s document on the Liturgy has this sobering reminder, "Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority (Sacrosanctum Concilium #22)."

With all this said, what does this require of us? Unfortunately, with the through permeation of television into our consciousness, liturgical action often gets reduced to passive watching on our part. Each element of the Sacred Liturgy points us toward a proper disposition and an act of the will. During the Offertory, for instance, we offer ourselves, symbolized in our gifts of bread and wine and support for the poor. The Holy See’s website (http://www.vatican.va) has a wonderful selection of materials related to the Holy Eucharist. Click on the link for the Year of the Eucharist. These would benefit anyone looking to deepen their understand of this mystery. In particular, the Holy Father has encouraged Catholics to read and study the new General Instruction on the Mass so that they may understand better the signs and symbols the Liturgy employs (MND #17).

As a pastor, perhaps on the most disconcerting sign of Eucharistic indifference I have encountered happens after Mass. We long to linger in the presence of loved ones and close friends – we don’t want the moment to end. If the Mass re-presents the saving work of Christ, if we actually receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in Holy Communion, then shouldn’t we remain in our pews once Mass is concluded, giving thanks for what we have received? The usual occurance is a mass exodus with people running for the doors like there were a fire. It is time for a renewal of the practice of making a thanksgiving after Mass and after communion. The Mass is the closest thing we have to Heaven on Earth. Why wouldn’t we desire to prolong this intimate sharing? In addition, a return of reverential silence in our parish churches would go a long way to communice that we believe that the Lord is present and longing to speak to our deepest needs.

Sunbathing fills the summers of so many people. They love the bronze transformation this activity brings. I wonder what kind of transformation we would see if we basked in the Real Presence of the Son in the Sacred Liturgy.


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