From a first post to this one, I have been discussing the Sacred Liturgy: Can we “get” what is going on?
We talked a lot about one’s disposition to be able to “get” much out of Mass. We talked about what makes our worship traditional and Christ-centered. We’ve looked at some Scriptures.
In this blog, I want to comment on this: We were made to worship the Lord. Yes, we are so designed!. By our Baptism (and other Sacraments) we are being renewed to enter into His Gates with thanksgiving and come into His Courts with praise. By our covenant relationship by the Sacraments, we have entered into a salvation relationship to Christ as His Body (or embodied believers in Him, the Church). There is a Sacred Liturgy by which we, then, match up to encounter our Lord in the Holy Mass.
Let’s talk about the fact that we were designed to be able to worship God. While we have had that area of ourselves fractured by sin, and it has begun us all in a fallen state with God (“original sin”), we have been offered a way to be renewed and restored, even if by one stage/holy step at a time. And we have been offered the opportunity to worship in many Masses, if we’d like.
Indeed, all human persons are made to worship God. God in Christ Jesus has given us access of worship, as the Savior explained, “you shall worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)” and He repeatedly spoke of “An Hour that was coming” for its possibility through Him (John 2:4, 4:23, 5:25). At the Last Supper and at the Cross, Jesus then spoke of the “Hour’s” fulfillment, saying at last, at table “This is My Body… This is the Blood of the New Covenant. Now do this in memory of Me…” then, at Calvary… “It is consummated! Into Your Hands (Father), I commend My Spirit.” (John ch. 18 & 19)
At Holy Mass we stand at that place of encounter with God.
Let me repeat: At Holy Mass we stand at THAT place of ENCOUNTER WITH GOD. We join Jesus there in Mystery, where His Death and Resurrection changes things for humankind.
It’s the Mystery of Faith. We pray “Save us, Savior of the world, for by Your Cross and Resurrection You have set us free.”
In Christ Jesus, by His Body and Blood Sacrifice touching us in Sacrament, we can then pray: Into Your Hands, O Lord, do I commend myself. It is a movement from the Cross and Resurrection to our surrender to God’s will. Grace calls us to favor in God.
We are ‘neath the Cross for forgiveness, while also ready to present ourselves to God for new lifeI, and pray with Jesus to The Father: “Thy will be done now in Me.”
In that graced moment of encounter, transformation is possible.
As we Catholics teach about the Holy Mass, it is through right worship in the Sacred Liturgy that we receive transformation into the Lord. We are transformed, as by partaking of the divine nature. This is a real transformation. As we go and do in Mass what Jesus’ Word asks from us (i.e. “Do this” Luke 22:19/ 1 Cor. 11:23-27/ and “offer yourselves to God” Rom. 6:13-16 / Rom. 12:1-8) we enter into the Pascal Mystery. We are in the Mystery of Faith, as we say in Mass: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until You come again.” God meets us in that mystery, right at Mass. It is Holy Action. It is obedient response. We proclaim. We profess. We humble ourselves. We submit to God and look to be in His Presence together. We sup with Him as people relying on His holiness to us, not on our own light. His Sacrament is the focus, not our worthiness. In fact we pray before Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come… (but You called me, so) only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Healing. Encounter. God’s Favor. Holy Action. Mystery. Can it be immediately seen and felt? Not quite. As St. Thomas wrote (and which people at Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament know as its prayer): “What the senses fail to fathom, let us grasp through Faith’s consent.” We have shortcomings on our human side of the equation; yet God has supplied us contact with Him in the manner of faith. We have a means to respond and connect, in the soul, though we are so weak in our acknowledgement of this dynamic and real aspect of our selves. Yet it is where transformation meets us. In the realm of faith. God works with matter and physicality (Sacrament), yet it does take faith to “grasp it all.”
Faith is fueling the transformation.
Thus, it is very important that people are coming to Mass in dynamic faith. They need to be seeking God, yearning for His love fully, and denying the self that so still clings to sin and worldliness. We give up the world and our “self” to get connection with God. That’s Sacred Liturgy disposition. What needs to be is that we want to “get Christ and His Lordship within us.” To get Him and lose our sinful self-absorption. (To “get” Him really means that we allow Him to “get” us. This is what Jesus was getting at when He said: ‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25)
Right after He said this teaching, He led some apostles up the mountain for the Transfiguration. It was no mere coincidence. They were at this place of losing themselves to “get” Jesus, and they found transformative experience on that Week of Tabernacles with the Lord at Mt. Tabor.
Transformation will be realized fully at the end of our lives, we hope, when our practice of being with Christ faithfully (such as in Eucharist and also by Scripture in our worship) will have led us intimately into His Love. He will take us up into His Holy Tabernacle, His Dwelling Place.
Mass is “getting” together with Jesus in His Sacrament Visit, in showing the connection of Heaven and Earth in Him. We pray “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and Earth are full of Your Glory. Hosanna in the Highest… Blessed is He Who Comes…. in the Name of the Lord…. Hosanna in the Highest!”) and if only we all could believe this better. The Lord of Hosts Comes to us! Blessed is He Who Comes!! We call on His Name, in the Mass He gave to us, and there is encounter available.
Encounter meant to lead to transformation.
It is why Jesus says “Abide (remain) in Me” so passionately to us in this same Gospel of John (ch. 15). Because we are experiencing the Lord by degrees, we can truly call our faith life a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage in The Body and Blood of Christ brings forth the longed-for transformation. . By degrees is the Kingdom of God happening in us so to the measure of how we are participating actively in the vital opportunities afforded to us to bond with Him. How more so than in the Sacred Liturgy? In all our many appointments with Jesus in the Masses of our life, do we realize that they are truly remarkable times with Him, just like those ones that the apostles and disciples had with the Jesus of Galilee?!
As a liturgy expert puts it: “United to the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, we are shining with the divine light of His Transfiguration, and are part of his sanctifying presence on earth. To the degree that we conform, the grace with which we do anything, mundane or sacred, radiates the beauty of God and calls people to it, and then beyond to the source of that Beauty.”
He explains it further: “Sacred liturgy is the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, and this is how we love God most profoundly. It is the purpose of life – the summit to which our lives point – and the most powerful source of grace that will help us to get there… Holy Mass is a school of love that perfects our social relations and our family life and by this society as a whole. “
Indeed, it is our regular meeting and supping relationship with Christ Jesus, where we come hungry for the love and grace of God to fill our lives, so much as to pour forth in goodness to our relationship with others. This school of love is meant to teach our mind and hearts that Christ is now with us, that the Incarnation (God’s indwelling) is meant to capture us and spread to many others. The liturgist calls this faith reality as an “intelligence of the heart,” that is, a knowing of things in the fullest way, in love, in Christ. If we could understand that it really is Christ Who is present to give us wisdom, lead us in strength, and to stimulate us to be moved into the ways of the Kingdom.
To experience the fruits of Sacred Liturgy, we are not to reduce it to mere rituals and hocus-pocus words. We also cannot skip to the blessing part of encounter with God, and forget the sacrifice and cost on our part. If the Savior had a cost to win us, then there will be a cost for us. Before we get on to the benefits of the liturgy and what we want from it, we have better just “bow down and worship the Lord and put all else aside (Psalm 95:6). For the Church worldwide, our goal is to offer God what is pleasing to Him, and make no demands, as we are but His servants. As Psalm 96:7-10 teaches us about worship, the Psalmist pleads “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and might…glory due to His Name! Bring gifts and enter His courts, bow down to the Lord, (Who is) Splendid in Holiness… Tremble before God, all the earth, say among the nations, God is King!”.
So, we don’t come looking to “get” as in our demands and conditions before God, but we look to be “gotten.”
Perhaps that is one of the keys of a good disposition for Mass.
SOME ADDED NOTES ON WORSHIP taken from a Liturgy Publication
If BENEFITS become the primary goal of a worship service, supplanting the submissive PRAISE OF GOD as our purpose, we do the liturgy much harm, and make the fruits hard to realize.
One megachurch turns many of their services at certain festive times of the year to be some kind of show. It is a service made to attract interest and followers. They have something they want to get from it– new members–that is, benefits. (They even charge admission to see the super Christmas and Easter shows!) It is hyping Jesus at the cost of not really having a sincere worship service. A Catholic Bishop commented on such things, as while such gatherings are entertaining in a sort of a spiritual way, that they are doing harm in the end to the Christian Church: (He said something like this) ‘Liturgy is not meant first for this kind of evangelization or attention-making, for our direction is praise of God, not man. Worship may bring sweet fruits from it, but we are focused on giving unto Him, not producing an effect from Him. We are not fruit making, but worshipping the Lord in how He has asked us, and we shall get fruits because of good liturgy and faith, not as a mechanism to produce it ourselves.’ Very interesting.
Of course, while some in Christianity strive to have a hip and entertaining service these days, and so stumble over their less than stellar intentions, it seems that the BIGGER PROBLEM is not off-centered worship services by some Christians, but the growing problem of people not taking any interest for any worship service or Mass to attend at all.
Part of this problem is that Catholics are not sharing to the world what is professed to be going on in our Church. What are some of the amazing things we profess? We believe Christ is Truly Present in Holy Mass. We believe that we are forming into a Body of Christ–really so–as being joined to Jesus mystically and sacramentally as His own. We believe angels and saints are taking part in our worship, and that our liturgy is co-celebrated with the Eternal Banquet in Heaven, where the Lamb of God (Jesus) reigns. We believe we have one worship going on before the Almighty, with Jesus leading it, while using his ordained signs and instruments and people for His good will and purposes. We believe we are the same believers who Jesus formed to be His Church, whom He said would last until His Return, even though the Gates of Hell wage war upon us spiritually, and cause mankind to turn on us too. We believe in a God of mercy and of justice. We believe His Divine Son is Jesus, Who alone saves the world. We believe it is vital to repent of our sin and find life in the kingdom of God/ realm of the Lord.
Does the world know this about us? Do they see us believing it? Do we show how great this salvation in Christ Jesus is to us, and of Christ’ Church, His body?
If the world sees this kind of witness (or could see this witness of us today), we then believe we’d be for them (as Jesus asked of us to be as ) “the light of the world…a City up on the hill which cannot be hidden.”
That is what we want to be as Church, as ones praying the Holy Mass. #####
We live in a society that is trying to do away with all public religion, too (or, at least, Christianity’s presence), and they want us to hide our love of God behind private walls. Each week I read of anti-religious groups hell bent on getting public prayer or public symbols of faith out of the public stream. A statue of Jesus in a memorial park is the latest one I heard of today. (That’ll be in another upcoming blog and it’s in my next parish bulletin –go and see www.stedwardbowie.org. ) Yet family and parish leaders and many others in the Church should be championing the cause of religious freedom and saying The Church is here and we are in love with our God. We are glad to have parishes in our neighborhoods across America, and we go there to worship God, and then we take our encounter of Him on our Sundays (and other days) and spread His love to the nation and world. Jesus tells us “we are salt of the earth…” so we must be poured forth from the salt-shaker out onto people and society. “What good is salt kept away from where it will serve its good? What good is salt that loses it flavor or properties?” * *=Mt. 5 Jesus said that of us.
Wherever a vibrant Catholic goes in society, they are taking the liturgy with them. We ARE salt. As a Bishop said to a Catholic college recently, in asking them to be a beacon of faith, rather than an apologizing school for being Catholic: ‘Sacred Liturgy is the summit of all that we do. If our formation directs people to the Sacred Liturgy (and) in the right spirit making the worship of God the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit…(if this is) the central focus of all that we do, then the fruits will ensue…(and we want that) all of human activity and culture – all of it – (to)… potentially, be imbued with the grace that derives from this liturgical spirit….” and Fr. Paul Gunter OSB added: “(we do hope for God to here)… instill in us a liturgical instinct that stimulates our sensitivity to liturgical forms -(into) a ‘liturgical high culture’ … ‘ we want our Catholic school to be a place to learn liturgy.. . (really) on every campus (like ours here at Thomas More College, N.H.) there should be the opportunity of participation in beautiful sacred liturgy and…the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours…Eucharistic adoration should be encouraged and all private devotions and prayer should be understood as being derived from and pointing to the liturgy…there should be a constant invitation to be part of Sacred Liturgy… It is participation in the liturgy that increases our capacity for this loving knowledge.
He said that the Mass is not just a place for sending us forth with Jesus, but it is where we come back to the Lord after being in His world (His vineyard) all week long. All of our lived experiences are also meant to reference back to the Sacred Liturgy, too. We bring tback o the Mass all that we see and experience, with all the concerns and contentments of the week, back to Sunday and Holy Mass.