It is Divine

The Liturgy that is.

The Vatican has approved a new translation of the Roman Missal, the text for the order of the Mass. It is closer to the original which is in Latin.  It is hoped that it will help us to enter into the divine mysteries in a deeper way.

The bad news is that those of us who participate in the Sunday Eucharist frequently will have to follow along in the missal until we memorize the new texts.

The good news is that those in the RCIA and new Catholics will share their pain with the old timers.

But I am  going to discuss the Liturgy in general instead of the changes in this thread. Sometimes we forget what the Eucharist—the Mass—is. Too often we forget that when we participate in the Mass, we are experiencing a foretaste of heaven. We are participating in the very life of God.

This is a great gift. Participation in the Sacraments is the ordinary way, for Catholics, that we enter into a relationship with God.  But it also entails a responsibility. We are given a mission to take what we receive, Jesus Christ, out into the world; to really live our faith.

I have to leave soon for a doctor’s appointment. But not without something to chew on. Archbishop Chaput of Denver, gave a talk yesterday in Chicago which the Archdiocese posted on line. He has some powerful things to say about God.

My fourth and final point is this: The liturgy is a school of sacrificial love. The law of our prayer should be the law of our life. Lex orandi, lex vivendi. We are to become the sacrifice we celebrate.

It is striking how many stories of the first Christian martyrs — especially the stories of bishops and priests — are told in what we might call a “Eucharistic key.” The classic is the martyrdom of the elderly bishop Polycarp. The whole account unfolds along the lines of a liturgy. Polycarp even delivers a long prayer that is modeled after the Eucharistic canon of the Mass.

Finally Polycarp asks, again echoing the prayer of the Mass: “May I be received this day … as a rich and acceptable sacrifice.” The account continues with his being roasted alive. The witnesses testify that they smell, not burning flesh, but the aroma of breaking bread.xi

The other classic example is St. Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch. In prison where he was awaiting his execution by being fed alive to dogs, he wrote: “God’s wheat I am, and by the teeth of wild beasts I am to be ground that I may prove to be Christ’s pure bread.”xii

But not only the martyrs should see themselves as a Eucharistic offering. You and I should do the same. So should every baptized believer. Again and again we read in the New Testament that we are all called to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice of praise, that we are to make ourselves a perfect offering, holy and acceptable to God.xiii

This is a foundation stone to the Catholic belief in the priesthood of all the baptized. The early Christians believed they were heirs to the vocation given to Israel—to be a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  By the priesthood of our lives, all baptized believers are to offer, not the blood-sacrifice of animals, but the sacrifice of our hearts, the symbol of our lives, in imitation of Jesus Christ.

We make our sacrifice of praise first and foremost in the Eucharist. This is the meaning behind the council’s call for the “active participation” of the laity in the liturgy.xv This expression unfortunately has been taken as a license for all sorts of external activity, commotion and busy-ness in our worship. That’s not at all what Vatican II had in mind.

“Active participation” refers to the inner movement of our souls, our interior participation in Christ’s action of offering of his Body and Blood. This requires silent spaces and “pauses” in our worship, in which we can collect our emotions and thoughts, and make a conscious act of self-dedication. We are to “lift up our hearts,” and in contrition and humility place them on the altar along with the bread and wine.

But our work does not stop in the Mass.

Everything in our days — our work, our sufferings, our prayer, our ministries — everything we do and experience is meant to be offered to God as a spiritual sacrifice.  All of our work for the unborn child, the poor and the disabled; all of our work for immigration justice and the dignity of marriage and the family: All of it should be offered for the praise and glory of God’s name and for the salvation of our brothers and sisters.

This is another great teaching of the council that we have yet to integrate into ordinary Catholic spirituality. In Lumen Gentium, the council taught that all our works “together with the offering of the Lord’s Body … are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.”xvi

All that we do — in the liturgy and in our life in the world — is meant to be in the service of consecrating this world to God.

(snip)

The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you make your lives a liturgy, when you live your lives liturgically — as an offering to God in thanksgiving and praise for his gifts and salvation. You are the future of the liturgical renewal.

The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you see your lives and work in light of God’s plan for the world, in light of his desire that all men and women be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.xvii

The mystery we celebrate with the angels and the saints must take root deep in our lives and personalities. It must bear fruit. Each of us must make our own unique contribution to God’s loving plan — that all creation become adoration and sacrifice in praise of him.

Thank you for your attention tonight.  And it’s fitting that we should conclude and go forth in the words of one of the new dismissal prayers of the new Roman Missal. So let our prayer for each other tonight be this: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Enjoy. Read the whole thing here.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry and I have been married 39 years. But the deacon’s wife gig is a new twist. Larry was ordained in August of 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren. The oldest grandchild is ten and the youngest is three. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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One Response to It is Divine

  1. LeAnn says:

    What a wonderful post Susan! Polycarp is one of my favorite saints, not only because of the story of his life, but also because he was a disciple of St. John the beloved apostle. I was reading about St. William the Abbot, and one of the suggestions was for every one to make a pilgrimage this summer and it also said that each time I attend mass I am making a pilgrimage to the grave of a saint and I should be familiar with the relics in my church. What is the relic at the altar at Christ the King? Do you have any suggestions for pilgrimage in the Mid-west? I have an aversion to the idea of the Grotto in West Bend, it has to do with my mother. So I would like to make a pilgrimage but I don’t know where to go.

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