Recently we shared with you the Liturgy Committee’s vision for the celebration of liturgy in the parish. We continue to explore the implications of this vision statement.
All liturgical celebrations have a common structure that must be respected. Consequently, the community should always:
- Gather as one family, united by their faith in Christ and their common baptism
- Listen to the Word of God proclaimed in the midst of the Church
- Respond in faith so that all may be nourished, healed and strengthened through prayer and sacrament
- Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.
“The Order of Mass is to be revised in a way that will bring out more clearly the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, and will more readily achieve the devout, active participation of the faithful.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 50)
The statement immediately above is directly from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from Vatican II. Just as the Church is made up of many parts that form one body, so too does it recognise its liturgy as parts that together contribute to the entire celebration.
To be overly focused on one part of the Mass or sacramental celebration at the expense of others weakens the celebration and prevents it from forming and shaping us as it should.
Before Vatican II, we were almost exclusively focussed on the sacramental or “efficacious” (powerful) moment. The prayers of the priest during such moments were often seen as magic words that made something happen. Anything before or after that moment in the liturgy was superfluous. Just consider how much we relied on the “words of consecration” during the Eucharistic prayer, or the prayer of absolution when we went to “confession”.
This is not to say that sacramental moments are not powerful, nor that they shouldn’t be given due importance. However, when we start to see the other elements of the liturgy as contributing to the strength, power and importance of the whole sacramental celebration, then we allow it to be the summit of our lives, and the source of power for us as Catholics.
Let us not forget, either, that magic words from a priest don’t make sacramental moments in themselves. We all gather together as “concelebrants” in the liturgy. The priest is our presider, our leader, who speaks and acts on behalf of who is truly at work in every liturgy – Christ and his Church.