Sunday, November 01, 2009
The Liturgy: Heaven Torn Open
We face a crisis today: most Catholics don't know what the Liturgy is about, what happens, or why they should go to Mass. It's a sad commentary to admit that most of us don't know the first thing about the Mass, and consider it to be something akin to a childhood requirement and so we attend it for the same reasons: because we are TOLD to do so.
Yet how many ever bother to ASK why this is so? No wonder so many fall away! In this culture of relativism, no one thinks it NECESSARY to ask important questions about eternity, as they find it more convenient to rest in the lazy philosophy of this age that dictates comfort over sacrifice, orientation to self over orientation towards others, and outright hostility towards God versus love of a God who both Created and Saved us by becoming one of us!
A few years ago a friend of mine, a Baptist, asked why Catholics are required to attend Mass each Sunday.
I had a hard time answering him, because, firstly, based on his query, I was surprised he didn't seem familiar with the Ten Commandments, including the Commandment to keep Holy the Sabbath; what good Christian would EVER question the need to honor God on the day He designates? Who would DARE disobey such a simple Command? Whether we are Catholic or Baptist or Evangelical or Lutheran or Presbyterian or Methodist...who would EVER question this Divine Commandment necessitating the attendance of Worship on Sunday, the Day of Our Lord's Resurrection?
Are you INSANE to ignore Christ in favor of a Football or Baseball game? Come on, Christians, this ISN'T just a "Catholic thing"! Get your priorities straight!
Rant Over, Moving On to Original Topic...
For Catholics, though there is more; it's not just because it is a binding Commandment; in going back to my conversation with my friend, it was necessary to explain to him that one needs to ALSO understand what the Mass is about.
It's not a mere "service" where we sing a few songs and listen to a few readings, get a token akin to something used to clean our vehicles, and leave. The world wants to paint the Mass with such a parody, and refuses to recognize that such is so deeply offensive to us that in order to make reparation for the offense, we do even MORE of the same!
Oh, yes, the Mass, the Liturgy, is important; not just for us, right now in this moment, but for Eternity, for everyone, everywhere.
I write about it today, on the Feast of All Saints, because it is at Mass, at each and EVERY Mass throughout the year, that Heaven is torn open and all of Heaven and Earth, in all times, in all places, the Sacrifice of Calvary is made present. The Mass is the preparation for the Savior, the Nativity, the Birth of Christ, the explanation of that preparation (via the homily which expounds on the scriptures, if done according to what is supposed to be done), and finally the Sacrifice of Calvary. It is made present in all times, past, present and future.
When we kneel at the Consecration, we are kneeling at the foot of the Cross itself! The Precious Blood of Christ falls upon us, unless we repel it by our own sinful state! We must be open to receive the graces that come to us so freely through the offering of Jesus's Body and Blood!
The Liturgy is the public worship of the Church, wherein all the Angels and Saints, and we are present at the Sacrifice of the Lamb, at the Wedding, are all, together, the Bride who receives Him!
The Liturgy is where Heaven is torn open, where the Holy Spirit enters the Upper Room and all of Heaven is made present, not to condescend to our way of being, but to raise us up to the Heavenly Liturgy, where the Saints and the Angels Praise God eternally in their perpetual and infinite union with Him, all through the Wounds of Christ...who made it possible!
I never learned this growing up. I learned that the Blessed Sacrament is Christ Himself, even though I couldn't understand. I still believed, for those wiser than me told me it was so.
But the Liturgy didn't help me to understand it, for rather the liturgy I remember and even experience today, through the music, enforces a sort of "symbolic" Holy Communion. We sing about "bread" and "wine" and about how we are "going" to encounter Jesus, ignoring the fact of our Liturgical and, therefore, ACTUAL reality that CHRIST IS PRESENT NOW!
When we attend Mass, yes, there is bread, but when we are "singing" (I use the term loosely) about it, in actuality, at that point, Christ Himself is made manifest in the Blessed Sacrament. We are present at Calvary but singing as though we are in the desert with the Israelites, eating only Manna!
Manna could not save our ancestors the Israelites and today, cannot save us!
When we attend Mass, we are NOT partaking in mere meltaway bread, but the very Body and Blood of Christ!
There is a great poverty in the Church today; there is a great disregard for what is happening, a total ignorance of the actual presence of the Lord, and of the Communion of Saints. There is a great disregard and total oblivion to the presence not only of the Cross, of the blood that saves us, but the worship of the Saints who kneel there with us in solidarity.
Today, on the Feast of All Saints, we are reminded of their presence, which is there every day. We are never alone, for those who have gone before us and rest with Our Lord still live, and they cannot live without praying. Why should we not ask for them to pray for us, too?
Today, on the Feast of All Saints, we recognize, out of ONE Liturgy throughout the year, their presence, although they are present at all, and tomorrow, on the Feast of All Souls, we ask those Saints to pray with us for all those who have died; we know not if they are Saints or whether they, most likely, burn in the purifying fires of Purgatory.
Indeed, most who die do not go straight to Heaven, but pass on to the Holy Fires of Purifying Purgation; let us pray for them, sacrifice for them, recognize what they suffer so that they can move on to Eternal Beatitude.
My dear readers, my dear friends, my dear visitors, pray for those who have died and do not forget them. Remember the Saints who have gone before you and who glorify God in their holiness, for it is ONLY God who makes anyone Holy. Pray for those in Purgatory, for they cannot pray for themselves but surely pray for YOU even if you do not recognize them in those holy, purifying fires.
Do not think the Liturgy is a sandbox or a playground belonging to the individual. It is the very household of God, set to order by Him alone, and we have the privilege of being invited. We are mere guests to this Heavenly Sacrifice and Feast, and have not the right to introduce our own themes or preferences.
To introduce our own ideals would alienate our Host, Our Lord Jesus Christ. To enter into this house and try to manifest our own comfortable preferences....how could any of us even consider such a debacle? How could ANY of us, upon entering upon a wedding feast, impose our lower preferences and seek to destroy the ideal of the Groom and the Bride?
Such is the Liturgy, which belongs to all times. The very moment we impose our own preferences, we leave Eternity in favor of personal fantasy, and if we are leading, we sacrifice grace for personal Pride. Do we DARE cut ourselves off from the Sacrifice of the Cross?