Living Liturgy: What happens at Mass?
|The liturgy changes us and offers us a new relationship; a new way of being. Photo: David Tang|
Living Liturgy with Julie Kelly
Indeed a number of things happen at Mass. Mass, or liturgy, is the source and summit (CS10). In the liturgy, God is acting – it is God’s action. God acts to save us. What higher summit can one hope to achieve? It is a huge event. The entirety of God’s saving love is concentrated in the ritual action and words of the Eucharistic liturgy. It is a gift.
It is not immediately understandable – it is a mystery and, being a gift, cannot be defined in our terms. God defines the meaning within the liturgy and we deprive ourselves of the gift if we attempt to manipulate the liturgy so that it is meaningful on our terms.
Being the summit, it is arrived at slowly and with care and effort. The liturgy requires our initiation through Baptism, Confirmation and is ongoing through the Eucharistic liturgy. The liturgy is a ritual and, therefore, it is through the repetition that a gradual deepening of understanding and engagement occurs.
It is the form of the ritual that delivers a content. Not an intellectual content to be grasped with the mind, but an actual event; nothing less than the very event of our salvation. If we come not prepared to be open to this form, we run the risk of leaving the same way as we came.
The ritual can take us out of ourselves and beyond ourselves. The very forms themselves – the Word, the bread and wine, the movements of people and priest – become saturated with significance.
The Mass is about love; that is, the Mass is an encounter. It is an encounter with God through Jesus Christ. The Jesus who was crucified and rose from the dead is Lord and God. It is through this new relationship that the liturgy changes us and offers us a new relationship; a new way of being.
Every relationship needs to be experienced and Mass is the foundational experience of our relationship with God through Jesus, experienced and celebrated in all its fullness.
It is through this relationship and constant conversion that we are able to engage in all other relationships. It makes it possible for us to love others as we have been loved by God.
The Mass ends as it began – with the sign of the cross: the Trinitarian formulae that is the embodiment of this relationship. It is in the name of this relationship that we are sent forth into the world.
As the assembly, the Church has been transformed through the liturgy, so it is the Church that goes out and on to be the body of Christ in the world.
That is, to be the baptised, transformed through the Eucharistic liturgy and transforming through the new relationship in love. “There is no greater love than this” and it is only this love that can transform the world.
Julie Kelly is Diocesan Co-ordinator for Sacraments of Initiation for Children & Adults (RCIA) and Officer for Liturgical Formation.
Ph: 02 8838 3416
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