Summary: There can be no contradiction between the art of celebration and the full and engaged participation of the Church in worship.

April 27, 2009

Sacramentum Caritatis

There is an incredible richness and flow in this sixth chapter of John’s Gospel that is so full of meaning that we must meditate on it over and over again. He begins with eating earthly bread, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the people misunderstand. They decide that this is the earthly Messiah who will fulfill their desires for unlimited food, honor and power. But that was exactly the role Jesus was offered by Satan in the desert, the hellish temptation that Jesus rejected and that we must reject. Jesus challenges them to understand that the physical bread reveals Himself as what they really need–Truth and Life. The action required of them is not eating and revolution, but faith in Jesus as the true Moses sent by God. Then only, once we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Messiah, and repent of our sins and follow Him, can we eat the True Bread, the Bread of Life, Christ Himself.

In his letter, the Holy Father now turns to the Eucharistic celebration, and tells us that there can’t be any conflict between the art of proper celebration and the full, engaged, fruitful participation of all the faithful. The first way to foster the participation of the people of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. If we allow the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist to reveal their own intrinsic beauty, if we are faithful in adhering to the liturgical norms in all their richness, this way of celebrating will continue to sustain the faith life of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

The celebrant par excellence is the bishop. Those of us who have received Holy Orders have a specific responsibility for the beauty of worship as our principal duty. The bishop has the responsibility to ensure unity and harmony in the celebrations taking part in his territory. I can testify that this was one of the primary reasons that our archbishop appointed our little corps of masters of ceremonies–so that when the bishops visit the parishes, at least the clergy and servers are paying proper respect to the liturgical norms, and allowing the true beauty of the Mass to come out.

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