Summary: The beauty of worship is more than decoration.

April 20, 2009

Sacramentum Caritatis

They prayed together, using the psalms, they told the story of the gift of God in Jesus, His rejection by Jew and Gentile, and they asked for divine help and got it. There was a little earthquake and they were filled with the Holy Spirit so as to proclaim the Word of God boldly, as Jesus did. That certainly sounds a lot like Liturgy! But we have to remember with Nicodemus, that it is all the work of God, God the Good, God the True, God the Beautiful. And we must always recall in our planning and performing of Liturgy that we must here reflect the goodness, the truth and the beauty of the heavenly banquet. As the Holy Father tells us, “beauty is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation.” We must be careful to assure that our liturgical action reflects its innate splendor.

The “subject” of the liturgy’s intrinsic beauty is Christ himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in his work. (Par 36) The ultimate objective of the work of the Mass is, in Augustine’s words, to be what we have received. “Not only have we become Christians, we have become Christ himself.” Our transformation into Christ, begun in baptism as recorded in these words of John’s Gospel, and consummated after death in heaven, has its day-to-day “becoming” in our Eucharistic unity between ourselves and the Lord Jesus. We first pray “thy will be done,” we come to the altar and say “Amen” to God’s plan for us, and we let our communion transform us into images of Christ.

Now, the Pope continues, since the eucharistic liturgy is essentially an action of God which draws us into Christ through the Holy Spirit, its basic structure is not something within our power to change. He also tells us, rather bluntly, that it can’t be held hostage by the latest trends. St. Paul was careful not to change the theology or practice of the Eucharist that he had gotten from Jesus directly. From the very beginning, the Christian community has gathered for the breaking of bread on the Lord’s Day. . .Sunday, the day Christ rose from the dead. It is the day of the new creation, the day of our liberation, and so next we turn to letting God make that celebration beautiful.

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