with Paul Ray
November 12, 2017
The Sacrament of Charity:
Interior Participation in the Celebration of the Liturgy
We enter now into paragraph 64 in Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI’s 2007 Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist and will learn the proper disposition we need to have during the Holy Mass in order to not risk falling into a certain ritualism. The Holy Father calls this Mystagogical Catecheisis. This means that faithful participation (in the Holy Mass) requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated. In other words, it’s learning how to properly prepare ourselves inwardly to make the sacrifice of our lives, as being Christians and followers of Christ, alongside Christ’s for the salvation of the whole world.
“The best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist Itself, celebrated well.” Here, Pope Benedict gives us the first stepping stone in the method of formation we need. By its very nature, the Church’s liturgy has been centered on creating a vital and convincing encounter with Christ. This initial encounter gains depth through catechesis and finds its source and summit in the celebration of the Eucharist. The two go hand-in-hand and are inseparable.
With this in mind, the Church’s structure for mystagogical catechesis (the process of learning how to get the most out of Mass so it doesn’t become just a ritual) comes alive and the Christian experience illuminated when the following three elements are respected:
It interprets the Rites in light of the events of our salvation. This means we come to fully understand (as much as humanly possible) that the Holy Mass is our connection between this world and heaven. Since we were created for heaven our goal here on earth is to prepare ourselves to get there. The Holy Mass gives us the strength to do that and it gives a direct line to God in a unique, specific way unlike any other. Everything said and done at Holy Mass is said and done in relation to its place in history and celebrates the One who united all things to Himself.
It must concern itself with presenting the meaning of signs contained in the Rite. This means that we understand the certain signs, or gestures, together with the Word of God, in order that we convey the information they give with genuine purpose and resolve. There’s a specific reason why we do things a certain way at Mass and all of it is packed full of meaning. To miss out on this is to miss out on God’s grace.
It must be concerned with bringing out the significance of the rites for the Christian life in all its dimensions. This means we must know how the mysteries being celebrated are linked to the missionary responsibility of the faithful. Whether we are at work and taking care of our daily responsibilities, no matter what emotions or thoughts may be present within us, while we are active or relaxing, we need to always have in mind, and be ready to exhibit, the call to discipleship whenever God brings about people or situations in our lives. We cannot take a day off from being a Christian.
Each Christian community is called to be a place where people can be taught about the mysteries celebrated in faith and how it relates to our daily lives. This will allow the Holy Spirit to move within the faith community and open doors of conversion and holiness. – Paul A. Ray
NEXT WEEK: Reverence for the Eucharist