Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mass: A brief Tuesday consideration

For what it's worth I am posting the concluding passage of a Liturgy paper I wrote several years back for a graduate course. My topic was. Why Go to Mass? In addition to improbably citing Nehemiah (who'da thought?), I also (again!) allude to Timothy Radcliffe's What Is the Point of Being a Christian? Additionally, I refer to some class notes from my professor, Msgr. Michael Clay and cite a passage from Msgr. Kevin Irwin's fantastic book, Models of the Eucharist. As with my post yesterday, the paragraph below is part of the conclusion of this paper, which centered on answering this question for young adults. In now way is my answer comprehensive. It was designed as a presentation to give young adults.

Why go to Mass? Indeed, we acknowledge that all creation is infused with the divine! Nonetheless, just as God became incarnate as a particular human being at a certain time and in a specific place, Christ is present in the eucharistic liturgy in a unique way. Christ is really present in the eucharistic liturgy in four distinct ways, two of which we have covered extensively. Allow me to paraphrase something I have heard now-Archbishop George Niederauer say many times, especially to young adults: As Catholics it is not the case that we have to go to Mass. Rather, we get to go to Mass. What Fr. Radcliffe observes may very well be true, that our eucharistic assemblies often lack a sense of mutual rejoicing. But, before we can rejoice we must find joy in the first place. Where do we find joy, in whom do we find joy? Our faith tells us that our joy is Christ who becomes present through us, in the person of the priest, in the proclamation his word, and, completing the circle, in the bread and wine, which we eat and drink and by which we are transformed. The author of the Book of Nehemiah tells Israel as they prepare to begin worshipping God in the divinely prescribed manner after exile, rejoicing in the LORD is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). How we approach the sacred mysteries enacted in liturgy also matters. What do we see as the point, purpose, or reason for gathering and celebrating liturgy?

So much of what young adults do, either in your chosen vocations or in a voluntary manner, is aimed at making the world a better place. Many of these efforts do a great deal of good in the community and in the world. Sometimes the Church can be quite disappointing in this regard. We must remember that we are now “’the pilgrim church on earth’” and “not the fully united and perfectly sinless bride of Christ” (Irwin 86). This why your presence and mine are so needed at Mass, to help God’s pilgrim people arrive at our destination. We must keep in mind that “The purpose of the Eucharist is not primarily to change bread and wine but change you and me” (Clay "Liturgy and Spirituality" 4). You and I, in turn, are sent forth to change the world, or at least the part of it in which we find ourselves.
Short posts this week due to making final revisions on my Integrated Pastoral Research paper, known in some circles as a thesis.

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