Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Liturgy: Whose Work Is It?


Hope you are having a good Wednesday.

Last night I attended the first meeting of the newly revamped liturgy and spiritual life committee at my parish. This is my fourth time around with a committee such as this in parish. Each time the group has kind of fizzled away. I have high hopes that this group will continue the commitment begun last night.

We were all asked to share a memory of a liturgy we attended that really drew us to the center; to a deep experience of God; to a deep connection with the paschal mystery. This was my memory.

In January of this year, one of my dear sisters was diagnosed with cancer. I was shocked and saddened by this news. When I went to Mass at St. James that Sunday, I just wanted to hear something that would address the pain and sadness I was feeling. The Mass went by and I didn't think anything had touched me. There was something about the Prayer Over the Gifts that caught my attention, but I quickly lost whatever it was as the Mass continued. A few days later, I opened the Sacramentary and found that prayer:

"Father, 
may we celebrate the eucharist
with reverence and love,
for when we proclaim the death of the Lord
you continue the work of his redemption, 
who is Lord forever and ever."

It didn't dawn on me until a few days after that Mass that this was exactly what God had in store for me. About 18 months ago I heard a lecture by a prominent liturgist who suggested that, instead of thinking that the liturgy is primarily the "work of the people"—as it is described in many liturgical circles—we should first think of the liturgy as the work of God. Look at that prayer again: "for when we proclaim the death of the Lord (the very definition of what we do at Mass) you continue the work of his redemption." God is always at work; working on each and every one of us and we experience this at Mass when we celebrate the Eucharist, proclaiming the cross and resurrection of Christ. But this is a holy exchange of work, for we must do our part, the necessary work that it takes to "proclaim the death of the Lord."

When I shared this with the members of the liturgy and spiritual life committee at our meeting last night, it dawned on me that this is a great stance to have when going to Mass: expecting that God will be hard at work on me, while I am doing the work of the liturgy. Sitting here at my cluttered desk at WLP, I find myself looking forward to Mass on Sunday at St. James. Wonder what God has in store for me?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jerry, I really love your take on the work of the liturgy. I believe that work of the people was necessary for us to understand our role and value within the liturgy, but now we need to widen the circle, so to speak, so we remember that indeeed it all begins with God.
Margie Guadagno