As you may recall, back in June, we kept the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. We meditated on: This is My Body and This is My Blood.
The Lord Jesus fed 5,000 men and their families with miraculous bread and fish. Then He explained the food that does not leave us hungry again, namely His Body and Blood. The people asked each other: “Will this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Will Jesus Christ give us His sacred flesh to eat? As we reflected in June, the answer to this question is: Indubitably, yes. Yes, He will. Yes, He does.
The Body and Blood of God, on the altar, in the tabernacle, given to us in Holy Communion: This is the central mystery of salvation. The prayer life of Christ’s Church revolves around This is My Body, This is My Blood.
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council put it:
At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47)
God made man, the Savior and Redeemer, in all His grace and glory: We can say that He has an address in our zip code. Namely in church (Catholic).
Now, how can we say this, and claim to be on solid ground? How can I say this, and yet distinguish myself from some spiritual snake-oil salesman who would bark and holler about ‘Holy Ghost Power! Holy Ghost Power!’ and then drive away with your money? How can I say—in all sobriety, and in all humble, persevering dedication to modesty—how can I say that one particular edifice—of all the buildings in Franklin County and/or Martinsville and Henry County—how can I say that our church houses the incarnate Word of God?
I can say it—we can say it, and mean it, and stand on its truth—because of the Sacred Liturgy of the Church of Christ. He Himself established this whole amazing situation at the Last Supper.
When we get together for Mass or any other liturgy, we do not execute some arbitrary style of worship formed over a generation or two by a particular tribe, or by one single ethnic group, or by an isolated culture. Also, the Mass—and the other sacraments—are not just community gatherings, either. We come together in a beautiful way, but we do it for a precise reason: to pray and offer sacrifice to the Creator as Christ Himself did in Jerusalem.
Christ, too, at the Last Supper itself, followed an ancient ritual, a ritual instituted by Moses. On Holy Thursday, Jesus transformed the Passover Seder into the sacrifice of the new and everlasting covenant.
Okay. So: the first subject discussed by the Fathers at Vatican II was the Sacred Liturgy. First thing first: the way we pray. Perhaps this strikes us as odd. After all, the Council met to launch the New Evangelization, to re-consecrate the Church to the mission She received on Pentecost, to offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, including the people of our complicated, multicultural, highway-driving, communications-media-soaked age. The Council focused, in other words, on the Church’s mission to the other people in the world; the Council focused on the poor souls who do not frequent Catholic churches. Why, then, begin with the Liturgy? Why not start with Facebook, CNN, Groupon, and Craig’s List?
Because they were holier men that we are, the Council Fathers would be surprised by such a question. Where else can we begin? After all, and I quote them: “The work of our redemption is accomplished through the liturgy.” “The liturgy is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their daily lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.”
Wow. Interesting. But this leaves us wondering… “The real nature of the true Church.” Please, help us out, Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. What exactly is the real nature of the true Church?
The Fathers answer:
It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it. She is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek. While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ, at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 2)
We are on this earth to worship and serve God and make our way to heaven. We begin with God. To be “with” Him, we worship Him. And we worship Him by celebrating the Liturgy which He Himself gave us.