The importance of the Liturgy

By Archbishop Julian Porteous

A cathedral is the mother church of a diocese. St Mary’s Cathedral Hobart, having to be largely rebuilt after faulty construction of the first building, was opened on 23 January 1881 by Bishop Murphy.

Following further works including a base for a spire, the cathedral was solemnly dedicated by Cardinal Moran on 12 June 1898.

The next major work on the interior of the cathedral took place from 1958 to 1961 under Archbishop Guilford Young as he anticipated the proposals of the liturgical movement which were to be ratified at the Second Vatican Council.

Now some sixty years on there is need for much restoration work on the fabric of the interior of the Cathedral. As this much needed work is undertaken it provides us with a moment to consider our understanding of the nature of the liturgy as envisioned by the Church.

Recently (29 June) Pope Francis produced an Apostolic Letter, Desiderio desideravi, on the “Liturgical Formation of the People of God”. It makes very good reading. He explains his purpose as: “I simply want to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration” (DD 16).

The Pope reminds us that the Liturgy is the place of encounter with Christ. He says very directly, “Christian faith is either an encounter with Him alive, or it does not exist” (DD 10).  He emphasises that at every Mass we are engaged with the “salvific power of the sacrifice of Jesus” (ibid). The focus of the Liturgy is always on God and not on ourselves, and more particularly draws us to participation in the Paschal Mystery.

He speaks of “Amazement before the Paschal Mystery” where there is, he says, an “ocean of grace that floods every celebration” (DD 24). The Pope reminds us that “wonder is an essential part of the liturgical celebration” (DD 26). Here the Pope is inviting us to contemplate the awesome mystery of God’s presence every Mass.

In speaking to priests, he urges them, while being absolutely faithful to the rubrics, to also be in harmony with the Holy Spirit whenever they celebrate Mass. In other words, the celebration of the Liturgy is a profoundly spiritual activity. It is far more than ritual and symbol. It is, in the end, our most powerful act of prayer.

For the people he encourages them to learn more about the nature of the liturgy. He mentions, for example, the importance of appreciating the need for moments of silence in the liturgy (DD 52), and to be conscious of the purpose of our gestures, and he mentions as an example our attitude in kneeling (DD 53). He speaks of participating in the Eucharistic Prayer “with reverence and in silence” (DD 60), fully engaged with what is occurring on the altar.

The Pope ends by saying, “The Paschal Mystery has been given to us. Let us allow ourselves to be embraced by the desire that the Lord continues to have to eat his Passover with us” (DD 65).

The works that have commenced in St Mary’s Cathedral are intended to assist in the fulfilment of what the Pope has reminded us. Our churches are places where the liturgy can be celebrated with dignity, reverence and beauty.

We are blessed with a very beautiful cathedral church. The restoration works currently being undertaken in the cathedral will enhance its dignity and enable all who gather in this House of God to better offer worship and praise to Almighty God, in this mother church of the Archdiocese.

Tags: Archbishop's Blog, Liturgy, St Mary's Cathedral