Liturgy as encounter with the Lord

First Sunday of Advent (A)

We begin a new liturgical year. On this First Sunday of Advent I have produced a Pastoral Letter, entitled ‘Renewing our Participation in the Sacred Liturgy’.

I am inspired, in part, by an Apostolic Letter on the ‘Liturgical Formation of the People of God’ by Pope Francis which was promulgated on 29 June this year, the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul.

Pope Francis has as his intention a desire that all in the Church will discover afresh the beauty of the Sacred Liturgy and participate more fruitfully in liturgical celebrations.

He says, “I would like this letter to help us rekindle our wonder at the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration” (DD 62).

He adds “All this richness is not far from us. It is in our churches, in our Christian feasts, in the centrality of the Lord’s Day, in the power of the sacraments we celebrate” (DD 62).

He calls upon us all to realise what actually happens at every Mass. He reminds us of what he says is the “powerful beauty of the Mass” which enables each of us to encounter the risen Christ and, in his words, allow “the power of the Paschal Mystery to reach us”.

Each Mass is a moment in which we are engaged with the salvation won for us on Calvary. We embrace the effects of the death and resurrection of Christ for our own lives. We claim the redemption that promises us eternal life.

Pope Francis invites us to come to a place of amazement before the Paschal Mystery. He comments, “If there were lacking our astonishment at the fact that the paschal mystery is rendered present in the concreteness of sacramental signs, we would truly risk being impermeable to the ocean of grace that floods every celebration” (DD 24).

Each Mass offers the possibility of being flooded by God’s saving grace. It provides us with the chance to be changed, healed and restored.

Each Mass offers us the opportunity for salvation to flow afresh into our lives. Calvary is made real and effective for us, each of us, personally.

In the first reading of our Mass today we heard from the prophet Isaiah, 

Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

To the temple of the God of Jacob

That he may teach us his ways

So that we may walk in his paths.

Here there lies an invitation. It is an invitation to come to that place where God is to be found.

For us now it is in a church, it is in the Sacred Liturgy, that we encounter the living God. Our liturgy is not just ritual and symbol. It is not just a reminiscence of things past. It is not just a community celebration. It is truly a moment of encounter with God Himself and his work of redemption which we appropriate to ourselves.

The words of the prophet can be an invitation to us to approach each Mass with a renewed depth of faith and expectation. We must not allow Mass just to become routine and predictable.

Thus, we should consider our own attitudes as we enter a church. Am I deeply aware of the presence of the Lord? Thus, I sign myself with Holy Water. I genuflect with a genuine awareness of the Real Presence in the Tabernacle. Before Mass begins I kneel and pray. Arriving at church my heart and soul are oriented towards an encounter with God.

As Mass commences I sincerely recognise that I am a sinner and with a humble and contrite heart ask for mercy and forgiveness. I develop the proper dispositions of heart which enable God to come to me.

Then, I open my heart to hear the Word of God proclaimed in the Sacred Scriptures. In my heart I adopt the attitude, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”. I am attentive to what God may reveal to me.

I proclaim the Creed as an affirmation of what I believe. It is said with conviction.

Then I orient myself towards the great prayer about to be offered – the Eucharistic Prayer. I do, in fact, lift up my heart. I join myself consciously with the angels and saints in their great hymn of praise: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of Hosts.

Then, I focus myself on what is about to occur as the Holy Spirit is invoked on the gifts of bread and wine, that they may become the Body and Blood of the Lord. I imagine myself at the Last Supper as the words of institution are recited by the priest.

Then I prepare my heart to receive the Lord in Holy Communion. I approach the altar with humility knowing my great longing for the presence of the Lord in my heart and in my life. I return to my seat and dwell with my Lord in silence, drinking in the mystery, praying with great earnestness of spirit.

Then I prepare to go out, intent on living as a faithful disciple.   

Let us do as Pope Francis has encouraged us: “rekindle our wonder for the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration” (DD 62).

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Sunday, 27 November 2022

To view the Advent Pastoral Letter, click here.

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