The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
Read this Sunday’s Gospel with a little bit of creative license and you will be able to parallel it to an experience of attending a Sunday Mass. Like the disciples, we journey to get to church. Some only have to walk a few blocks, others use their cars or public transportation and many have to travel long miles down country roads. We make this journey “up the mountain” to our church, because we know the liturgy will transfix and transform us.
The beauty and architecture of a church can be transfixing in itself. Do you pay attention to how the interior of the church changes with the season? Decorations change, but do you also look for the natural changes occurring such as how the light passing through windows creates patches of brilliance or dancing shadows?
In my parish church, at our early Mass at this time of year, it is easy to lose oneself in prayer as the stained glass windows cast a multicolored reflection that moves across the sanctuary wall.
When we attend Mass, our hearts should say, “It is good that we are here.” For this reason, people give their time and talent to the unfolding of the Sunday liturgy. Take notice that when you arrive at church it is clean. Vessels, clean linens and liturgical books have been prepared. Hospitality tables are set out to provide you with parish information or treats for after Mass socializing.
Greeters stand at the door to welcome you. Lectors and musicians have practiced for their roles. Your priest or deacon has prayed over Scriptures to prepare a homily that is challenging and uplifting. All these people and many behind the scenes do this good and holy work for the sake of the liturgy, and so we, the assembly, feel it is good to be there.
The most transforming element of liturgy is encountering Jesus in the word and the Eucharist. The words of Scriptures engage our mind and stir our heart. Jesus coming to us in Eucharist touches the depth of our soul, telling us as he did the disciples, “Do not be afraid.”
The Sunday Gospel does not tell us how long the encounter of the Transfiguration took; it may have been minutes or hours. We know that we will have about 60 minutes to be in Jesus’ transfiguring presence. Then it will be time for us to head back down the mountain.
This is where our story drastically changes from that of the Apostles. They were instructed to tell no one about what they had witnessed, until the resurrection occurred. We know Jesus rose form the dead. For that reason the final words of the Mass tell us, “Go forth …”
We have been to the mountain; we have been transfixed by Jesus’ word and transformed by his body and blood. We are believers in his resurrection. It is our duty now, to share that good news with everyone.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.