The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
Why it is so imperative for us to attend the Sunday liturgy? Every week we gather and unite with Christ in the Eucharist and then return to a world that is still filled with poverty, injustice, cruelty and evil. As alluded to in our Scriptures this weekend, we send out words that seem to return empty, we endure dry soil. As St. Paul says, we feel our soul actually groaning. Furthermore, Pope Francis has said some people wonder why they should bother going to church when the church is filled with people who sin like everyone else. So what difference, if any, does this coming together for liturgical prayer make?
Liturgical prayer has strength in numbers. It is public prayer that follows prescribed ritual formulas. Unlike private prayer, which is intended to unite the individual with Christ, liturgical prayer gives one voice to the many members of the church.
At Mass, a space is created to hear the Holy Spirit. And, as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, it allows us to put ourselves in the hands of God, at his disposition and to listen to his voice in the depth of our hearts.
The Mass is filled with common, familiar words. This is a help to us when we are tired, broken in sorrow, or distracted, and we find it difficult to speak words of personal prayer.
There is also comfort in saying the same words over and over again, where they seep into our very core, and we reach the place where you no longer have to be thinking, “Okay, what comes next? What do I have to do?” In that holy space, that comfortable space, filled with familiar words, we can bring an open heart and the week’s experiences to the Sunday Mass. We can focus on hearing those familiar words in a new way.
Liturgical prayer echoes the words we hear in sacred Scripture and so, in our prayer, we express our confidence in the promises God has spoken.
We may not always find liturgical prayer exciting or spectacular, but it is always real, true and transforming. Together with Catholics around the world and those who have gone before us, the Mass forms us into the body of Christ, the communion of saints.
Furthermore, if we really listen to the words of the prefaces and the eucharistic prayers at Mass, we will know that the Holy Spirit comes upon our gifts of bread and wine amidst the joy of the angels and all the heavenly host. We will be immersed in an awesome moment of heaven on earth as bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.
We need those moments of heaven on earth and, if we allow it to, the liturgy of the Mass will form us into the fruitful and fertile soil from which will spring the good seed of our future church.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.