Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Search of the Sacred

Dear Theophilus,

“Is nothing sacred anymore?”

I seem to be hearing this question a lot more these days. The funny thing is that it usually has to do with the secular world.

No hockey this year! Is nothing sacred anymore?
Texting at the dinner table! Is nothing sacred anymore?
The mall is closed for a holiday! Is nothing sacred anymore?

I find it interesting, though, that none of these are truly sacred in the real sense of the word.

As Catholics we are lucky to come into weekly contact with the sacred through the Eucharist. But even with this it can, at times, seem difficult to find the sacred in the Mass.

Last week at my parish celebration of our patron saint, St. Leo the Great, I was fortunate enough to rediscover a sense of the sacred in the Eucharistic liturgy. With a Knights of Columbus honour guard, incense and holy water sprinkling, the congregation was wholly engaged for the sacredness of the Eucharist to come.

This isn’t to say that the usual celebration of the Eucharist without these elements is any less sacred than when they are present. We cannot, and should not, sustain such a high level of expectation when we meet Christ in the Eucharist. We need to recall that Christ’s own Passover meal was a simple affair. As Catholics we are called to understand that there is nothing more sacred in our faith than the Eucharist (CCC #1324). When it comes to the sacred in the Eucharistic liturgy the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states:

It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that the celebration of the Mass or the Lord’s Supper be so ordered that the sacred ministers and the faithful taking part in it, according to the state proper to each, may draw from it more abundantly those fruits, to obtain which, Christ the Lord instituted the  Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood and entrusted it as the memorial of his Passion and Resurrection to the Church, his beloved Bride. (GIRM #17)

This is a logical progression from Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium:

Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper. (Sacrosanctum Concilium #10)

All of this pondering on the sacred in the liturgy of the Eucharist reminded me of an article I read a few years ago in Adoremus Bulletin. I had been looking for a quote for a staff meeting reflection when I stumbled upon the following from Alvin Kimel Jr.:

The re-enchantment’ of the Catholic Liturgy”, declares Father Aidan Nichols, “is the single most urgent ecclesial need of our time”. I like the use of the word enchant to describe the Divine Liturgy of the Church.

I still vividly remember my first visit in June 1975 to St. Paul’s Church, K Street, in Washington, DC. I had just finished college. Earlier that year I had become a believing Christian. Upon returning to Washington, an old high school friend invited me to join him one Sunday at St. Paul’s. Solemn High Mass, with a visiting African bishop to administer Confirmation; solemn procession, with two thurifers; chanting, crossings, bowings, genuflections, incense -- all of this was completely new for me.

My only prior experience with the Lord’s Supper was as an addendum to the Methodist preaching service, with cubes of bread and shot-glasses of grape juice. Here was something utterly different. I was taken up into a sacred world. On that day I discovered the Eucharistic Christ. I was enchanted.
I found it possible to believe the Eucharistic promises of Christ because of the enchanting beauty and power of the Divine Liturgy that I experienced that first summer at St. Paul’s. I was enchanted into faith. I experienced the glories of heaven and thus came to know the truth of the Eucharist. I will always believe that the consecrated elements are truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. And it is the liturgy that has sustained and generated my faith for the past thirty years.

You can read the entire article here.

Keeping all of this in mind, I’ll ask you the same question I asked my colleagues 7 years ago: “Where do you find a sense of the sacred in practicing your Catholic faith?”

No comments:

Post a Comment