CLASS 10 – INTRODUCTION TO THE LITURGY
I. I. The liturgy is the prayer of Jesus Christ through His whole Church, bringing the power of God to earth. "In the Church's liturgy the divine blessing is fully revealed and communicated. The Father is acknowledged and adored as the source and the end of all the blessing of creation and salvation. In His Word who became incarnate, died, and rose for us, He fills us with His blessings. Through His Word, He pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit." Catechism 1082.
A. "In the earthly
liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated
in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where
Christ is sitting at the right hand of God." Vatican II Council,
Sacrosanctun Concilium (1963) 8; Catechism 1090.
B. Liturgies are
not simply private prayers, but join together the whole Church, visible
and invisible. See Sacrosanctun
Concilium 26. They join our praise of God to and His blessings
to us. The letter to the Hebrews says, "you have approached
Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and
countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn
enrolled in heaven, and Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant."
Heb. 12:22-24. Through the liturgy, we are brought in union with
the Church in heaven to praise God and receive His blessings.
The Psalmist of old rejoiced when he heard of a common pilgrimage to
Jerusalem. See Ps.121. All the more do we rejoice at this
common pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem.
C. The liturgy not
only overcomes the barriers of space, but also of time, bringing the
saving mysteries of Christ present to us. The liturgy thus "not
only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them
present. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated, not repeated.
It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in each celebration there
is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the unique mystery present."
Catechism1104. Before ascending into heaven, Christ promised
His Apostles, "I will be with you always, unto the end of the age."
Matt. 28:20. Through the liturgy, Christ becomes especially present
1. The document
pointed out that there are both changeable and unchangeable aspects
of every liturgy. Thus, people should expect the changeable elements
to be updated so to accommodate changing circumstances. The Church
universal, and to some degree, local authorities, have the authority
to altar the changeable elements, but no one else should presume to
do so on their own. The Council also said that the changes the
Church makes should be careful and avoid unnecessary instability.
2. In Part II,
section C, the document outlined ways in which the Council intended
to increase pastoral and instruction value of the Mass and other liturgies,
namely: (1) more of a noble simplicity in the liturgy; (2) a broader
scope of Scriptural readings; (3) more emphasis on homilies and instruction
generally; and (4) the increased use of vernacular languages in the
liturgy, although the use of Latin was to be preserved.
3. Starting on
the first weekend of Advent in 2011 (November 25-26) there will be new
translations of the prayers used during the Mass in the United States.
Similar translation updates have occurred or will soon occur throughout
the English speaking world.
II. The Church uses the liturgical year to order her celebrations, especially the Mass, along the lines of the mysteries of our redemption, centered on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, as well as His return in glory.
A. The liturgical year has five seasons, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time, with Ordinary Time divided into two parts. The Church uses the liturgical year to order her celebrations, especially the Mass, along the lines of the mysteries of our redemption, centered on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, as well as His return in glory.
1. Advent is
the 22 to 28 days just before Christmas, from the fourth Sunday before
Christmas to the day before Christmas. During this time, the Church
focuses on the preparation of the Chosen People of old for the coming
of the Messiah, and our on own preparation to welcome Jesus into our
lives, now and at the end of all things on earth.
1. The highest
of all days in the Church year are those of the Easter Triduum, that
is the time from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday through
Easter Sunday. On these days, we celebrate the central events
of all of history: the death of Christ on Good Friday, His time among
the dead on Holy Saturday, and His glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
These great events are commemorated and made present in the Eucharist
and the Mass, which were established at the Last Supper that we celebrate
on Holy Thursday night.
3. The next highest
day is a feast day, which celebrates a particularly prominent saint
or event in the life of Christ, Mary or the Church. Thus, for
example, the days for all of the Apostles, some of the earliest martyrs,
and the archangels are feasts, as are celebrations the Presentation,
Baptism and Transfiguration of Christ, the Birth of Mary, the Visitation
of Mary to Elizabeth, the conversion of St. Paul and the dedication
of the Lateran Basilica, the mother church of Christendom. In
addition, the day for the patron saint or saints of a diocese, an area
or a religious order, or the anniversary of the dedication of a diocese's
cathedral, can be a feast day. Thus, for example, Saints Thomas
More and Elizabeth Ann Seton are the patrons for the Diocese of Arlington
and thus their days can be celebrated as feasts here on June 22 and
January 4 respectively.
4. Most saints'
days are memorials, as are the days for such devotions as the Immaculate
Heart of Mary or the Rosary. However, if a saints' day occurs
during the holy seasons of Advent or Lent, it is combined with the theme
for that season and called a commemoration. Memorials can be obligatory
or optional. If a memorial is obligatory, Masses and other liturgies
of that day usually must celebrate that saint or devotion, with exceptions
such as weddings, Confirmations, or funerals. If a memorial is
optional it may be celebrated. In addition to memorials on the
general calendar, specific places have memorials for special saints
or people who have been declared blessed (one step before being declared
a saint.) Thus, for example, in the United States, we celebrate
the memorials of Saint John Neumann, an early archbishop of Philadelphia
and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a native American convert honored as
the Lily of the Mohawks, on January 5 and July 14 respectively..
C. The liturgical color for a day or season is used for the priest's vestments and often for such other purposes as one of the altar cloths, Church decorations, and the vesture of people assisting in the liturgy. In the Latin rite that we are used to, there are four primary liturgical colors, violet, white (or gold), red and green, and two secondary colors, rose and black.
1. Violet is the color for Advent, Lent, other occasions of penance such as the sacrament of Reconciliation and sometimes funerals.
a. For Lent,
the color represents penance and mourning and the desire to share with
Jesus His suffering and to be cleansed of sins through repentance.
b. For Advent,
there is also a notion of penance and longing, but also combined with
violet as the ancient symbol of royalty, the color that kings and queens
used to wear. For in Advent, we reflect upon the ancient Jews'
longing for the promised Messiah and our longing for Jesus and King
of heaven and earth.
c. The two
seemingly very different meanings are joined in Jesus as He suffered
and so won a kingdom, both for His own human nature and for us.
Likewise, it is precisely by repenting of sins and joining in the suffering
of Christ that we share in His kingdom. See, e.g., Phil 2:5-11.
Violet may also be used at funerals and other Masses for the dead, symbolizing
the mourning at death, and the confidence that through penance we can
assist the dead in arriving in His everlasting kingdom.
4. Green is the
color for Ordinary Time, and represents hope and steady, regular growth,
such as that of the fields and trees. As the color of hope, green
reflects the recognition that this life is meant to be the springtime
of everlasting life. As the color of the fields, green reminds
us to dedicate our lives and the world around us as vineyards of the
Lord, producing fruit worthy of everlasting life. See Luke 3:8;
Catechism 755. Thus, during ordinary time, the color green is
used for priest's vestments and often other adornments, unless the
day is a solemnity, feast or memorial, in which case white or red would
be the usual color.
5. In addition to the central colors for the liturgical year, the church sometimes uses rose or black.
a. Rose is
the color of Christian joy, combining purple, red and white, as distinct
from pink, which is between red and white. It is used on two Sundays,
Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday. Gaudete means "Rejoice"
with the connotation of gaining what one has longed for. Gaudete
Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent, during which there is an emphasis
on the preliminary joy that we experience even now awaiting Christ,
even as there is a poignant sense of longing. Laetare also means
"Rejoice," with an additional connotation of having overcome some
sorrow of struggle. And Laetare Sunday is the fourth Sunday of
Lent, during which we anticipate the joy of having overcome the sorrows
and struggles against sin in a fallen world, seeing the redemption of
the world and ourselves.
b. Reflecting sorrow and mourning at loss is the color black. It can be used on Good Friday, funerals and other Masses for the dead. In such cases, this color symbolizes sorrow at death as Blessed Virgin Mary and the women of Jerusalem felt at the Cross, as Jesus felt at the death of Lazarus, and we fell at the parting of a loved one. See Luke 23:26-32; John 11:35, 19:25-27. The Talmud, a Jewish commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, says, "Sorrow at death is a sign of love during life" and we are willing to risk that sorrow here on earth for the sake of love, for the sorrow will be rewarded in a kingdom where the desires of all rightful loves are fulfilled. For "blessed are those who weep and mourn, for one day they will laugh." Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21.