Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Concerning the Hymn

Joe, of course, is right about this hymn in particular, but Jeff noticed what I did, which I think is the greater problem among Catholics. So many priests will say something like "We have gathered here to hear God's Word and to receive His Body and Blood" without mentioning that we are primarily gathered "here" to be united in the Spirit to the Sacrifice of Christ to the Father. The offering sacrifice is the summit of the liturgy; the hearing of the Word effects a purification so that we may approach the altar, and communion is the consequence of our unification with the Son by the Holy Spirit--we receive from the pierced side of Christ, the fruits of His sacrifice.

A very good old book on this topic was Clifford Howell, S.J.'s Of Sacrament and Sacrifice (Liturgical Press, 1952). This book was probably considered "liberal" at the time, because it emphasized the laity's participation in the priesthood of believers, but right now it seems quite traditional.

In one section Howell talks about the Sacrifice of the Mass as an exchange of gift, comparing it to a man giving a woman a box of chocolates and she in turn giving him some of the chocolates. Okay, kind of a pedestrian comparison, but you get the point.

Anyway, he outlines the Mass like this:
"First, exchange of words,
Our words go up to God (Kyrie, Gloria, oratio).
God's words come down to us (epistle, gospel, sermon)
Second, exchange of gifts.
Our gifts go up to God (offertory, Consecration).
God's gift comes down to us (Communion).
Thus the whole process is complete."

Note: he is quite aware and indeed emphasizes that the offering to God is primarily Christ's, not ours as such. If you keep in mind that "God" here means God the Father, I think it makes sense.
We need to recover the sense that the Mass is directed to God--an act of adoration, worship and especially sacrifice.

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