Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Worship of Jesus, Worship of the Father

The other day I was walking to Mass with my 4 year old. I will occasionally remember that it is good to help your children to understand what they are doing at Mass, so I asked him, "Where are we going?"

He said, skipping along, "To Mass."

Wanting him to go a little deeper, I asked, "What are we going to do there?"

He replied, without hesitation, "Pray. We are going to pray." (Of course, he pronounced it "Pway.")

Good answer, of course, but what makes Mass different from praying the rosary at night? So, I said, "Yes. We are going to pray. In fact, we are going to worship Jesus."

He said, "That is one of the things we are going to do."

In my mind I knew he was technically correct, but it seemed to me that in fact what we are really doing more than anything at Mass is worship Jesus, so I replied, "That is THE thing we go to Mass to do."

Later I was reflecting on this exchange and it seemed to me that my spontaneous response trying to explain the Mass to a little child was spot on, despite some of the things said by theologians about the Mass.

Theologians tell us, rightly, that the sacrifice of the Mass is offered to the Father, through Jesus, in the Spirit. That is why the Collect ends with the formula, "We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you [Father] and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen." And the Doxology before the Great Amen is "Through him [Christ], with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is your, almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen."

Also, it is also valid to say that the Liturgy is the worship of the Trinity. That is more clear in Byzantine worship than it is in Roman, but we do, after all, pray the Gloria and recite the Creed.

What truly sets a Christian off from a Jew or from someone who admires Jesus as a religious leader is that we worship Jesus. Hence, it is fitting that our central act of worship is preeminently an act of worship of Jesus. That is why so much of the liturgy is actually directed to or at least ordered to the Son, and not the Father (Kyrie, much of the Gloria, the Liturgy of the Word (a dialogue between the Word and his Bride), all the prayers after the Lord's Prayer until the post-communion. It is also why there are acts of worship of Christ present in the Eucharist by both priest and people.

Psychologically and pastorally, I think it is important for the people of God to keep in mind that they gather on Sunday to worship the Crucified One, to stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary and worship Him. Without being Christomonist, I think our worship is and ought to be Christocentric. I think worship of Jesus is more psychologically satisfying than an attempt to worship the ineffable, invisible Father directly. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us, so to worship him is in a sense to worship the Father. The doctrine of perichoresis, or circumincession, which means that each of the persons of the Trinity exists wholly in the other, reiterates that fact that when we worship one, we are worshiping all three, because we are worshiping the One.


Robert C said...

Hmmm... this sounds familiar! I think I had this guy for some kind of class on the Trinity.

Robert Gotcher said...

It's not like I make this stuff up, Brother Bob.