FOR OUR LIFE
Liturgy comes from the Greek word Leitougia (leitourgia.) It literally means the peoples work. In the ancient Greek cultures, it originally meant civic duty or the cooperation of all citizens to make society work. Those who were involved in the social works like building libraries, setting up monuments or constructed town halls etc were called liturgies.
As Jesus was the greatest public benefactor by his death and resurrection the Church has rightly taken this term Liturgy and gave a new religious meaning such as: spiritual sacrifice, obedience, faith, works of charity, or any service to God and his people.
Since liturgy was originally a public service celebrating the liturgy alone without any reference to the people and without activity, has no meaning at all. There can be no liturgy without a celebrating assembly . Of its very nature, `liturgical is opposed to `private.
Liturgy is a living reality easier to experience if we have faith. Liturgy means work that all Christians do to make our tradition, our beliefs, and our faith, work in our lives and in the world. It is very same work that Jesus did for humanity. We do it symbolically in the church then continue doing it during the day.
Liturgy is a ritual. By practicing a set, a patterned behavior, we become so familiar with the ritual that we can use it as a foundation for growth. We need to repeat pattern after pattern, to master the basics of our belief like a musician mastering the techniques of the instrument.
Ritual is a system of symbols that give meaning to our lives. We need to go beyond the literal meaning of the symbols to the very life of the people so as to build a civilized society. Symbols remain empty when they no longer instill values for the society we live in.
Liturgy is a symbol as long as it goes beyond and to something in our daily life; building a civilized society. If we are satisfied merely doing certain actions in the church and forget about life in the world it will certainly lead us to routine and monotonous action resulting in terribly boring and meaninglessness in our life.
Symbols are objects, behaviors or words that help us grasp realities that would otherwise be unknowable. They are medium we have for communicating the reality we know. Human as we are, we need something material in order to understand the divine. Human mind cannot grasp the without any reference to matter. So we use the created things like a flower or a picture, a statue as medium to go the Divine. But these symbols are not end in themselves. If we take them as our only goal or end we become idolaters.
The words on this page, the letters, the sentences, are in a pattern that we recognize them as the English language, the fact that they are in a book that we read from left to right, top to bottom, are all symbols that communicate meaning. We could say the meaning of the words is what is important and not the words themselves. But the meaning of a word and the word itself are integrally linked. The symbols of the liturgy function are also linked in the same way.
Fire means one thing, water another, bread another, and song another. All these Symbols help us grasp the reality of God, who would otherwise be unknowable. But each of these symbols says something different about God as they have multiple meanings. For example if we take water it can mean life as well as death depending upon the circumstances. What water tells us about God is that God can mean life or death. That is the essence of the paschal mystery. Christ died and rose.
When many symbols of our faith are organized into ritual patterns, they tell the story of our faith. The pattern itself becomes a symbol. So in the Mass, Word and Eucharist is a symbolic structure. God calls us to faith (Word) and we respond it in faith (Eucharist). Since symbols are the way in which we communicate the reality of our faith, it is important that our symbols be of high quality and is full and rich.
Liturgies are also prayers. Here prayer does not merely mean becoming quiet and talking to God but listening to and being obedient to God. In the Liturgy, we proclaim, sing, move, share, bless etc. All these actions are ways of being in the world. By doing these things in a particular way, they carry particular meaning. Those meanings communicate to us and to others our beliefs. By fully participating in these actions, we more fully understand their meanings and more deeply immerse ourselves in faith. It is in this way we Listen to God. It is in this way we pray.
Jesus prayer was an experience of a new vision, a new way of looking at things. It directed him to be with people and among the people. In the same way our prayer life has to direct us today, to be with the people and among the people.
After encountering Jesus in our prayer we need to meet him in the suffering people. We have to open the door of our hearts when he knocks and asks: Will you not share in my redemptive work? He offered his life on the cross for the redemption of the world. He invites us to share in his work of being with people and among the people, to grow in the love of God.
In order to do this we need to enter into the paschal mystery of Christ. It is the mystery of Christs passion, death, and resurrection. As Christ sacrificed himself for our sake like a Passover lamb and `passed over from the slavery of this world into the freedom of Gods glory.
It is this core belief the paschal mysterythat we celebrate every Sunday in the Eucharist. By celebrating it, we enter more fully into the saving death of Christ. We die more completely to ourselves. We become less and less, and Christ becomes more and more. We go out into the world and live the mystery we have just celebrated. By joining to Christ in death, we learn to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the people. We become authentic witnesses to Christ by doing works of justice and living the lives of peace.
This leads us to the threefold dimensions of Liturgy: The descending dimension of worship is that we are sanctified by Gods grace. There is a dialogue between God and his people in which He takes the first step to reach the humans and He has done it through his son Jesus Christ. It was only after Christ stretched out his arms on the cross that we could raise our hands to him in thanks and praise through the liturgy. The ascending dimension of worship is to raise our hearts and minds to God in praise and thanksgiving for his marvelous works.
The horizontal dimension or the social dimension is that the liturgy brings a covenant relationship not only vertically between God and us, but also horizontally between person and person. Indeed our relationship with God becomes evident through care and concern we show to our neighbor. (Cf. 1Jn 4:20)
The Good Samaritan never reached the temple but his horizontal roadside liturgy was praised. The priest and Levite did not go out to the dying man, afraid that this would make them ritually unclean and therefore ineligible for worship. In fact only the Samaritan who cared for his neighbor was an eligible liturgist.
There must be sensitive concern for the persons and building up a loving and caring community is needed in order to be the body of Christ. It is the first step to a vibrant, active celebration of the Liturgy. Moving out after the service to renew society is its goal.
LITURGY & WORSHIP
Only worship can prevent secularization from becoming inhuman and only secularization can save worship from becoming meaningless. Says R. Panikkar. So Worship and secularization go hand in hand. The sacred is to be found in the secular. The two cannot be separated into water-tight categories.
Through worship, we express our reverence and respect for God and acknowledge the supremacy of God. It is an expression of our belief and an external manifestation of our internal faith-commitment. So without faith, worship has no meaning. Since our faith-commitment is made manifest through symbols our worship is expressed in symbolic actions, which transcend the concrete action. For example prostration is more than lying down. It symbolizes surrender. Our complete expression of faith-commitment in worship springs up from the fellowship with other human beings.
When we relate with God through worship we come to know that we are limited and dependent beings. (eg. Tiredness, sickness, death). Though we like to be independent we are always interdependent. This interdependency is symbolic of dependency on God. The more we acknowledge our limitedness and dependence, the more we grow. Thus our worship starts with human action.
This human actions consists of signs and symbols, gestures and postures. These symbolic actions transcend the immediate action and becomes Divine Action because God himself interacts with us. In other words we offer our homage, praise and thanks to God for the marvelous things he did and does for us. This is an upward movement as we open up in prayer. God interacts with us, blesses with His graces. He shows us some signs of acceptance of our worship and transforms us. Our worship brings transformation at the level of our relationship with God and others.
Liturgy is also a symbolic action as it consists of signs, symbols, gestures and postures in which we communicate our faith in the Paschal Mystery of Christ. So Liturgy is the celebration of Paschal mystery through sacramental sings and symbols by the Church until the Lord comes. It answers the following questions:
What are we celebrating?
Paschal Mystery (life, death and resurrection of Jesus)
How are we celebrating?
Through sings and symbols (Sacraments)
Who is celebrating?
The Christian community (Church)
Until when do we celebrate?
Until Jesus comes again in glory.
Paschal means Passover: a transition or passage. We find it in creation. There was a transition from chaso to cosmos, from disorder to order, from darkness to light, from lifelessness to life. Because of disobedience there was a reversal. As a result there was a need for a re-creation and for a new pasch. This pasch is realized in three stages:
- Life and choice of Abraham who stands out as the father of faith. By Gods intervention humanly impossible becomes possible. There is transition from incapability to capability. We find transition from helplessness to help and hopelessness to hope in the sacrifice of Issac.
- In exodus where Israelites in Egypt were leading a miserable life. There was a transition from inhuman to human, misery to dignity, slavery to freedom, oppression to liberation, darkness to light and death to life.
- In Jesus by his birth, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection we find transition from sin to grace, from flesh to spirit, from law to love, from slavery to freedom, from oppression to liberation, from darkness to light and from selfishness to selfless giving.
So the paschal mystery of Christ is the mystery of Christs passion, death, and resurrection. As Christ sacrificed himself for our sake like a Passover lamb and `passed over from the slavery of this world into the freedom of Gods glory we too are called to do the same.
It is this core belief the paschal mysterythat we celebrate every Sunday in the Eucharist. By celebrating it, we enter more fully into the saving death of Christ. Thus the paschal mystery becomes an event in the Church by proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ to the world. It gives joy and hope to humanity. We die every day by becoming more and more selfless in our interaction. We die more completely to ourselves. We become less and less, and Christ becomes more and more. We go out into the world and live the mystery we have just celebrated. By joining to Christ in death, we learn to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the people. We become authentic witnesses to Christ by doing works of justice and living the lives of peace.