Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 20 August 2023

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Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

Pope Francis calls for authentic liturgical formation that teaches all of us why we do what we do. Only then do we own the sacred action rather than watch someone else do it. Hopefully, this year, we will plan a weekly topic on the liturgy for your formation.

In Pope Francis’ apostolic letter, Desiderio Desideravi, he asks the question: “How do we continue to let ourselves be amazed at what happens in the celebration before our very eyes?” He then talks about that moment of Pentecost when the church became “the initial cell of the new humanity.” Those first men and women reconciled because they were pardoned, alive because he is alive, true because the Spirit of truth dwells in them – only they could break out of the cramped space of spiritual individualism. They could now break the Bread in the certain knowledge that the Lord is alive, risen from the dead, present with his word, with his gestures, with the offering of his Body and his Blood. The celebration is now the privileged place of encounter with him. As he quotes Romano Guardini, “We must learn anew how to relate as fully human beings.”

He asks us to consider the regular rhythm of our assemblies in which we come together to celebrate the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day. Ordained ministers carry out a pastoral action of the first importance when they take the baptized faithful by the hand to lead them into the Paschal Mystery. It is not only the priest but the entire Church, the Body of Christ, that realizes this and includes everyone: “A celebration that does not evangelize is not authentic, just as a proclamation that does not lead to an encounter with the risen Lord in the celebration is not authentic.” This is because the nature of the Liturgy does not consist of mental assimilation of some idea but of real existential engagement with his person. Liturgy is about praise, about rendering thanks for the Passover of the Son whose power transforms our lives. We literally become him.

Consistent with the method of Incarnation, this existential engagement happens in a sacramental way, not with spiritual abstractions: bread, wine, oil, water, fragrance, fire, ashes, rock, fabrics, colors, body, words, sounds, silences, gestures, space, movement, action, order, time, light. This whole of creation is a manifestation of the love of God and is holy. The whole of creation is assumed in order to be placed at the service of the encounter with the Word: incarnate, crucified, dead, risen, ascended to the Father, all fruit of the earth, and work of human hands.

We can’t add anything to the beauty of the inaccessible light where God dwells, Pope Francis says, nor can we add to the perfection of the angelic song that resounds eternally. The Liturgy gives glory to God because it allows us – here, on earth – to see God in the celebration of the mysteries and in seeing him to draw life from his Passover. We, who were dead through our sins and have been made alive again with Christ – we are the glory of God.

Here, there is outlined the first task of the work of liturgical formation: our openness to the transcendent, to God, is oue nature. Not recognizing this leads us not only to not knowing God but being incapable of knowing ourselves.

The Lord be with you,