Last week I touched briefly on the importance of supporting our Annual Catholic Appeal. We are off to a great start! Thank you for your generosity. For those who have not yet made their pledge, envelopes are available in the pews.
We now return to our journey through the Vatican II document on the liturgy. We have arrived at paragraph 56 of the document, which states: “The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation.”
The purpose of paragraph 56 could easily be lost in so many words and theological statements. It has one purpose; it is telling pastors to encourage their parishioners not to be late for Mass! There was, and is still today, a mentality among some people that the only important part of Mass is the consecration, so as long as you made it to church before that, you were good to go. This paragraph emphasizes that the Mass is not any one part, but it is an integral whole and should be celebrated as such.
The practical application of this paragraph, on the one hand, certainly calls people to plan to be early for Mass so as to be assured not to miss its various elements of spiritual preparation. On the other hand, it also indicates the desirability of continuing in communal worship until the final blessing. In the same way that people are tempted to come late to Mass because the liturgy of the Eucharist is perceived as the only important part, for the same reason individuals can be tempted to leave Mass before it is over because they have already received Jesus in the Eucharist.
Certainly there are times and circumstances which arise that result in a person arriving late or needing to leave early. Vatican II just reminds us that, as a rule, it is important to enter into the full worship of our community of faith, from beginning to end.
Paragraphs 57 and 58 end chapter II of the document. These both speak briefly of “concelebration.” That is when more than one priest or bishop celebrates the Mass together – almost like a team. It is encouraged, not for the sake of convenience (though that often occurs), but in order to emphasize the unity of the priesthood. The practice is considered especially worthy when all the priests of the diocese are gathered with the bishop in the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries.
Transitioning now into chapter III of the document, we will begin to look briefly at the other Sacraments and sacramentals in the life of the Church.