After a long hiatus due Solemnities and Stewardship we now return to our series on Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Liturgy). In our last segment we considered paragraph 8 which spoke to us of the reality that every Mass, without exception, is a foretaste of heaven—even when things do not accord with our person preferences. This is true because the liturgy, the Mass, is primarily the work of God, not man.
Today we turn our attention to paragraphs 9 and 10. The first of these paragraphs indicates that “Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion.” As such, the Church’s first responsibility is to preach and encourage believers and nonbelievers alike regarding both faith and repentance:
“The Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance. To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments.”
It is for this reason that the long tradition of the Church has associated the Sacrament of Reconciliation with participation in the Mass. It is only after we have encountered Christ in conversion and penance that we encounter him in the intimacy of the Eucharist.
Many who have gone to Masses in Spanish will notice that many fewer people receive communion than they do in English Masses. This is, in large part, because the Spanish speaking community has a deeper sense of this spiritual principle of Vatican II. There is a more acute recognition that conversion and penance must occur before fully participating in the Liturgy through Holy Communion. Perhaps a couple is living together and not marred in the Church. Maybe an individual chose to skip Sunday Mass or a Holy Day of obligation. Maybe someone had a serious fight with a friend and is still holding animosity in his or her heart. Or, perhaps it is simply that someone has not taken advantage of confession for a long time and feels he has been negligent in responding to Christ’s call for ongoing conversion.
The reasons for not receiving communion are manifold, but each recognizes that conversion is the first step necessary before fully participating in the Mass through the reception of Holy Communion.
The document makes clear that this full participation is the end and goal of the Christian life, for “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” For this reason, the Mass is often call the source and summit of the Christian life. All preaching and teaching, all acts of charity and mercy, all devotions and piety have as their goal to bring all men “together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper.”
“From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God […] is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.”
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!