Last week we began looking at the document Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) of Vatican II. Having examined the introduction, we now move to the first chapter, “General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy.” This chapter is further divided into sections and paragraphs. Section one is titled, “The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Life of the Church.”
Paragraph 5 speaks about the way in which God accomplished our salvation. Due to sin, an infinite chasm had been established between God and man, heaven and earth, eternity and time. It was impossible for us to return to God. But God desired our salvation and, therefore, he determined a manner in which to achieve it. He himself, in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, took on our humanity. In this way God and man, heaven and earth, eternity and time, were joined together in one person, Jesus Christ. As both God and man, Jesus became a bridge that spanned the chasm that had separated humanity from God. By dying, he paid the price for our sin; by rising, he restored us to life; by ascending into heaven, he opened the doors of paradise for the rest of humanity to follow.
Paragraph 6 describes how “just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also He sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit” to continue his saving ministry. They were to make real the “the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves.” In particular he gave them Baptism so that everyone who believed in Christ might be united to him in his death and resurrection— dying and rising with him in the waters of baptism. He also gave them the Eucharist, “The Supper of the Lord,” in which the saving power of Baptism is relived and deepened through sharing in his most sacred Body and Blood.
Paragraph 7 explains why the Mass is the most powerful and effective form of prayer, spiritual growth, and means to salvation for Christians. The power of the Mass derives from Christ himself who “is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations.”
He is present in four ways at every Mass. He is present in the priest or bishop offering the sacrifice; he is present in the proclamation of Sacred Scripture; he is present in the body of the faithful gathered for worship; and he is present “especially in the eucharistic species,” (i.e. his Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine). It is due to the intimate and pervasive presence of Christ in the liturgy that the Mass is always “a sacred action surpassing all others.” No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.”
This fourfold presence of Christ at the Mass is a challenge to each of us. If we do not powerfully experience God at work in our lives every time we gather to worship, it is not a lack of his presence to us, but of our being present to Him. As he says in Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!