Weekly reflections by Father Cusick on the Sunday Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church
LITURGICAL PRAYER and the Mass
"When you pray, say: Father." (Luke 11:2) This is the name that from all eternity God the Son gives to his Father, the name that was continuously on our Lord's lips, the name that he silently repeats in the Eucharist on the altar and that we find constantly uttered by his Church.
"You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry 'Abba' (Father)." (Rom 8:15) The Holy Spirit flows forth, so to say, from the Word in the sacred humanity of Christ, and in the Church, bearing us all to the Father on the waves of his Divine Love. For we, too, are children of the Father.
This cry of "Father" which, from the depths of our hearts as baptized Christians, ceaselessly goes up to God, includes, no doubt, the private prayer inspired in us by the Holy Spirit, whereby we are led to turn to God as children to their father; but it is principally that official prayer with which the Holy Spirit inspires his Church and which is called the liturgy. In this prayer all members of Christ's Mystical Body have a real share in that infinite worship of adoration that its Head ceaselessly renders to God: "Always living to make intercession for us," says St. Paul. (Heb 7:25) It is through Christ that we go to God, therefore all the Church's prayers conclude with the words "Through Jesus Christ our Lord" and the Canon of the Mass ends with the sentence "By him and with him and in him are ever given to you, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory, world without end. Amen." Christ's mediation stands at the very centre of life and of all Christian life.
By the sacrificial act of his immolation on the Cross he effected our Redemption; after his Resurrection and Ascension he has never ceased his priestly intercession for us to the Father. But he desired that this priestly mediation should continue also on earth. For this purpose he instituted the Eucharist. He, who was both priest and victim on the Cross, continues to offer himself on the altar. "The sacrifice offered on the altar," says the Council of Trent, "is the same as that offered on Calvary, since both priest and victim are the same." Although invisible at Mass, Christ is the chief priest; it is by his power and relying on his mediation that, in Christ's and the Church's name, the celebrant consecrates and offers to God the holy sacrifice. Consequently, for all the faithful, the liturgy forms the means of union with the priestly prayer of Christ and of the Church and of giving to God that full and complete satisfaction and infinite glory which is his due.
The aim of the liturgy is also the sanctification of mankind, for, comprising as it does the sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments and public prayer of the Divine Office, it is the principal means by which come to us those graces of divine life that, from the Father, through Christ our Lord, are poured out on the members of his Mystical Body, and assure to them the divine life of grace.
The Church sanctifies us by the Mass and the Sacraments, which form the very essence of the liturgy. She does so, too, by uniting us to her prayer and continually instructing us in the spirit and practice of true Christian living. The first part of the Mass, known as the Mass of the catechumens (or "learners"), contains a course of instruction reminding us continually throughout the year, of the truths of faith and the rules of Catholic morality which are thus related with the celebration of the mysteries of the life of Christ and the feasts of the saints. The close relationship between this constant teaching, sacramental life and a life of prayer, which is the prayer of the Church herself, makes of the liturgy the indispensable source of our Christian life.
Pius XII in his encyclical letter 'Mediator Dei' sums up succinctly the function of the liturgy: "In obedience to her Founder's command, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ principally by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar...next by means of the Sacraments...finally by offering to God...the daily tribute of her prayer and praise...The sacred liturgy is consequently the public worship which our Redeemer, as Head of the Church, renders to the Father, as well as the worship which the community of faithful renders to its Founder and through him to the heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members."
from The St. Andrew Missal
Resources on the Sacred Liturgy
To e-mail Father Cusick
| about MCITL
| MCITL mail