Chaput continues: "We need to discover new ways to enter into the liturgical mystery; to realize the central place of the liturgy in God’s plan of salvation; to truly live our lives as a spiritual offering to God; and to embrace our responsibilities for the Church’s mission with a renewed Eucharistic spirituality."
In my experience, only about twice have I heard a homilist even mention "Paschal Mystery" - yet it is this mystery - of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection - that is central to every celebration of the Eucharist. If the average Catholic understood that the primary reason we celebrate the liturgy is NOT to satisfy our selves with the opportunity:
- to gather with friends they only see every week in church (getting the satisfaction of socialization)
- to keep from going to Hell (fulfilling obligation)
- to feel good (being "uplifted")
- to be impressed or astounded by the musicians, the decor, or the preaching (being entertained)
- to "get something out of it" (gaining something of value)
He connects the spiritual sacrifice that we should each make to our baptismal call to "the priesthood of all believers." He suggests that people need to understand their role in the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that is the Mass -and indeed the essence of Christian life. The sacrifice should not merely be that of the bread and wine, (or indeed of the monetary gifts we give) but of the very lives of those offering worship. (See also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 901) Essentially, we need to offer and alllow to be consecrated our very selves for the life of the world and the work of God in it - sucesses, failures, gifts, burdens- all that we are - along with the bread and wine. And this not just during the liturgy but in every area of daily living as we are sent forth "to love and serve the Lord."
"All that we do -- in the liturgy and in our life in the world -- is meant to be in the service of consecrating this world to God," says Chaput. "...The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you make your lives a liturgy, when you live your lives liturgically -- as an offering to God in thanksgiving and praise for his gifts and salvation."
So, what happens when presiders, liturgy committees, musicians, art and environment committees try harder and harder to be "unique" or "relevant" or "less boring?" When they turn the focus on trying to amaze, entertain, or distract by continual novelty of seasonal "theme," music or "gimmicks", they are actually committing abuse.
I have heard of priests dressing in costumes representing "Bert and Ernie" (both at the same time!), Santa or Barney (the purple dinosaur), of one who preached a Fathers' Day homily reclining on a lawn chair, of one who demanded that seasonal music for Christmas, Lent and Easter be "new" every year in place of the familiar "boring" stuff. I have seen a church build a huge "wall" in the sanctuary out of cardboard boxes, labeled with sins for Lent. In many parishes, it is common for the choir to sing a well-rehearsed "showpiece" every week to show off their talent, without being burdened by the need for the people to sing along - a "stop and listen to us" moment. No doubt most readers can think of at least one time when some new height of entertaining novelty was offered at Mass. Our refrain as an American church has often been "Let me take you higher - and higher!" or "Let me Entertain You" - instead of "Take, O Take Me as I Am."
The worshiping assembly has a right to understand what is truly important. The focus and core of the liturgy is one thing, and one thing only: the Paschal Mystery- the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ - which is the model for our own sacrifice. This is true both at Mass and as we are sent out into the world. This is NOT boring. It IS, however, counter-cultural in a world that values individual rights and power and measures the value of persons in dollars, possessions and position. Instead of gaining something, the liturgy actually asks that we lose something - our very selves - becoming no longer an individual man, woman or child, but a member of the Body of Christ.
In our worship and in the world we should never lose the courage to be different - to walk in the humble, dusty, blood-stained footsteps of Christ and not those of the financial wizards past and present, the popular entertainers of music and film - the rich and famous "somebodies" who have become the idols of our culture. To live a liturgical spirituality, we need to become "nobodies" in the eyes of the world - which translates to being beloved children of God, living in awe, worship, relationship and obedience - emptying ourselves like Christ (kenosis) - even to the point of death - on the crosses of our own sacrifice. When we are able to do that, we, like Christ, will be raised on high and have the glorious name of "Christian".
Thanks, Archbishop, for the inspiration.