Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Peter Iorio
January 13th, 2024 - 5:00 PM
The words of John the Baptist in today’s gospel is prayed during every mass. We will get to that later. We are in a process of faith renewal here in the United States and it is called the Eucharistic Revival. Today I am going to teach a bit about the celebration of the mass because the first of four invitations of revival is to revitalize our worship. To pray well at Mass, we must understand why we pray the way we do. The Catholic mass is our most beautiful prayer and is rich in history and symbolic meaning. It is called the source and the summit of Christian life.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is the supreme teaching on the Catholic mass. It comes from the Second Vatican Council. Here in the United States a document called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal guides us in this country how to celebrate mass. If you travel to a different country you know that even if you don’t speak the language, you can understand the structure of the mass, and if you have an English worship aid, the readings will be the same. While the overall mass is universal, the nuances of celebrating mass are a little different in each country. An overarching theme that I focus on today is unity. The Constitution says:
26. Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops.
It is written by the American bishops in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: They (people at mass) should, moreover, endeavor to make this (sacrament of unity) clear by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration. Thus, they are to avoid any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have only one Father in heaven and accordingly are all brothers and sisters to each other.
96. Indeed, they form one body, whether by hearing the word of God, or by joining in the prayers and the singing, or above all by the common offering of Sacrifice and by a common partaking at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and bodily postures observed together by the faithful.
In the celebration of the Mass we raise our heart, mind and voice to God, but we are creatures composed of both body and spirit, so our prayer is not limited to our mind, heart and voice. It is also expressed in our body. When our bodies participate in our prayer, we pray with our whole being, like the embodied spirits God created us to be, and this engagement of our whole being in prayer helps us pray with greater attention.
Before the mass even begins when we enter into a Catholic Church, we should greet Jesus and give him honor by looking for the sanctuary lamp and recognizing that he is present in the tabernacle. The bodily prayer is called a genuflection, bending the right knee to the left ankle, if you are physically able to do so. If not, greet and honor and adore Jesus in the Holy Eucharist by making a profound bow from your waist.
However, once mass begins, the focal point of our attention is the altar of sacrifice.
During Mass we Catholics assume different postures: standing, kneeling, sitting as well as making various gestures. They have sometimes been referred to as Catholic calisthenics. And I do understand that it is very confusing for someone coming to pray with us for the first time. These postures and gestures are not merely ceremonial. They have deep meaning and, when done with understanding, can enhance our participation in the Mass. In fact, these actions are how we engage our total bodies in the prayer that is the Mass.
Each posture we assume at Mass underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we participate at that moment of our worship. Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the readings before the Gospel and may also sit during the meditation period after Communion. After reception of communion, you are not required to kneel.
Standing is a sign of respect and honor, which is why we stand when the priest who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly. This position, since the early times of the Church, has been understood as the position of one who has risen with Christ and seeks the things from above. When we stand to pray, we assume our full stature before God, not with pride, but with humble gratitude for the wonderful things God has done in creating and redeeming each of us. Through Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is a recognition of this wonderful gift. We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord.
The posture of kneeling meant penance in the early Church: our consciousness of sin throws us to the ground! So deeply was kneeling identified with penance that the first Christians were prohibited from kneeling on Sundays and during the Easter season, when the predominant spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving. More recently, this posture came to mean worship.
43. In the dioceses of the United States of America, the faithful must remain on their knees after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus or Holy Holy until after the Amen. The words of this Joyful song is similar to what the crowd sang while Jesus entered Jerusalem with joy on Palm Sunday. When we finish singing the Holy, Holy, you all kneel. Then, the priest begins the Eucharistic prayer.
We worship the Eucharistic Lord on our knees and adore his real presence. Notice that many prayers of the Holy Mass come directly from Holy Scripture. We heard in the Gospel today when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” When the priest raises the host at Mass before taking Communion, he says the same words: Behold the Lamb of God and adds who takes away the sin of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.
These are just a few points about the celebration of Eucharist that I am highlighting today. We are going to focus a lot more on reviving our love for Jesus in the holy Eucharist. I am very grateful to the Eucharistic revival team of the parish. One of the important things about revival is that it means it brings about change. We are not always going to do things the same way we have always done them. May God bless our parish, and our desire to revitalize our faith in the holy Eucharist.