Vol 42 No 2 June 2012
|Our Cover||Hoare, Ann||Texts – Liturgical||1, 16|
|Editor: Liturgy and the Year of Grace: Beyond the Superficial||Elich, Tom||Liturgy||2|
|Grace in the Texts of the Roman Missal||Coleridge, Mark||Texts – Liturgical||3-4|
|Provoked by an Australian Easter||Griffiths, Bill||Seasons||5|
|Liturgy and Devotions||Bird, Paul||Devotions||6-8|
|Liturgical Music||Jordan, Bill and Cox, Geoffrey||Music||8-9|
|The Pope Himself Argues the Case||-||Texts – Liturgical||10-11|
|ICEL Revisions Program||-||Texts – Liturgical||12|
|Australian Ordinariate fro ex-Anglicans||-||Liturgy - Other Churches/Religions||12|
|New Australian Patron||-||Saints||12|
|McAuley-Connolly Hymns||-||Australian Composers / Music||12|
|New Liturgy Bishops||-||People||13|
|Liturgy Honour: Edward Foley||-||People||13|
|New Italian Funeral Rites||-||Funerals||13|
|Richard Hurley||-||In Memoriam||13|
|Year of Grace||-||Art||13|
|Pope Benedict on Confirmation-Communion||-||Confirmation||14|
|Book: Fractio Panis||Foley, James||Eucharist / Mass||14-15|
LITURGY AND THE YEAR OF GRACE: BEYOND THE SUPERFICIAL
The Year of Grace which began on Pentecost Sunday is a call to prayer and discernment. We are invited to ‘contemplate the face of Christ’ and to ‘start afresh from Christ’. How and where do we recognise the risen Christ in the lives we lead? Where is God taking the Christian community in the twenty-first century?
The Year of Grace is not event driven. To organise this pastoral thrust in the Australian Church, every diocese has appointed a coordinator. These people are busy producing resources, collecting ideas, setting up websites, publishing prayercards and the like. How can we help people, they ask, to tap into the rich Catholic practices of prayer and meditation, privately and communally, and how can we open up the Scriptures to enable people to hear them with new hearts?
We might ask how the liturgy figures in this special year. Many places provided liturgical resources for the launch on Pentecost Sunday. Two national liturgical celebrations are being proposed for 2013: a Celebration of Repentance in Lent and a Celebration of Holiness in later in the year. But as long as we regard the liturgical component of the Year of Grace in terms of resources and a few particular celebrations, we risk being superficial in our understanding of the liturgy. In fact, the liturgy takes us to the very core of the life of grace. Absolutely the first thing we call to mind when we hear the word ‘grace’ is that God takes the initiative. This is the love I mean, writes St John, not our love for God but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away (1 Jn 4:10). In any year or moment of grace, all the resources of prayer and Scripture we make and use must not give the impression that grace is about what we do. All these things come into play to stir up our response to what God has done for us first.
This is exactly the dynamic of the liturgy. By the way we trouble to decorate our churches, carefully develop our repertoire and choose music to sing, train our liturgical ministers, translate and pronounce our liturgical texts, we can sometimes give the impression that the liturgy is what we do to honour God. Rather it is first and foremost God’s saving action in our midst. Our liturgical gestures, singing and praying express our response to God’s initiative of grace.
Indeed one could say that the liturgy is the primary place where God’s grace is active and effective in the Church. The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and, at the same time, it is the found from which all the Church’s power flows (SC 10). We talk of the sacraments as the instrumental cause of God’s grace; they are signs which actually bring about the grace which they signify. God adopts us as his children in baptism, infuses us with the Holy Spirit in confirmation, and in the Eucharist week by week, feeds us with the sacramental body of the Lord, offering us eternal life as we sip the wine of the New Kingdom; in the sacraments of healing, God reaches out to the sinner with mercy and forgiveness, and raises up the sick with the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. In marriage, God consecrates the love of man and woman, revealing the steadfast love of the Trinity through the couple’s consent; and in ordination, God continues to shepherd the flock through ordained ministers. This is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes (Ps 117:23).
When I was a boy, the diagram in my catechism portrayed grace and the sacraments in an unhelpful mechanical way. Under the crucified Christ, a great tub of grace was furnished with seven little taps, each labelled with the name of a sacrament, which produced rivulets of grace from which we filled the bottle of our soul. God’s grace is not like iridescent milk. It is best understood as a relationship, a relationship of love. Like any relationship, it demands a mutuality. God’s initiative evokes our recognition, openness and response. It is above all in liturgy that God acts to save us and draws us to respond with our worship.
Resources for the Year of Grace therefore are not an end in themselves. They help to immerse us in the mystery of God’s love and to respond more adequately; they lead us to full conscious and active participation in the liturgy (SC 14). We contemplate the face of Christ in one another as we assemble for Sunday Eucharist, we recognise the headship of Christ in the ministry of the priest, we hear Christ speaking to us in the word, and we are bodily united with the risen Christ in holy communion (SC 7). Through this profound liturgical encounter with Christ, given to us as God’s gift, we are enabled to start afresh from Christ.
Liturgy in the Year of Grace is not just a few extraneous events and resources. It brings us to the very heart of the saving relationship of love which the word ‘grace’ denotes.