Emily: I was at church the other day thinking about how we’re all gathered here listening to the priest talk about God. And I’m sure many people also have wondered, ‘what is the point of going to church?’ I mean, you could just pray in your room by yourself, right?
Edmund: That reminds me of the story of Moses.
Emily: Moses? Oh yeah, he was the one who went and asked Pharaoh to let God’s people go out of Egypt and to worship together as one people.
Edmund: Exactly. Fast forward and, after a bunch of plagues, Moses has led all of his people out of Egypt — and he does something that hasn’t really happened in the same way up until this point in the Old Testament. He gathers all the people together and reads scripture out loud and then he leads the people in an act of worship to God.
Emily: I see now. There was something really important about God’s people coming together as a community and worshiping him.
Edmund: This is one of the first times we see this in the Old Testament. And today, we have a word for this: Liturgy.
The Catechism says in paragraph 1069 “The word “liturgy” originally meant a “public work” or a “service in the name of/on behalf of the people.” In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in “the work of God.” Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church.” End quote.
Emily: So, ‘Liturgy’ is the participation of the people of God in the work of God… But what is the “work of God”?
Edmund: God is ‘Trinity.’ The Father sends his son Jesus to offer us salvation through his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ whole life is an offering of worship and sacrifice to the Father. And the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to the Church. In the Liturgy, we participate in the work of Jesus — offering worship and sacrifice to the Father, in the Holy Spirit. In this way, we participate in the life of the Trinity!
Emily: So we’re actually participating in the prayer of Jesus. It is in the liturgy then, that Jesus draws us in to participate in his worship as a self-gift and sacrifice.
Edmund: And this is all part of God’s plan of loving goodness.
Emily: Okay so let’s take this word and really focus in. What is the Liturgy actually made up of? Where can we see and experience it?
Edmund: Okay but first to answer that, let’s look at us.We communicate using words and actions. Our words and our actions can be symbolic —they can have deeper meaning.
God communicates to us in a way we understand – through words and actions. But these words and actions, in the liturgy, actually DO what they signify. So the Liturgy is made up of words and actions instituted by Jesus and celebrated by the Church. We express our relationship to the Lord in a bodily way in the liturgy, where our voice, gestures, and posture all communicate our reverence and love. The Sacraments of the Church are a very particular way that we encounter and experience Christ and his saving work.
Emily: Like the Sacrament of the Eucharist that we celebrate at Mass every Sunday. Everything is directed to, and flows from, the Eucharist. Jesus draws us into communion with himself, beginning with our baptism, and this communion is expressed and deepened every time we celebrate the Eucharist.
Edmund: We share in his sonship by the power of the Holy Spirit and are united with the Son offering worship to the Father. Jesus desires us to enter into his life and his work!
Emily: The Liturgy is an action of the Church both on earth and in heaven — and this action, or work of worship, is led by Jesus himself. Through Liturgy, Jesus continues his work of redemption through the Church, and through the sacraments we are made part of the Body of Christ.
Edmund: God wants us to participate in his life and participating in his life is what saves us. So the celebration of the Liturgy includes the sacraments and public worship in the Mass, throughout the Liturgical year.
Emily: And this is the principal work of the Church’s liturgy: making those mysteries available to us sacramentally throughout the course of the year. All of this happens in a temple, a place of worship which we call a “church” — a special place for the Liturgy.
Edmund: And when we speak of the liturgy of the “Church” with a capital C we are talking about the body of Christ, God’s family, the Church, that celebrates this Liturgy all around the world. Throughout the world there is diversity in liturgical traditions, but still unity in worship.
Emily: So Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are great mysteries that we can enter into through the Liturgy. And through the liturgy and the sacraments we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church, and we are drawn into the very Triune life and love of God, worshiping the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.