Here’s a question or a statement. A lot of stuff happens in church.
If you’ve ever been to a Catholic Mass, a lot of stuff happens in the liturgy. People are going there and the priests saying this, and I’m standing and sitting, and then I’m saying things and he’s saying things. What’s she doing over there? What’s she doing over there with? That’s this, huh? What are they doing with the dishes? They’re doing the dishes during the, who’s doing what in the liturgy?
Now you might assume you might go, Edmund, I know what’s happening in the liturgy. The priest up there is doing some stuff, and we’re just sitting back here listening and watching. But you know what they say. “if you assume, you make a question out of you….” Huh? If you assume. You think you know, but you assume. That’s okay, we’re gonna answer it today. Who does what in the liturgy? And the answer might surprise you. Catechism. Okay, we are gonna turn here.
We can turn to the Catechism, the second pillar, which covers the sacraments and liturgy. And it says this in 1136, “Liturgy is an action of the whole Christ.” And then if we move over here, scoot on over to 1140. It says, “It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its head, that celebrates.” And moving on just a little bit at 1144, “In the celebration of the sacraments, it is thus the whole assembly that is leitourgos, each according to its function, but in the unity of the Spirit who acts in all.” And what this means is that we might believe some partial truths about the liturgy. We might think it’s the priest that’s offering some sort of worship or sacrifice or prayer on behalf of the people. And that’s all that’s happening. And that’s partially true. Or we might think we go to church to offer up this sacrifice or prayer because God needs that from us or likes that from us. And that’s partially true. Or we could think we need to go to church, to really just to pray on our own, for our own edification and sanctification. You know, it makes us better when we just go to church. But that’s not the full picture. Come here, let me talk at you. Get over here.
See, here’s the full truth of what’s going on in the liturgy. Let’s look at all the characters involved. Okay? So we have the priest, the people in the pews, and then we have God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, us in the pews, we’re able to offer Christ’s sacrifice of worship together as the whole body of Christ, in the Holy Spirit ,to the Father. In the liturgy, we actually participate in the life of the Trinity. So the Church tells us the liturgy is a participation of the Body of Christ in the life of the Trinity. So here’s where this all comes together. One of my favorite pieces of art is in St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. And it’s a very famous work of art. It was completed in 1432, and it’s attributed to the early Netherland painters and brothers, Hubert and John Van Eyke. Hope we got that right.
So around the altar, behind the altar is this collection of paintings. And in this, we see all these characters caught up in worship in heaven. We see God, the Father on the throne, the Holy Spirit in the dove. Jesus is the lamb standing slain, the Church in heaven. And the angels are all coming to worship. And the Ghent altarpiece would be behind the priest. So we sometimes forget when we’re looking at sacred art, about the context of where this painting would be. Because if you were looking up at the altar, you would see also the priests and you would be in the pews. And so all of these people together are offering worship to God and are participating in the life of the Trinity. These are all the characters that are part of the liturgy, that all have a role in the liturgy, the whole body of Christ and its head participating in the life of the Trinity. The liturgy involves the Father, Son, the Holy Spirit, the priest, and the body of Christ. So who does what in the liturgy? The liturgy is the work of the Church, the Body of Christ. And in the liturgy, we are all offering worship to the Father through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and through the priest who’s standing in persona Christi, in the place of Christ, in the liturgy. And this way, we participate in the life of the Trinity, in the liturgy, and in the sacraments.