HOW TO LIVE A LITURGICAL LIFE
PART IV: LIVING A LITURGICAL LIFE DAY-TO-DAY
1. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The entire liturgical year helps us to commemorate Jesus’ life and the work of the Holy Trinity. Through the Mass, meditation, prayers, acts of mercy, and devotions, we become closer to God. The Mass and all prayers are ultimately for the sole purpose of the worship of the Trinity. Our very purpose in life is ultimately orientated to the worship of the Holy Trinity. And we know from the catechism and lived experience that our attendance at Mass is the chief way by which we come into contact with the liturgical life.
The Mass, the greatest act of Catholic worship, is the greatest worship that can be given to the Trinity because the Mass is the re-presentation and offering of Jesus Christ on the Cross to God the Father. Man by himself is incapable of offering a fitting or worthy worship to God. On his own, man does not even know how to worship God, and every attempt inevitably descends into heresy, idolatry and paganism. Rather, man needs God Himself, not only to teach us how to worship God, but to actually worship God correctly.
Thus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed our human nature and, in His humanity, renders to the Blessed Trinity a fitting, worthy and perfect worship. He acts thus in the person of the priest, rendering a perfect sacrifice, a clean oblation in every place, from the rising of the sun even to the going down (cf. Malachias 1:11). By His grace, Jesus Christ makes us members of His Mystical Body and gives us the great and undeserved privilege of uniting ourselves to His Sacrifice at Mass and benefiting from the infinite graces and merits He won upon the Cross.
Mass is not a mere obligation. It is an unmerited dignity and honor. It provides us with the ability to worship God in the only manner in which He wishes to be worshiped. Since man exists to worship God and give Him glory, man is unable to fulfill his most basic reason for existence without the Mass! Holy Mass is the most perfect prayer and we have the unique privilege, if we are in the state of grace, of uniting our prayers and sacrifices with the One Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross at the Altar during Mass. You see, while Christ won all graces by His Sacrifice of the Cross on Calvary, it is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that these graces are then distributed to men in every time and place.
Thus, to live a more liturgical life, we can strive to attend Mass more frequently. In addition to every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, can we also assist on First Fridays and First Saturdays? Can we make it to Mass on important feast days, perhaps some dedicated to Our Lady or our patron saints? For example, some families make it a point to assist at Mass on birthdays and to commemorate special anniversaries. Some people even strive to assist at Mass every day, and while this may not be possible for many of us, most of us can probably make the effort, with God’s grace, to assist at Holy Mass more often.
Even more importantly, we should also strive to assist at Mass with greater devotion, reverence and preparation. At every Mass we should certainly offer prayers to God adoring Him, thanking Him, raising our petitions to Him, and offering Him prayers of reparation for our offenses. We can follow the prayers the priest is offering in a missal and prayerfully meditate upon them. We can also make use of various devotions or prayer books to help focus our attention on the Great Mysteries which take place in the Catholic Mass.
When the priest elevates the Sacred Host and Precious Blood, consciously make the effort to lovingly adore God. And all of us could take more time and effort in preparing ourselves better for Holy Communion and offering a more fervent thanksgiving after Holy Communion. A good missal will have such prayers composed by the saints which can help you in this pious practice. The importance of such prayers is rarely mentioned and many Catholics today are unfamiliar with this practice. Hardly anyone stays behind to thank God for His infinite Gift after the priest concludes the Mass! Yet our growth in grace, merit and virtue from the Mass is in direct proportion to how well we dispose ourselves to receive God’s graces by such spiritual acts as our preparation, devotion, contrition, adoration and thanksgiving.
Just one Holy Communion should be sufficient to make us perfect saints; after all, God is really, fully and substantially present in every Consecrated Host and He holds nothing back of Himself. If we are not yet the saints God is calling us to be, then we can persevere along this path through a more fruitful participation in His Holy Sacrifice.
Now while there is no prayer more in line with a Catholic liturgical life than the Mass, I am also a strong proponent of the Divine Office. The Divine Office will be the subject of our next, and final, installment on the subject of “How to Live a Liturgical Life.”