Magazine article The Catholic World

Liturgy and Life: Making the Connection

Magazine article The Catholic World

Liturgy and Life: Making the Connection

Article excerpt

The fasting is over; our vigil has begun. Like a shroud the darkness envelops us. Once again we experience a bond with our spiritual ancestors who walked in faith, believing the unbelievable. Trusting the words of the prophets, we wait as they did for the light of Christ. It is the Easter Vigil, and as we stand in the darkness we anticipate the telling of our story in words we have heard so often, but that we never tire of hearing--it is the story of our salvation.

Suddenly a flame is kindled. New fire blazes, and in its radiance we see the faces of friends and neighbors, and those of strangers among us as well. Standing together in the light of Christ, the exsultet sounds in the hearts of believers, rivaling that which is sung or chanted in the sanctuary. This is a night like no other night, a time of looking within, a time of beginning to understand who we are and what we are about as the people of God. And this is as it should be, for liturgy is "the work of the people."

On this Easter Vigil night, standing together in a fragrant cloud of incense, it is comforting to know how life-giving our shared hope is. We are in need of each other; the overwhelming problems and pressures that beset the world are too much for us to bear alone. Even those whose faith is not strong are drawn to the warmth of the new fire. The ancient rituals of light and darkness, fire and water, strike chords deep within us.

There are many ways in which this special night is different, but one is singular: those of us who have gathered in the darkness are consciously and actively participating in the liturgical action. Joining our voices we renew the solemn promises made on the day of our baptism. Once again we are re-formed into the image and likeness in which we were created, but this time we are able to experience the symbols and allow them to touch us. Accepting the fire from our neighbor and then sharing it with another reminds us that our light, however feeble, is necessary to the Body of Christ. We are his celebration.

The Easter Vigil liturgy puts us in touch with a sense of our eternal identity. The season, the sounds, the symbols and the assembly come together in such a way as to enable us to say: "This is who we are-- the Body of Christ, a community of believers." How unfortunate it is that more than half of the community has remained at home ! Too soon it is over and we go back to our homes, most of us unaware that this night is only the beginning. For fifty days we should be celebrating the glorious news that our Savior lives; death has been conquered! We haven't been made aware that the great day of Easter is actually fifty days long. As we enter into this season of joy, preparing to celebrate the Spirit of God among us, the lilies in the sanctuary have already begun to fade and life, which should never again be ordinary, has become commonplace. Sunday Mass is once again routine.

In order to discuss the shape of future worship in the church, we must first face the fact that in many places the Second Vatican Council directives and guidelines, particularly those concerning the liturgical education of all the people, have not yet been fully applied. Therefore the goal of these directives-authentic and vibrant celebrations of our sacramental life--cannot possibly be achieved by those members of the assembly who are still unaware that they are an integral part of the celebration.

Almost thirty-one years ago, in the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (CSL), we were told that:

* The church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations (CSL #14).

* Such participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, and is to be actively promoted (CSL #19).

The documents that came out of Vatican II stressed that liturgies be planned with the people in mind:

* Music should be chosen according to our capabilities (General Instruction of the Roman Missal #313). …

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