Raise the Roof: Worshipping God with myriads of angels and saints

By Fr. Aaron Johanneck
Director of Worship

This month we continue our reflections on the nature of the Church’s liturgy. Last month we discussed how the Sacred Liturgy is the prayer, praise, sacrifice, and offering of Jesus Christ himself. It is his perfect prayer to the Father to which we are united by virtue of our Baptism, which unites us to him and makes us members of his Mystical Body.

As we said, this is one of the aspects of the liturgy described in the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”).

Another perspective from which this constitution discusses the liturgy is as a foretaste and participation in the heavenly liturgy. Here’s what the Fathers of the Council have to say in this regard: “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle.”

They continue, “With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory” (SC, no. 8).

What this means is that we truly do “Sing with All the Saints in Glory,” as the hymn goes, every time that we participate in the Sacred Liturgy. Imagine that as the Holy Mass begins the roofs of our churches are torn away and we are lifted up into the perfect and eternal praise offered by the angels and saints, who fall down in worship and adoration before the Lamb who was slain in the heavenly Jerusalem as described in the Book of Revelation (cf., for example, 4:1-11).

Here the living creatures give to the One who is seated on the throne, glory and honor and thanks. The elders fall down before Him and worship Him singing, “Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created” (Rev 4:11).

Here they offer incense, which represents the prayers of the holy ones. Gathered around the throne they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8).

We, too, sing or recite this prayer at every Mass just after the priest invites and exhorts us with these or similar words: “And so, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim … Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!”

This prayer, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Sanctus” is found not only in Revelation, but also in Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah is given a vision of heaven in which he sees the seraphim singing this hymn to one another as they glorify God (6:3). In the liturgy, it is this worship and praise of God that we are drawn into.

This is why traditionally churches have often had images of angels and saints, especially in and around the sanctuary. This is a reminder to worshippers of the reality that we enter into when we gather as Christ’s Body to take part in the Church’s prayer, especially in the Holy Mass. It is the wedding feast of the Lamb; the adoration of the myriads upon myriads in the heavenly Jerusalem.

 

The prayer, praise, sacrifice, and offering of Christ himself

By Fr. Aaron Johanneck,
Diocese of New Ulm Director of Worship

Last month we introduced these monthly reflections on the Sacred Liturgy. Their purpose is to help us to plumb the depths of this rich source of life and of grace that is at the center of our lives as Catholics, especially through our participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the Lord’s Day. While there are many topics on the liturgy and the Holy Mass that are interesting and worthy of exploration, the most important thing, first of all, is to deepen our understanding of what the liturgy is.

As we said in last month’s article, the liturgy is the public prayer and worship of the Church. Thus, it includes all of the seven sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, sacramentals, and other blessings of the Church. All of these have the Mass and the Eucharist at the center. However, this explanation only scratches the surface of this profound reality. It is not easy to give one simple definition that sums up all that the liturgy is. The Church’s liturgy pertains to the mystery of God and so itself has a mysterious character. We recall this when, at the beginning of every Mass, the priest invites us to acknowledge our sins, “and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” It is helpful, therefore, to reflect on the liturgy from different perspectives, each of which sheds a unique light on the mystery contained therein.

The Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”) offers a few of these enlightening perspectives on the liturgy in its first chapter. One example is when the document speaks of the Sacred Liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ (SC, no. 7). Christ is the true high priest. He is the one, true mediator between God and man. A priest offers sacrifice and thereby leads the people to God, and brings God to the people. The Church’s liturgy, especially the Mass, accomplishes this priestly action of Christ in the most powerful and effective way possible. What this means is that, above all, the Sacred Liturgy is not my prayer, or your prayer, but Christ’s prayer. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The liturgy is … a participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC, no. 1073). For example, in Eucharistic Prayer I the priest prays, “To you, therefore, most merciful Father we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your son, our Lord ….” Our prayer in the Mass is directed to the Father in union with Christ’s own prayer. Therefore, the liturgy is ultimately God’s action before it is our own.

Finally, the Fathers of Vatican II tell us that “Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work …. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through him offers worship to the Eternal Father …. “In the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members” (SC, no. 7). The liturgy, before all else, is Christ’s prayer, praise, sacrifice, and offering to the Father. We are united and drawn into that by virtue of our Baptism, which unites us to Christ and makes us members of his Mystical Body. This is what makes it so powerful, and a “sacred action surpassing all others” (SC, no. 7). Sure, we can pray everywhere and anywhere, but not with the same power and effect as when we unite our prayers and offerings to the perfect and infinitely pleasing and powerful prayer and offering of Jesus Christ.

Monthly Reflections will ‘lift up our hearts’

By Fr. Aaron Johanneck,
Diocese of New Ulm Director of Worship

What is the most important activity of the week? What is the very center of our lives as Catholics? It is our keeping of the Lord’s Day – Sunday – through our participation in the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. It is the praise and adoration we give to God the Father, through Jesus Christ his Son, in the Holy Spirit, and our reception of Christ’s sacred Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. It is our entering into the Church’s sacred liturgy: that is, her official and public worship and prayer.

The liturgy of the Church includes the seven sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as other official prayers – and blessings of the Church all centered on the Holy Eucharist. The liturgy is the center of the Christian life because it is the “place” where we encounter the Lord Jesus unlike anywhere else. It is where the saving events of our faith are made present to us, and where we are made present to them. The liturgy is where we are put into real contact with the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. It is what allows these events to have power and to bear fruit in our lives. The sacred liturgy is where we off er ourselves most perfectly as a sacrifice pleasing to God. A gift so powerful, profound, and rich is something upon which we could, and indeed should, spend our whole lives meditating.

The more we understand what the Church’s liturgy is, the more we grow in our love and appreciation of it; and the more we are able to enter in, allowing the saving mysteries recalled and made present to bear fruit in our lives and to form us more and more into the likeness Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of these reflections on the sacred liturgy. Each month we will focus on some aspect of the Church’s liturgy with the hope that this will aid and deepen our full, conscious, and active participation.

These reflections are entitled Sursum corda, which is Latin for “Lift up your hearts.” These words are taken from the liturgy itself. They are part of the dialogue that takes place between the priest and the people at the beginning of the Preface prayed in the Holy Mass just before the Holy, Holy, Holy or Sanctus. They are words of exhortation offered by the priest as we move into the Eucharistic Prayer, the heart and center of the Mass, where the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ, and where the faithful join with Christ, through the ministry of the priest, in “confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifi ce” (“General Instruction of the Roman Missal,” no. 78). Here we are exhorted to lift up our hearts, to lift up our innermost selves “above the confusion of our apprehensions, our desires, our narrowness, our distraction” (Benedict XVI, Wednesday Audience, Sept. 26, 2012), and to focus our attention on the Lord who loves us beyond all imagining.

The hope is that these humble reflections on the sacred liturgy may help us to do just that: to “lift up our hearts” to the Lord; to off er him fi tting worship and adoration; to receive his gifts and be transformed by him. 

Day of Mercy - Graces in Abundance!

The Day of Mercy on Sunday, April 3rd was filled with many graces! The day started with over 600 people at Mass, followed by afternoon activities: lunch, open gym, packaging food, and Divine Mercy Film screening.  More than 200 people helped to package over 10,000 meals for the poor in Burkina Faso.  At 2:00pm the Divine Mercy Holy Hour began.  Fr. John Ubel, one of Pope Francis' Missionaries of Mercy, preached followed by time of prayer during which the Sacrament of Reconcilation was offered.  To accommodate the long lines, 10 priests heard confessions. 

New Order of Confirmation now available for purchase

The long-awaited new translation of the Order of Confirmation is now available for purchase from USCCB Publishing. The new ritual was expected this Fall, but its publication was delayed because the committee made the decision to publish it as a bilingual volume.

The Order of Confirmation/Ritual para la Confirmación has an updated English translation that the Holy See approved with its recognitio in 2015. Beginning on Pentecost 2016, this text becomes the required English translation for the Order of Confirmation for use in the United States. The Spanish-language text of the rite is also included.

The bilingual text includes rites for the following: Confirmation within Mass, Confirmation outside Mass, and Confirmation for a Person in Danger of Death. It also has Confirmation prayers from the Roman Missal and lists the lectionary readings that can be used.

The bilingual text is presented on beautiful natural white paper with a royal-red bonded leather hardcover and gold-foil cover art. The 8 ½” by 11” pages offer easy-to-read text with three color ribbons.

Click here to purchase from USCCB Publishing.

Rubric change for the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday

Pope Francis has introduced a change into the Roman Missal for the rubrics of Holy Thursday in a decree dated 6 January 2016 (but published 1/21/16). In article n. 11 of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the text “the men who have been chosen” has been changed to “those chosen from among the people of God.” This change reflects Pope Francis’ desire that those chosen would reflect “the variety and unity” of the people of God, including “men and women, young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople” (CDWDS 6 Jan. 2016).

While the significance of the rite of the Washing of the Feet in its original form was “more explicitly an imitative sign” making present the action of Jesus at the Last Supper, the new form emphasizes the command of Jesus “I have given you an example, that you should do likewise” (Jn 13:15). According to Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

“The significance does not now relate so much to the exterior imitation of what Jesus has done, rather as to the meaning of what he has accomplished which has a universal importance, namely the giving of himself “to the end” for the salvation of the human race, his charity which embraces all people and which makes all people brothers and sisters by following his example” (2016-01-21 L’Osservatore Romano).

Read the Vatican's press release here, including the text of the decree.

Read an article by Cardinal Sarah outlining the history of the rite and theology of the recent change published in L'Osservatore Romano.

Full text of the decree by the CDWDS, dated 6 January 2016:

"The reform of the Holy Week, by the decree Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria of November 1955, provides the faculty, where counselled by pastoral motives, to perform the washing of the feet of twelve men during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, after the reading of the Gospel according to John, as if almost to represent Christ's humility and love for His disciples.

In the Roman liturgy this rite was handed down with the name of the Mandatum of the Lord on brotherly charity in accordance with Jesus' words, sung in the Antiphon during the celebration.

In performing this rite, bishops and priests are invited to conform intimately to Christ who 'came not to be served but to serve' and, driven by a love 'to the end', to give His life for the salvation of all humankind.

To manifest the full meaning of the rite to those who participate in it, the Holy Father Francis has seen fit to change the rule by in the Roman Missal (p.300, No. 11) according to which the chosen men are accompanied by the ministers, which must therefore be modified as follows: 'Those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers' (and consequently in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum No. 301 and No. 299 b referring to the seats for the chosen men, so that pastors may choose a group of faithful representing the variety and unity of every part of the People of God. This group may consist of men and women, and ideally of the young and the old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople.

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disipline of the Sacraments, by means of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, introduces this innovation in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, recalling pastors of their duty to instruct adequately both the chosen faithful and others, so that they may participate in the rite consciously, actively and fruitfully."

Liturgy Training Publications Order Form

Order materials from Liturgical Training Publications through the Office of Worship and receive a 30% discount on most LTP publications such as books and calendars!

Order form can either be printed and mailed, or filled out, saved, and emailed to Sr. Anna at aswanson@dnu.org.
• To view all resources go to www.ltp.org – Liturgy Training Publications has a wealth of resources for liturgy, sacred music, and liturgical catechesis.
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New Confirmation Rite gets the green light for use.

The new translation of the Order of Confirmation has been approved by the CDWDS and will be published by USCCB Publishing this fall.

The official date for the implementation of the new translation is Pentecost Sunday 2016. This means that beginning on May 15, 2016, only the new translation may be used. However, the new Order of Confirmation may be used as soon as it is published this fall.

Two key texts of the ritual have not changed in this new translation. The Bishop’s assent to the profession of faith remains as before: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord” (nos. 23, 40). Likewise, the translators found no need to propose a modification of the text of the words used at the conferral of the Sacrament: “N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” (nos. 27, 44, 55-56). Many other texts, however, are quite different, and contain a richer expression of the prayers of the rite.

Read more about the new translation and read examples from the text in this excerpt from the Committee on Divine Worship June Newsletter.