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.