A Note from Fr. Gary -
In the Gospel passage for today’s Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Peter, James and John get a glimpse of heaven. Their vision of Jesus transfigured, and conversing with Moses and Elijah, is overwhelming. The voice from the cloud, God’s voice, drives them to a prostration before the almighty. Fear and awe overtake them, and it is Jesus who reassures them, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Each time you and I gather for Mass, we too get a glimpse of heaven. We bow down before the One who has created us in love, saved us in mercy, and continues to call us to new and more abundant life. The encounter with God in the sacred liturgy can transform us and draw us deeper into the life of the Holy Trinity.
I have reflected often these past two years on what a gift it is for me to pastor three communities with very distinct liturgical styles, who all have a deep respect and love for the liturgy. At St. Thomas Aquinas, Our Lady Star of the Sea and St. Joseph we celebrate liturgy with a style that has developed within the culture of each community.
There are clear differences in these styles, but more importantly, there is also much that our three communities hold in common. It is this unity in diversity that allows us to celebrate our “catholicity.”
As you know diversity within the Church is not always celebrated as a good thing. Often we are given the message that there is only one way to authentically celebrate the Mass. The criteria by which some judge liturgy to be “good or bad” is often much more restrictive than the actual rubrics of the Mass.
The truth is that there can be very good liturgy within a variety of styles. What is far more important than a particular style (traditional, contemporary, lots of “smells and bells,” more simple), is to do liturgy well no matter the style.
At Our Lady Star of the Sea, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Joseph, we can model how good liturgy can give us a glimpse of heaven and drive us to our knees in praise and awe. In order to achieve this, we have to remember that there are no spectators at liturgy. Ministers and members of the assembly must come prepared to celebrate (like being prepared to listen well to the homily, as I reflected in last week’s column). We should come to Mass having read and reflected on the scriptures so that we are prepared to be fed by them.
We have to participate in the responses and the singing. For many of us singing is optional. That is not the vision of the Mass in our tradition. Sung prayer, and our participation in it, is central to worship. Our spoken responses should be clear and reflect the faith that is in our hearts. We also need to give attention to our own ritual actions, giving great care, for example, to how we make the sign of the cross or genuflect before the tabernacle.
These are the important liturgical actions that unite us. Less important are the different styles that appeal to us. No matter what style nourishes and appeals to you, may you come prepared to participate fully, consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy.
If we all make a commitment to that, then we will indeed be driven to our knees in praise and worship of our God, and transformed by the glimpse of heaven we will receive.
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni