Pope Francis leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Feb. 3, 2021. CNS photo/Vatican Media

Christianity without liturgy is absent of Christ, Pope Francis says

By  Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
  • February 3, 2021

VATICAN CITY -- The liturgy is not a spectacle to be observed but a prayerful event where Christians encounter Christ's presence in their lives, Pope Francis said.

Throughout the Catholic Church's long history, people have been tempted to practice a private or "intimist Christianity" that failed to recognize the importance of the liturgy in spiritual life, the pope said Feb. 3 during his weekly general audience.

However, "I would dare say that Christianity without liturgy is a Christianity without Christ," he said.

Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the significance of the liturgy in Christian life.

While there are certain forms of spirituality in the Catholic Church "that have failed to adequately integrate" the liturgy, the pope noted that "much has been achieved in recent decades," particularly thanks to the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium."

The document, he said, "comprehensively and organically reaffirms the importance of the divine liturgy for the life of Christians" because in the liturgy men and women can truly encounter Christ who is "not an idea or sentiment, but a living person."

Along with sacred Scripture and the sacraments, the liturgy "may not be dispensed with because in Jesus Christ, it became a way of salvation."

"Therefore, there is no Christian spirituality that is not rooted in the celebration of the holy mysteries," the pope said.

The Mass or Divine Liturgy, he continued, is the spiritual act at the heart of "the whole Christian experience" because Jesus makes himself present and "gives himself to his faithful."

"Every time we celebrate a baptism, or consecrate the bread and wine in the Eucharist, or anoint the body of a sick person with holy oil, Christ is here!" the pope said. "He is present just as he was when he healed the weak limbs of a sick person or when, at the Last Supper, he delivered his testament for the salvation of the world."

Christians who go to Mass, he added, are not "spectators of something that slips away without our involvement" but instead are active participants who celebrate it "through the diversity of gifts and ministries."

Christians are called to transform their lives into an act of worshipping God, Pope Francis said, "but this cannot happen without prayer, especially liturgical prayer."

"This thought can help all of us: When I go to Sunday Mass, I go to pray in community, I go to pray with Christ who is present," he added, departing from his prepared remarks. "When we go to a baptism, Christ is there present. (You may say), 'But Father, this is an idea, a figure of speech.' No, Christ is present! In the liturgy, you pray with Christ who is next to you."

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Liturgy [Mass], the activity of the human community relating to God, has existed from the beginning of history, in different forms and under various names. The Greek word liturgy means “people’s work”, and implies that human activity directed...

Liturgy [Mass], the activity of the human community relating to God, has existed from the beginning of history, in different forms and under various names. The Greek word liturgy means “people’s work”, and implies that human activity directed towards the Divine, is supreme and work par excellence. The absolute holiness of God and His love for humanity wounded by sin laid out the broad parameters of this activity: prayer with dialogue, sacrificial worship and thanksgiving, followed by reconciliation and communion filled with peace.
Ever since Our Lord Jesus Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the Cross and His Supper in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, when He gave the commandment “Do this in memory of Me”, this saving mystery has enabled earth to reach and touch heaven. Christ’s followers will continue to memorialize, renew and assimilate it to the end of time. In isolated monasteries, in humble parish churches, in magnificent cathedrals, and in other places thousands of Liturgies are celebrated daily throughout Christendom from the Mediterranean to Alaska, and Patagonia to the Mediterranean. Millions of faithful Christians attend these Liturgies every Sunday, to recharge their spirits and obtain grace for their journey toward the heavenly home. In the annual cycles of the Church calendar, Sundays are repeated along with other feasts that commemorate sacred persons and events, culminating in Easter – the feast of feasts commemorating Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection.
The Divine or Holy Liturgy is lex orandi of the Church’s faith, her central act of worship and the most exalted of the seven sacraments. It is the source and summit of Christian life as well as the main channel of grace for humanity. The inexhaustible richness of Liturgy is expressed by many names, each name reflecting some particular aspect and characteristic. At various times and in different places Liturgy has been called: Breaking of Bread, the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist or giving thanks, Synaxis, Offering or Sacrifice, Oblation, Kurbono or Gift, Kadosh or Holy, the Service, Communion, and Mass. With good reason Liturgy has also been called “artistic and musical masterpiece of civilization”. To an extent, this is also true of a church building, the normal setting of Liturgy, which is ideally a sacred functional symbol of timeless form and proportion, with its interior space containing the altar, rail/iconostas, and icons-statues depicting sacred persons and events from the beginning of creation to the glorification in heaven – the illustrated Creed.

– St. Maximilian Kolbe, Polish Roman Catholic Church, Mississauga http://kolbe.ca 19.10.2014.

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