Friday, July 10, 2009

ROMAN CANON: Mysterium Fidei

The priest sings to the Father “Mysterium Fidei”: great is “the Mystery of Faith”. Our present English translation, scheduled to be replaced in the next few years, gives the false impression that the priest is speaking to the faithful. But the priest here sings in praise to God of the mysterious reality of the Mass. It is this mysterious reality that stands in need of clarification, even more so than the English mistranslation.
First, let me say that the whole of the Sacred Liturgy: the Mass, the sacraments, the Divine Office, blessings, exorcisms, and funerals, all form one, single Mystery, flowing spiritually from the side of Christ on Calvary in his eternal offering of himself to the Father in Heaven. It is all one thing, extending through time from Heaven, in which everything to do with the relationship among the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in their work to get us up into Heaven takes place perfectly and entirely before us. The mystery of faith is Christ’s eternal offering of himself to the Father in the love of the Holy Ghost for our salvation from Hell, an offering which feeds the sacraments, and allows the Church to participate in this unending offering without ceasing, prompting her desire to sanctify the hours of the day with this Sacrifice in the Divine Office.
Second, just as the Divine Office is the “opus Dei”, the work of God—not of us, so too the Holy Mass is the work of God, and not of us. Our participation in the Mass is an experience of Christ’s offering to the Father. If we are in a state of grace during the Mass, then we experience this mystery perfectly and completely. There is absolutely nothing we can add to what takes place between Christ and the Father for us. Christ does it all, including taking those of us in a state of grace into himself for his Sacrifice. Our mission is found outside of Mass, namely: to repent of our sins and to invite others to do the same, and then to present ourselves for an experience of this mystery by our presence at Mass.
When we do so, letting go of our desire to reshape our activity and the look and sound of the Sacred Liturgy, then the Holy Ghost begins shaping us to look and sound and act more like this already perfect Heavenly mystery.
The more we try to plan the Sacred Liturgy, or change our thoughts, feelings and actions within it, the less we look like Heaven. But when we accept that the mystery is already complete, and that even the smallest Catholic child or feeblest Catholic adult participates perfectly in the Holy Sacrifice simply by his presence while in a state of grace, then we are no longer motivated by ourselves during the Sacred Liturgy, but, rather, by the great, eternal, and complete mystery of faith into which Christ places us.
Mysterium Fidei, indeed.

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