This Sunday’s reflection is the second in a series of meditations on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with specific references to the Ancient Rite of the Mass. There are many books in circulation that illustrate the theological and spiritual cohesion of the Ancient Rite of the Mass. It is the Rite that sustained and nourished the spiritual life of countless saints and which gave birth to Christian culture. It is my hope that these meditations may help us to appreciate and to understand that the ultimate purpose of the sacred liturgy is to form our souls in the beauty of holiness; so that we in our time, like those who have gone before us may be ‘the aroma of Christ to God…a fragrance from life to life’ (2 Cor. 2:15-16) for God’s greater glory and the salvation of souls. ⧾
And He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things (Mk. 6:34).
We continue our meditations on on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our central act of worship, the source and summit of Christian life (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican Council II); the very heart of all that Church is and does. The liturgy has two purposes: to worship God with all due reverence and love, and to feed, nurture, shape, and perfect the worshipper (Peter Kwasniewski, Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, p. 72-73). The ultimate purpose of the liturgy is to form our souls in the beauty of holiness. Each one of us has an individual soul, unique to each person. Indeed, we define the human person as a unity of body and soul (corpore et anima unus). Our soul has three faculties or powers: the intellect, the memory and the will. Each of these is engaged in the exercise of our sacred worship. There is a beautiful liturgical verse that expresses the effect of God’s living Word in us: Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us: make our hearts burn with love when you speak (Gospel Acclamation, Third Sunday of Easter, Year B). This verse is based on the experience of the disciples who had encountered the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus: And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?’ (Lk. 24:31-32). As we walk the path of our own devout discipleship, Our Lord also talks to us in the Sacred Scriptures that are proclaimed and expounded in what we call the Liturgy of the Word or what in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is called the Mass of the Catechumens. This first part of the Mass until the recitation of the Creed is based on the practice of the Synagogue. Here we offer prayers and praise to God and receive instruction from Him. In the earliest days of the Church, catechumens, that is, those being instructed in the faith, were welcome for this portion of the Mass.