The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers… For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution. (Wis: 18:6;9)
The Sacred Liturgy of the Church is not man-made. It is not as in some ancient pagan religions the coordinated effort of an elite priestly class organizing myth to subjugate the people and enrich its own situation. Judeo-Christian religious practice, especially its public worship, was inaugurated by the Lord in real time, during adversity, and under the threat of enemies.
All Catholics should know that when Jesus celebrated His Last Supper, He was celebrating the Passover meal. This sacred meal was first eaten during the final plague which God let loose upon Egypt for stubbornly refusing to acknowledge his divinity. The Jews ate this meal of unleavened bread, lamb, and bitter herbs while standing with staff in hand to signify their immanent deliverance from captivity and servitude. The Jews were still living under the suppression of their enemy when their liturgy was founded.
Likewise, the Christian liturgy, the Holy Mass, was instituted by Jesus Christ under the threat of His foes which came out to arrest Him on the same evening. The Last Supper, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, occurred on the eve of Our Lord’s crucifixion. Thus, Jesus initiated the “source and summit” of the Christian life, the central act of the Church’s liturgy just as His Body was being taken by his earthly enemies and as it was being vanquished by the Enemy of the world.
We must never forget this truth: the liturgy is not only a memorial of our salvation but the actual moment of salvation. The momentous event of human salvation is uniquely and thoroughly liturgical. Because of this, the liturgy of the Catholic Church is meant to be a solemn and reverent reoccurrence of the salvific act. It is never to be celebrated as some mere human event with a permissible amount of entertainment value.
On this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we acknowledge through today’s first reading that the unseen grace of God is at the foundation of the Church’s liturgy and that through this liturgy God institutes his divine plan upon the earth. Nowadays so many Catholics look for signs, new devotions, and novel prophecies. Yet many do not realize that these things exist only as guideposts to send them back to the sacramental life of the Church where the crucial activity of salvation still occurs on earth.
Thus we place on our bulletin cover a work by James Tissot entitled The Signs on the Door. Here we see Tissot’s representation of the Jew’s application of the blood of the Passover lamb to the lintel and doorposts so that the plague of death of the first born would pass them by. The liturgical blood served as an outward sign of a salvific action.
As our quotation above indicates, the sacramental life goes on in mystery while the earthly society moves forward at unawares. It is this: our sincere, daily, liturgical worship operating behind Church doors and on consecrated altars which puts into effect the divine achievement upholding and purifying an unsuspecting world.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services