JESUS is alive. This is almost a complete summary of the apostolic preaching. By his resurrection Jesus was made both Lord and Christ by his Father. Since Easter Day God ensured that his Son should be not only an historical memory but a life giving present.
Christ is the supreme liturgist of the Father. the everlasting priest glorifying His Father and making intercession for men. The liturgy is nothing more or less than the embodiment in Catholic worship of the living, priestly presence of Christ, of the adoring and interceding Christ.
Christ is at the centre of all history. The world was made for him. His task is to lead us to the Father and to this end he bestows his own spirit upon us. But the Father is to be seen and experienced in Christ Himself, in the risen, Spiritfilled Christ.
Only in Christ is the God-life to be found, for he is the God-man who has brought it to us in his manhood which was raised up at Easter, the day on which it most perfectly revealed the Father and became the source of the Father's everlasting life.
The Christian is a man who lives in and from the Risen and ascended Christ.. But though Christ is risen and ascended. He has not gone away from us. He is even nearer to this sinful world than when he walked the roads of Galilee.
His influence never leaves us: He acts on us as immediately as the sun when it warms the air. and only the clouds of sin keep us from basking in the joy of His presence.
But men are not angels. They need "the consolatiods of religion". They need to feel the nearness of Christ, to have tangible signs of his presence. It was because He understood our nature so well that Christ left us the sacraments.
But what a dangerous phrase this is, "Christ left us the sacraments". It is dangerous. firstly. because it gives the impression that Christ has gone from us instead of coming near to us, and secondly because the sacraments are not things which can be divorced from the present activity of Christ.
Rather they are signs of His power and His presence. They are, in fact, Christ himself acting here and now upon us.
We must be careful, not to turn the sacraments which are the means of Christ personally sanctifying us into pieces of ecclesiastical machinery. The sacraments are the ways in which we encounter Christ and submit ourselves to Him in faith and love.
St. Thomas Aquinas often refers to them as "the sacraments of -Faith" because in and through them we consecrate ourselves in the most personal way possible to Christ who is our Saviour.
• By their means we confess our faith in the lordship of Christ and in the power of His risen life.
It follows that the sacraments are very consoling signs of the nearness of Christ. If we are not careful. however. we can turn even the eucharist, the most effective symbol of Christ's presence in our midst, into a thing—instead of someone coming to us and loving us more than before.
The Eucharist is not something which we receive to ourselves making us pleasing to God but rather • an intensification of our spiritual union or communion with our risen and Spirit-filled Lord.
The sign of eating and drinking shows very tenderly how much we are spiritually one with Christ.
What we have said shows at least two things. In the first place, if Christ is important, liturgy is important. We cannot choose to be interested or not in liturgy. If we were to admit that, we would have to admit in addition that we can choose to be interested or not in the ways that Christ our Lord is now saving us, helping us, loving us. working in us.
It is as much a heresy to deny the power and importance of liturgy as to deny any other article of faith. It is as foolish to spurn liturgy as having no influence over our lives as to spurn Christ and to claim that He has no power m er our lives. For the liturgy is Christ acting on us now in ways adapted to the complex nature of body and soul which He and we have in common.
The second conclusion to which our remarks have led is this: all liturgy should be essentially simple. It should attempt to teach us always as clearly and forcefully as does the action of eating and drinking in the eucharist that we are one with Jesus.
In some ways—we don't say this unqualifiedly—in some ways Mass on the battlefield, on a mountain slope, in the catacombs. gives a better picture of what the Church is than Mass in a stalwart. age-old cathedral in which men have..worshipped for a thousand years.
In cathedrals with the essentials there is so often a great deal of the unessential, however valuable and however worthy of keeping.
In the field. sometimes without vestments and without a solid altar, there is often a better picture of the Church as the "assembled ones". as those who are called together.
Here there is but a group of human beings, not a display of finery. no pageantry however venerable. There is the Church with only the grass and the sky and the wind, and the bread and wine. and Christ in our midst saying: "Take ye and eat. This is my body. This is my blood. Drink".