In two months’ time the bishops’ conference will launch the first of four modules to prepare the Church of Aotearoa New Zealand for the introduction of the revised Roman missal.
The title of the catechesis is the title of this column. I invite you to take particular note of the second part of the title ‘Rediscovering the Beauty of the Liturgy.’ This catechesis and the propositions from our own Pentecost Synod will be a wonderful opportunity for us to do just that, to ‘rediscover the beauty of the Mass.’ The synod document will have been completed and promulgated by the time this catechesis begins.
The catechesis and the synod propositions offer us a double opportunity to come to a greater understanding of the mass/liturgy. The catechesis is not just about the Roman missal, it is also about giving everyone the opportunity to ‘rekindle Eucharistic amazement’ as Pope John Paul II asked us to do, and to come to know in an even deeper way that ‘The Eucharist is a great mystery!’ (Mane Nobiscum Domine 17).
Parishes, pastoral areas and chaplaincies will be able to use the synod material to enable everyone to grow in appreciation of the mass which will engender a ‘more lively and fervent celebration of the Eucharist, leading to a Christian life transformed by love.’ (MND 29). Please participate in this Catechesis which is offered throughout New Zealand so that all will deeply appreciate this gift which is at ‘the heart of the mystery of the Church’ (MND 1).
We have many documents and powerful teachings on the Eucharist which have been part of the treasure of the Church for hundreds of years. Our synod document and this catechesis will give us some parts of these documents to reflect on and pray with. I also offer you the following words from Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium. My prayer is that his words will help us to rediscover the beauty of the liturgy:
Beauty – a royal way to God who is its source
‘I wonder whether we make sufficient use of beauty as the doorway leading to God? God is, indeed, truth, holiness and moral perfection, but also beauty. One can reach God through the gate of truth, for truth attracts us. But many of our contemporaries are mini-Pontius Pilates who ask: “What is truth?” and they stand at the door without entering.
God as moral perfection and holiness also attracts us. But many will say: I am drawn by the idea of moral perfection, but I am also incapable of attaining it. And they also stand at the door without going in, incapacitated by their moral weakness.
Beauty, on the other hand, disarms: it is irresistible for our contemporaries. Young students spend hours discussing and holding forth about dogma (truth) and ethics (goodness). But when they listen to Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion they are disarmed and surrender in silence.
The Church has so many beautiful things to say and show to the world: not only it’s artistic heritage, but also innumerable saints whose beauty shone out. To name but two: St Francis of Assisi and his Canticle of the Sun and St John of the Cross and his poems.
Beauty can achieve a synthesis between truth and goodness. Truth, beauty and goodness: those are three of God’s names and three paths that lead to him. But beauty has hardly been pressed into use by theology or religious teaching up until now. Isn’t it time to do so?’
Isn’t it time for us to rediscover the beauty of the Liturgy?
When we do rediscover that beauty we will also know that liturgy is not something beautiful we do for God, but something beautiful God does for us and among us.
Public worship is neither our work nor our possession, it is God’s work. Our work is to feed the hungry, to refresh the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, to shelter the homeless, to visit the imprisoned, to welcome the stranger, to open our hands and hearts to the vulnerable and the needy. If we are doing these things well, liturgy and the Catholic identity it establishes will very likely take care of itself.
I invite you all to participate in the national catechesis ‘Worshipping Under Southern Skies: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Liturgy.’
Archbishop John Dew