The term liturgy is used with great frequency in the Church. It comes from the Greek word leitourgia which means a public work done for or on behalf of the people. However, we cannot allow the Church’s understanding of the term to be lost. Liturgy is not a spectator sport where a larger group watches a person or two or smaller group perform. While there is always a celebrant or presider and ministers at the liturgy, everyone is called to full, active, and conscious participation. Why?
We are all called to participate because liturgy is first and foremost an act of divine worship meaning that it is focused towards God greater glory and honor. In this act, we are also lifted up and furthered on the path of salvation. Whenever the Church, the mystical body of Christ, gathers for a liturgical celebration, she is participating in the Paschal Mystery: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
A liturgy is a public celebration of the sacraments or the word of God. Among liturgical celebrations, the holy Mass is the highest of all liturgies because, as the Second Vatican Council teaches us, it is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. The Mass itself is divided into four main parts, the two principal parts being liturgies: Word and Eucharist. Sometimes a liturgy is referred to as “the sacred mysteries.” This term also comes from the Greek work mysterion which was rendered in Latin as mystenum (mystery) and sacramentum (sacrament). The term sacrament is used to define a tangible reality is the liturgical celebration which also points to a hidden reality that is also present, thus the term mystery. The term mystery is also used because another understanding of the word refers to a reality that cannot by exhausted and this is true of the grace of God given in the liturgical life.
May God give us the grace to grow deeper in our love for the Church’s liturgy so that we may see cherish its two fold purpose of glorifying God and lifting us up to the divine life with him forever.
Written by Father Christopher House