Homily 1st Sunday of Lent Year C - The Spirit of the Liturgy

Homily (Sermon) - The Spirit of the Liturgy

The Readings for Sunday 16th February 2013 or First Sunday of Lent Year C:

Old Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalm Psalm 90
New Romans 10:8-13
Gospel Luke 4:1-13
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

We have heard this morning from Moses, a very early statement of faith, similar to our creed, and some instructions about offering gifts to God. It’s important to know that the traditions we follow today are routed in thousands of years of worship by both the Christian community and the Jewish community. It’s also important to think once in a while why we do the things we do.

Over the past few weeks Emma and I have been teaching the First Communion Children about our church and faith. The challenging thing about teaching these wonderful children is that you can’t just tell them to do something, because they always ask you why. At some point as we grow up we stop asking why. We get embarrassed about not knowing answers we think we should know or should be able to remember. So this morning I want to answer a few questions you may or may not want to ask.

Lent has a different feel than the rest of the year, as God gave our world different season so we have different liturgical seasons. Changes to allow us to focus our minds on different aspects of our Christian life. Lent is a purple time, a penitential time, a time to reflect on the way we live. A time when we are called to increase our prayer, our charitable giving and a time to fast. We wear and use purple, a rich but serious colour that can help to focus our minds on the Lentern preparation for Easter.

We also don’t sing the Gloria or Alleluia in Lent. This helps us prepare for the highest point of our year, Easter. The wonderful hymn of praise, the Gloria, and the cry of Praise to God, Alleluia, are saved up over Lent to return at Easter in an outpouring of praise, light and joy. As new life returns to the world in spring so our exultations return at Easter, but to do so we need to understand worship without them for a while in Lent.

In the final week of Lent we cover or remove the images and statues. Our churches and liturgies are so rich, so visual, we for a short to remove them to focus of saving act of Christ’s death on the cross. They too will return for the at the Easter vigil. We most profoundly experience the contrast over the Easter Triduum, one liturgy in three parts, the quiet reflective Maundy Thursday, the sorrowful and sparse Good Friday, and the joyful extravagance of the Easter Vigil.

The Mass we take part in is not a performance by the priests, deacons and ministers. It’s an act of worship by the whole Church, we are all called by Christ to come and take a full and active part in the Mass. We are both spiritual creatures and physical creatures. We share in the divinity of Christ as he shared in our humanity. As such we all sing, stand, knee, bow, pray and move together. We join our hearts to Christ, we move our actions towards Him, we play before our Father in Heaven.

A favourite theologian of mine, Romano Guardini, wrote a small book called ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ in which he compares the liturgy to children playing in front of their father. We are Children of God, we come together as children of God, we come to the Mass to play and imagine taking part in the heavenly banquet with Christ. We are playing at being in heaven.

Do you remember, as a child, playing Cowboys and Indians or Princesses and Pirates. I used to run around the fields with a handmade bow pretending to be Robin Hood. It’s that leap of imagination that we can often lose as we grow up, it’s this imagination that we should try and kindle as we come to Church. We are embracing our Father and Saviour in the Mass. The tradition of our Church teaches us Christ is present at our Mass. He is present in the Eucharist, He is present in the Priest as he consecrates the Eucharist, He is present in the words of the Scripture as they are proclaimed, and he is present in each of us as we come to worship. Christ is right now standing among us, have a look round you and see if you can see him.

Our Mass is full of movement, we start by standing and processing in, then we genuflect to the Tabernacle, to our Lord Jesus who is present there. From that moment the focus switches to the alter, as we approach or move past it we bow. We bow because it is upon that alter that we will see a miracle, the miracle of the Eucharist, the miracle of Christ becoming present before us and for us.

We bow at other time to in our mass. We should all bow during the Creed, when we say the words “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” We bow in honour of the moment Christ same to us, became one of us, that moment of incarnation.

We bow again just before receiving communion. We bow before our Lord just before the most intimate part of the liturgy, the part where we take our Lord into ourselves, the source of our Christian strength, the summit of our Christian worship.

This Lent, I ask you to embrace the penitential season. Think about what you do, what you see, what you say. Invest a little imagination in your Sunday Worship. Ask questions, as our first communion children are doing. Let your faith grow and be tested in the wilderness of Lent. Journey through that wilderness and know that what you are heading towards is the joy of meeting Christ at Easter.

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