“When you pray, say: Father.” This is the name that from all eternity God the Son gives to His Father, the name that our Lord invariably pronounced with respect and love, the name He silently repeats in the Blessed Sacrament, and that we find constantly on the lips of His Bride the Church.
“You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry, Abba (Father).” The Holy Spirit, as it were, flows forth from the Word in the sacred humanity of Christ, and in the Church bearing us all to the Father on the waves of His divine love.
This fount of living water which springs up in our hearts unto life eternal, is doubtless the private prayer with which the Holy Spirit may inspire us, and in which we are led by him to have recourse to God as children to their Father, but the principal and official prayer whereby the Holy Spirit inspires His Church is that which we call the Liturgy . In this prayer, all members of Christ’s mystical body bear an authentic part in that infinite worship of adoration that its head ceaselessly renders to God: “Always living to make intercession for us,” as the Apostle tells us. Thus the word of the Master is realized: “The hour cometh when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth,” which St. Anselm explains as meaning that they will render a filial worship to God in the Holy Spirit and in union with Christ the Son of God. St. Paul says: “By Him (i.e. our Lord) we have access both in one Spirit to the Father.” Most of the sacerdotal formulas said by the celebrant at the altar (collect, secret, preface and postcommunion) are addressed to the Father through the mediation of the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, that under the influence of grace attributed to the Holy Spirit we are united with Christ as man, as our priest or mediator in order to honor the Father in whom the whole blessed Trinity may be said to be implicitly contained, since from Him the Son and the Holy Spirit both proceed.
It is “through Christ that we go to God.” Therefore all the Church’s prayers conclude with the words “Through Jesus Christ our Lord”; and the Canon of the Mass ends with the formula: “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, be unto Thee, O God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.”
Christ by His bloody sacrifice on the cross merited for each of us our redemption and the graces necessary for obtaining it. After His resurrection and ascension His priesthood is continued in heaven by presenting His glorious wounds to the Father in our favor.
By this perpetual oblation, He obtains the application to our soul of that which he merited for us on Calvary.
In order to save us, the mediatorship of Jesus is necessary also upon earth. For this purpose did the Savior institute the Holy Eucharist, whereby He might find the means of being made man no longer merely in Palestine and for a determined time, but every day and in every country. That our souls could benefit from the merits of Jesus, who was both Priest and Victim on the cross, God wills that he should continue to offer Himself on the altar under the species of bread and wine, recalling the separation of His Body and Blood on Calvary.
“The sacrifice offered on the altar,” says the Council of Trent, “is the same which was offered on Calvary, since it is the same Priest and the same Victim.”
Christ is the High Priest, but to perform the rites of this sacrifice, a lower order of priesthood is necessary to supply what our Lord does not Himself perform. These ministers of the priesthood of Christ are the members of the Catholic hierarchy, and thus at one and the same time by Christ invisible, and by Christ visible, it is ordained that we shall pray to God in the person of the Pope, bishops, and priests. These priests are the official intermediaries between heaven and earth. By means of the liturgy we unite ourselves with the sacerdotal prayer of the Church, and together with her, day by day, in the same rites, the same formulas, even by the same chant, render to our Lord a worship worthy of the most High.
In the Missal do we mostly find these prayers of the Church, hence it is an indispensable book for officially, infallibly and collectively rendering to the most Holy Trinity, through Jesus and His Church, that plenitude of glory due to God.
Holy Mass is thus the chief act of Catholic worship. It is also its central function as the altar is the central object in our churches. All the grandest functions of the liturgy, ordinations, consecrations, benedictions, professions, take place during the celebration of the mystery of the altar. According to St. Thomas, all the sacraments are like the Holy Eucharist, being either a participation in this sacrifice, or else means whereby the soul is prepared for it. Exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament are as it were a continuance of it. We should, therefore, be quite wrong were we to separate such acts of piety as our communions and our adoration, from the act of the sacrifice; let us accustom ourselves to keep this connection practically in mind by communicating with the priest during holy Mass, and by considering our Lord present in the tabernacle as the saving Victim.
The liturgy has also for its aim the sanctification of mankind. It is the most fruitful source of divine graces which, spreading from the Father through Christ into the Mystical Members of His Body, assure to them the divine life of grace.
“The active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church,” said Pius X, “is the first and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit.” By the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments which constitute the very essence of the liturgy, does the Church sanctify souls.
In a special manner does she exercise her divine commission by means of sacramentals and preaching.
The sacramentals are all the observances and holy things used by the Church in her worship, and especially at Mass, as for instance, the ceremonies, rites, objects and prayers, etc.
Preaching is often attached to the acts of worship; indeed, the Mass is a Catechism whereby in the course of the year the Church inculcates her dogmatic truths and moral precepts by investing them with the visible beauty of ceremonies and chant. “In instructing the people in the divine truths and raising them to spiritual and interior joys,” said Pius XI, “the splendors of the liturgy are more efficacious than documents of the ecclesiastical magisterium and even more important.”
We should cultivate in our minds a deep respect for the Missal. It contains the very expression of the Church’s prayer, and in the framework of her most august rites of consecration and communion. It shares with the sacred species the right to be placed upon the altar. In the light of the sacred text contained in the Missal, the altar becomes each day before our eyes a corner of Palestine, where we celebrate with Jesus the events of His life; His coming (Advent), His birth (Christmas), His preaching (Lent), His suffering and death (Passion), His resurrection (Easter), His ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) whereby we receive those special graces which Holy Communion infuses into our souls.
Thus in the liturgy the whole Mystical Body of Christ lives again the life of the Master, in imitating His virtues and examples. The Missal is thus the sure guide by which the Church, charged with the care of souls, traces herself in us, with a maternal solicitude, and we should follow it in order to attain unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.