Part III-B.The Cycle of the Mysteries in the Liturgical Year
151. Throughout the entire year, the Mass and the divine office center especially
around the person of Jesus Christ. This arrangement is so suitably disposed that our
Savior dominates the scene in the mysteries of His humiliation, of His redemption and
152. While the sacred liturgy calls to mind the mysteries of Jesus Christ, it strives to
make all believers take their part in them so that the divine Head of the mystical Body
may live in all the members with the fullness of His holiness. Let the souls of Christians
be like altars on each one of which a different phase of the sacrifice, offered by the
High priest, comes to life again, as it were: pains and tears which wipe away and expiate
sin; supplication to God which pierces heaven; dedication and even immolation of oneself
made promptly, generously and earnestly; and, finally, that intimate union by which we
commit ourselves and all we have to God, in whom we find our rest. "The perfection of
religion is to imitate whom you adore."
153. By these suitable ways and methods in which the liturgy at stated times proposes the
life of Jesus Christ for our meditation, the Church gives us examples to imitate, points
out treasures of sanctity for us to make our own, since it is fitting that the mind
believes what the lips sing, and that what the mind believes should be practiced in public
and private life.
154. In the period of Advent, for instance, the Church arouses in us the consciousness of
the sins we have had the misfortune to commit, and urges us, by restraining our desires
and practicing voluntary mortification of the body, to recollect ourselves in meditation,
and experience a longing desire to return to God who alone can free us by His grace from
the stain of sin and from its evil consequences.
155. With the coming of the birthday of the Redeemer, she would bring us to the cave of
Bethlehem and there teach that we must be born again and undergo a complete reformation;
that will only happen when we are intimately and vitally united to the Word of God made
man and participate in His divine nature, to which we have been elevated.
156. At the solemnity of the Epiphany, in putting before us the call of the Gentiles to
the Christian faith, she wishes us daily to give thanks to the Lord for such a blessing;
she wishes us to seek with lively faith the living and true God, to penetrate deeply and
religiously the things of heaven, to love silence and meditation in order to perceive and
grasp more easily heavenly gifts.
157. During the days of Septuagesima and Lent, our Holy Mother the Church over and over
again strives to make each of us seriously consider our misery, so that we may be urged to
a practical emendation of our lives, detest our sins heartily and expiate them by prayer
and penance. For constant prayer and penance done for past sins obtain for us divine help,
without which every work of ours is useless and unavailing.
158. In Holy Week, when the most bitter sufferings of Jesus Christ are put before us by
the liturgy, the Church invites us to come to Calvary and follow in the blood-stained
footsteps of the divine Redeemer, to carry the cross willingly with Him, to reproduce in
our own hearts His spirit of expiation and atonement, and to die together with Him.
159. At the Paschal season, which commemorates the triumph of Christ, our souls are filled
with deep interior joy: we, accordingly, should also consider that we must rise, in union
with the Redeemer, from our cold and slothful life to one of greater fervor and holiness
by giving ourselves completely and generously to God, and by forgetting this wretched
world in order to aspire only to the things of heaven: "If you be risen with Christ,
seek the things that are above . . . mind the things that are above."
160. Finally, during the time of Pentecost, the Church by her precept and practice urges
us to be more docile to the action of the Holy Spirit who wishes us to be on fire with
divine love so that we may daily strive to advance more in virtue and thus become holy as
Christ our Lord and His Father are holy.
161. Thus, the liturgical year should be considered as a splendid hymn of praise offered
to the heavenly Father by the Christian family through Jesus, their perpetual Mediator.
Nevertheless, it requires a diligent and well ordered study on our part to be able to know
and praise our Redeemer ever more and more. It requires a serious effort and constant
practice to imitate His mysteries, to enter willingly upon His path of sorrow and thus
finally share His glory and eternal happiness.
162. From what We have already explained, Venerable Brethren, it is perfectly clear how
much modern writers are wanting in the genuine and true liturgical spirit who, deceived by
the illusion of a higher mysticism, dare to assert that attention should be paid not to
the historic Christ but to a "pneumatic" or glorified Christ. They do not
hesitate to assert that a change has taken place in the piety of the faithful by
dethroning, as it were, Christ from His position; since they say that the glorified
Christ, who liveth and reigneth forever and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, has
been overshadowed and in His place has been substituted that Christ who lived on earth.
For this reason, some have gone so far as to want to remove from the churches images of
the divine Redeemer suffering on the cross.
163. But these false statements are completely opposed to the solid doctrine handed down
by tradition. "You believe in Christ born in the flesh," says St. Augustine,
"and you will come to Christ begotten of God." In the sacred liturgy, the whole Christ is
proposed to us in all the circumstances of His life, as the Word of the eternal Father, as
born of the Virgin Mother of God, as He who teaches us truth, heals the sick, consoles the
afflicted, who endures suffering and who dies; finally, as He who rose triumphantly from
the dead and who, reigning in the glory of heaven, sends us the Holy Paraclete and who
abides in His Church forever; "Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, and the same
forever." Besides, the liturgy shows us
Christ not only as a model to be imitated but as a master to whom we should listen
readily, a Shepherd whom we should follow, Author of our salvation, the Source of our
holiness and the Head of the Mystical Body whose members we are, living by His very life.
164. Since His bitter sufferings constitute the principal mystery of our redemption, it is
only fitting that the Catholic faith should give it the greatest prominence. This mystery
is the very center of divine worship since the Mass represents and renews it every day and
since all the sacraments are most closely united with the cross.
165. Hence, the liturgical year, devotedly fostered and accompanied by the Church, is not
a cold and lifeless representation of the events of the past, or a simple and bare record
of a former age. It is rather Christ Himself who is ever living in His Church. Here He
continues that journey of immense mercy which He lovingly began in His mortal life, going
about doing good, with the design of bringing
men to know His mysteries and in a way live by them. These mysteries are ever present and
active not in a vague and uncertain way as some modern writers hold, but in the way that
Catholic doctrine teaches us. According to the Doctors of the Church, they are shining
examples of Christian perfection, as well as sources of divine grace, due to the merit and
prayers of Christ; they still influence us because each mystery brings its own special
grace for our salvation. Moreover, our holy Mother the Church, while proposing for our
contemplation the mysteries of our Redeemer, asks in her prayers for those gifts which
would give her children the greatest possible share in the spirit of these mysteries
through the merits of Christ. By means of His inspiration and help and through the
cooperation of our wills we can receive from Him living vitality as branches do from the
tree and members from the head; thus slowly and laboriously we can transform ourselves
"unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ."