Liturgy: What’s the Point?

“So, about that liturgy of yours…”

Sometimes the transcendence of a Eucharistic liturgy can get a little blurry. A bad microphone that makes the lector’s proclamation of Scripture unintelligible. The thermostat in the sanctuary turned up so high you can barely concentrate. A presiding priest rushing through prayers so quickly, you only catch every other word.

And even if the human elements are done well, it’s not that surprising that many of our peers, neighbors, or co-workers might just see the Eucharistic liturgy as a bore. Just some ritual, done out of custom. Devoid of meaning. Something to get through.

This season of Easter in Year C is the perfect time to talk about what’s really going on in liturgy. Our second readings during these Sundays are from the Book of Revelation. (Yes, that final book in the New Testament.) Throughout these Sundays of Easter we find in the Book of Revelation a glimpse of the drama and transcendence of true worship in the eternal, heavenly liturgy.

The opening verses of the Book of Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse of John) lay out the grand drama—“the revelation of Jesus Christ” which God gave to his servant John. Nowhere else in Scripture does a prophet or one receiving a vision present the revelation of Jesus Christ. And we’re invited into it! As the narrator explains, “blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message” – that’s us, hearing the message read aloud each Sunday.

So what do we find in this prophetic message? Among other things, a vivid description of a heavenly liturgy. We hear of the centrality of the Lamb. Reminding us that our high priest, Jesus Christ, is both the priest and victim. We are given an image of all the earth worshiping God both night and day, as tears are wiped away. The earth is transformed as all things are made new. The glory and light of the Lamb is such that there is no need for a temple or tabernacle, no need for the sun and the moon. And in the final verses, an accelerating tone, let the Spirit cry out “come” to Jesus Christ, let the Church cry out “come,” let us all cry out “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

At Mass, we don’t just hear about this heavenly vision—we participate in the eternal liturgy, unceasingly celebrated by Jesus Christ with all of those who have entered the heavenly kingdom—Mary, canonized saints, everyday saints, and the holy apostles (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1187). In the liturgy, we here on earth—even in parishes with fuzzy microphones or squeaky pews—are joined with the angels and Body of Christ, with Jesus Christ as the head, praising God.

Come, Lord Jesus—help us to worship truly and share the invitation to your heavenly feast.

Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

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