This is the reflection I did after our week studying the history of the liturgy:
“Your Spirit changes our hearts: enemies begin to speak to one another, those who were estranged join hands in friendship, and nations seek the way of peace together. Your Spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife, when hatred is quenched by mercy, and vengeance gives way to forgiveness. For this we should never cease to thank and praise you.”
These profound words from the second Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation have a way of catching my attention and making me reflect on the power and necessity of God in the world and in my life. What a miracle such reconciliation is! So too we are called as Jesuits to be ministers of reconciliation. Liturgy is what we do in the midst of this apostolate. The Eucharist is indeed the “source and summit” of all our Christian lives. Throughout the varieties and vicissitudes in the past, present, and future of the liturgy, it is vital to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who labors to fulfill our liturgical lives.
St. Paul teaches us “… the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groaning” (Rom 8:26, NAB). Thus, it is the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray, who prays with us and in us. The Holy Spirit guided the first Christians at Pentecost to form the Church, and surely guided them in their first celebrations of the Eucharist. Jesus promised: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:16-18). Even though there are gaps and shifts in the record of what precisely the Mass looked like in the early Church, we must trust that it was always the Holy Spirit who consistently led Christians in their worship.
By the same token, it occurs to me that we must entrust our current liturgical questions and concerns to the Holy Spirit. There are a lot of dimensions to the liturgy, and each of us has particular desires for it. Those desires must be submitted to the mind of the Church, as St. Ignatius taught. Still, we can become disoriented when it seems that changes to the liturgy are made or it seems to not be celebrated properly. Like most matters in life, much of this is out of our hands directly. Not even the Pope gets to always have it his way! I saw a small instance of while watching the beatification of Blessed John Paul II, and hearing the commentators on EWTN say that if Pope Benedict had his liturgical druthers, the celebration would be in St. Peter’s basilica, and not outside of it (as was needed to accommodate the hundreds of thousands that flooded into Rome for that particular Mass).
Although the Holy Spirit paves the way for our liturgy, we must nevertheless implore His aid and cooperate with His grace. A simple way of doing this (of which I read) is to pray for the priest, that he would be inspired in his preaching. Moreover, we should pray for one another in the Body of Christ. The liturgy invites us to do this when we confess our sins to one another at the start of Mass and say “and I ask…you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.” This is a huge part of the liturgy, to bind us together in love as Christians as we worship, struggle, grow, and endeavor to go home to God. Once again, it is the Holy Spirit who can give us the grace of unity, which even Jesus prayed for us to have. These are not soft, abstract concepts but tough gritty realities. We truly need the liturgy with all of its strength and beauty to sustain us. Yet we cannot just make liturgy happen all on our own. As St. Ignatius taught in the Contemplation to Attain Love, these good gifts only come from above. One of the prefaces to the Eucharist prayer says to God, "You have no need of our praise, but our desire to thank you is itself your gift." Amen!
Welcome! My name is John Roselle, SJ, and I took lifelong ("perpetual") vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Jesuit on August 13th, 2011 after a two-year novitiate. I am now a Jesuit Scholastic for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus. I will study philosophy and theology for the next three years at Loyola University in Chicago. At the same time, I will do part-time ministry in some capacity with the poor. After that, I will likely teach for three years before finishing three more years of theology. Then, God willing, I will be ordained a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest! It's a long road, but a blessed, fun, and enriching one. This blog exists as a resource for friends, family, and others who are interested in my progress through the Jesuit process of formation. Every day is its own adventure, and I am happy to have you along with me to share in this. This blog contains my own personal thoughts and should not be taken to speak for the entire Society of Jesus. Feel free to contact me. God bless you!