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The Mass and Daily Life
MASS AND DAILY LIFE
I HAVE just returned from doing a series of workshops at the invitation of Tully parish in Cairns diocese.
At a parish assembly at the end of last year the need for adult faith formation, particularly about liturgy, emerged as a high priority. Between sessions I was able to enjoy some of the delights offered by far north Queensland – delicious tropical fruits and fresh local seafood (including a fish known as "nanigai", caught and cooked by a parishioner), breathtaking scenery, especially the awe-inspiring Murray Falls after recent heavy rain, and warm northern hospitality.
In the first sessions I had traced the development of the Mass and noted how, through all the changes of history, the Church for 2000 years has continued to "do eucharist" by taking, blessing, breaking and sharing bread as Jesus did with his disciples on the night before he died. In a follow-up workshop I explored the connection between Mass and everyday life. Several of the participants talked about how sharing eucharist with their parish community is central to how they live as Christians in the world. What they were describing is how liturgy is the "summit and source" of their Christian life, as it is referred to in the documents of Vatican II.
Liturgy is not an escape from reality. When we come to Mass we bring ourselves and our lives as they really are – the experiences that make us who we are; our hopes, successes and failures, our times of joy and sadness; the accumulation of events and memories that make up life. We also bring the collective hopes, experiences, achievements and sins of the world in which we live.
Mass is not a holy event that is separate from these basic building blocks of our Christian living but a sacred action which takes them up in a pleasing offering to God, along with the sacrifice of Christ. Our lives, just like the bread and wine, are blessed, broken and poured out for the life of the world. The Mass is a celebration of our lives because they become part of the eucharist – part of the sacrifice because Christ joins them to his and part of the thanksgiving because we recognise God’s love in the events of our lives.
This has practical implications for the way we live our lives. If we have broken bread together at eucharist and prayed that we might become "one body, one spirit in Christ", how should we treat one another afterwards? If we have feasted on this spiritual food, how do we respond to people who are hungry? Those who gather to share the Body of Christ are sent forth to be the Body of Christ in their daily lives – in homes, families, neighbourhoods, places of work, social gatherings, sporting clubs, wherever they find themselves during the week.
In his book “Worshipping Well”, Lawrence Mick compares the role of liturgy to that of a heart. Just as our hearts keep us alive by pulling in depleted blood and pumping life-giving blood around our bodies, celebrating the eucharist pulls us in and sends us out to bring the life-giving love of the Lord into the world.