As I write this article I am only hours away from my departure for Rome with the other New York State Bishops for the Ad Limina visit to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul. During our time in Rome, we will give an account to our Holy Father of the state of our respective dioceses. The object of the visit is not merely to make a pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles, but above all, to show the proper reverence for the Successor of St. Peter, to acknowledge his universal jurisdiction and to receive his counsel.
I will be in Rome when the new liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27. Our lives move to the rhythm of the liturgical seasons which nourish, renew and inspire our prayer and daily activities. Advent is such a rich liturgical season! St. Bernard reminds us in one of his sermons that it is the season of “comings.” We commemorate the coming of our savior’s birth in Bethlehem. We await His second coming at the end of time and we cherish His presence, His coming into our hearts through the indwelling of grace. During this season, may we be attentive, alert and wide awake to the mystery that will unfold in word and sacrament as we participate in the Eucharist and nourish our hearts and minds in private prayer.
This year the First Sunday of Advent marked the implementation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. It occurs to me that if this implementation is to bear fruit in our lives and in the life of the Church we need to be attentive to the changes but even more so to the mystery that unfolds every time we are engaged fully and actively in the sacred liturgy.
For some of you, the celebration of Mass on the first Sunday of Advent exposed you to the only major changes in the Mass which you have experienced. Your experience of the Church and liturgy were shaped by the Second Vatican Council. You do not remember the pre-Vatican Council II liturgy. For some of us who are a bit older the Third Edition of the Roman Missal introduced new changes to the liturgy. We remember the order of the Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council, have participated in the liturgy promulgated by the Council and now embrace the newest changes.
It is important for all of us to realize that the Third Edition of the Roman Missal continues the gift of the Second Vatican Council. It highlights the reality that liturgical renewal is never a finished work. It provides us with a new moment to enter into the mystery of the redemption made present in the Eucharist in a more profound and deeper way. This will not be the last liturgical change. It may be the final one that many of us will experience, but others will follow. The mystery is too deep, too beautiful to be captured perfectly once and for all.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, a true fruit of God’s grace, if the most recent changes in the liturgy lead us to experience more fully the mystery of God’s immanence and transcendence? Certainly God draws near to us in His Son. Jesus took on our flesh and lived in all ways as we do except sin. But Jesus is also true God, the holy, totally other being whose face cannot be seen. If we recognize the mystery of who it is that meets us in word and sacrament will this not renew in us a sense of reverence and awe? This reverence will be shown in our active, full participation, our sincere gestures when we genuflect or reverently bow at the appropriate times, our respectful approach to receive the body and blood of Christ and our prayerful silence when we are invited to lift our minds and hearts to God.
There is a Latin saying, Lex orandi, Lex credendi – the law of prayer is the law of belief. Simply put this means that the words we pray are an expression of what we believe. There have been changes in the wording of some prayers used at Mass. These changes, although relatively minor, nonetheless make our prayer more precise, more true to the mystery of our faith. Words are important since they are meant to convey meaning. The words we use in prayer are important because they express what we believe.
As Advent calls us to be attentive, alert and awake to what God has done and continues to do for us may we embrace the grace given to us through the implementation of the Roman Missal. It is my prayer that the Third Edition of the Roman Missal will instill in all of us a renewed reverence and love for the mystery of our redemption made present in the celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives.
Be assured that I will remember you and your intentions during my pilgrimage to Rome. Please remember me as well. I rely upon your prayers so that the pilgrimage will be a spiritual benefit for me and for all whom I am privileged to serve.
If you have an intention you would like me to remember in prayer, please forward it to me at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, NY 13202.