|Emphasizing Mass as Center of Christian Life
ROME, 26 FEB. 2005 (ZENIT)
Trying to ensure Christians celebrate
Sunday as a special day is one of the aims of the Year of the Eucharist
the Church is now observing. In his apostolic letter on the year, "Mane
Nobiscum Domine," John Paul II wrote: "In a particular way I ask that
every effort be made this year to experience Sunday as the day of the
Lord and the day of the Church" (No. 23).
The Pope also called upon priests during the special year, which
continues through October 2005, to pay more attention to the celebration
of Sunday Mass as an event that unites the entire parish.
During his homily last Oct. 17 at the Mass held to mark the start of the
special year, the Pontiff noted that particularly on a Sunday the Church
lives the mystery of the Eucharist. Moreover, through the Eucharistic
celebration the Christian community is called to a greater brotherhood
and service to others.
The Holy Father's call to reinforce the importance of Sunday Mass has
been followed up in a recent meeting of the Pontifical Commission for
Latin America, held Jan. 18-21. The commission issued a series of
pastoral recommendations on how to maintain the Sunday Mass as a central
feature of Christian life.
When Sunday loses its special meaning, it becomes absorbed into the
generic concept of "weekend," the commission observed. Christians,
instead, need to keep in mind that Sunday Mass should be at the heart of
their religious life. Sunday Mass attendance is also an important means
to ensure the Church maintains its missionary fervor, which is
strengthened through a regular contact with Jesus in the Eucharist.
The commission insisted on the need for a dignified celebration of the
Eucharist. This covers everything from the ornaments used by the priest,
to the music used in the ceremony, to the way the liturgy is organized.
This dignity must be safeguarded even in circumstances that present
special difficulties, such as prisons, hospitals and nursing homes.
The Lord's Day
Another recommendation concerns the need for an active participation by
everyone in the celebration. To ensure this, the commission called upon
priests and laity alike to meditate on the meaning of Sunday Mass as the
central moment of the Lord's Day.
The commission urged priests to increase their reverence at Mass,
reflecting in their words and acts the great value of the mystery they
are celebrating. The panel also recommended that adequate care be given
to the preparation of the Sunday homily, basing its content on
Scripture, the Tradition of the Church and the magisterium.
For those who participate in some way in the liturgical celebration as
acolytes, readers, Eucharistic ministers, etc., the commission asked
that they be given a careful preparation in the roles they carry out.
Another way in which the Christian community can value better Sunday
Mass is through an adequate catechesis. The commission called for an
increased effort in communicating the value of the Mass. Part of this
involves a greater awareness of the connection between the sacraments,
for example, baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. As well, a more
frequent participation in the sacrament of reconciliation is suggested
in order to ensure worthy reception of Communion.
The commission also noted the importance of ensuring that the whole
family participates together in the Sunday Eucharist. Related to this is
the need to teach within the family the importance of the Eucharist.
In Australia and Ireland
In recent weeks other countries have also responded to the Pope's call
to reinforce Sunday Mass during the Year of the Eucharist.
A Jan. 20 press release by the Australian bishops' conference announced
a program prepared by the National Liturgical Commission. The initiative
will get under way during the Sundays of Easter and is linked with a
proposal for a period of Eucharistic devotion from Trinity Sunday to
In the introduction to the program, the chairman of the episcopate's
Committee for Liturgy, Bishop Kevin Manning, recalled the invitation of
John Paul II for Catholics to dedicate the current year to the
"The Australian bishops have responded to the Holy Father's invitation
and now offer the program, 'Sunday: Sacrament of Easter,' to the
Australian Church as a means of enlivening our celebration of the
Eucharist and to encourage devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament,"
Bishop Manning wrote.
In Ireland, meanwhile, the Diocese of Down and Connor announced last
Monday that it will be starting a series of lessons in its parishes on
the meaning of the Eucharist, reported the Irish Independent.
Launching the campaign, Bishop Patrick Walsh warned that Sunday is no
longer a family day, let alone the Lord's Day, for many people. "The
purpose of the Year of the Eucharist is to open the eyes of our faith so
that we will come to recognize Christ more fully in the breaking of the
bread, in the Eucharist, and stay with him in his presence in the
Blessed Sacrament," he explained.
This is not the first time John Paul II has insisted on the need to
ensure that Sunday remains a special day for Catholics. In his 1998
apostolic letter, "Dies Domini," he noted that the Church has always
given the Lord's Day special attention. On Sunday we recall Christ's
resurrection and celebrate his victory over sin and death. "It is the
day which recalls in grateful adoration the world's first day and looks
forward in active hope to 'the last day', when Christ will come in glory
(cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) and all things will be made new
(cf. Revelation 21:5)" (No. 1).
The Pope commented that until recently is was easier to preserve the
special meaning of Sunday, because in most Christian countries it was
practiced by virtually all the population and was also a part of civil
society. Now, however, Sunday is submerged in a series of cultural and
sporting activities that can cause us to lose sight of the day's
"The disciples of Christ, however, are asked to avoid any confusion
between the celebration of Sunday, which should truly be a way of
keeping the Lord's Day holy, and the 'weekend,' understood as a time of
simple rest and relaxation," the Pope added (No. 4).
Achieving this requires a greater spiritual maturity and for Christians
to act in accordance with their faith. Sunday should be a day that is at
the heart of the Christian life, the Pope urged. "Do not be afraid to
give your time to Christ! Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he
may cast light upon it and give it direction" (No. 7).
Moreover, he added: "Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is
rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life
may become more profoundly human." A lesson that the Pope hopes many
will learn during this year dedicated to the Eucharist.