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Pope Turns to Liturgy for Next Chapter in Catechesis on Prayer
Another 'Precious Source' for Growing in Conversation With God
By Kathleen Naab
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today opened the next chapter in his ongoing catechesis on prayer, moving from reflections on prayer drawn from Scripture to another "precious 'space,' another precious 'source' for growing in prayer, a fount of living water in close relationship with the former": the liturgy.
The Pope began in today's general audience to address this new element in his prayer catechesis, concluding his thoughts on Scripture as a "lasting dialogue between God and man, an ongoing dialogue in which God displays his increasing closeness, in which we may better know his face, his voice, his being; and man learns to accept God, to know God, to speak with God."
He began his look at the liturgy with an explanation of what liturgy is, recalling the word's original meaning as "a service in the name of/ on behalf of the people."
He spoke of it as a work of God, saying the "fundamental criterion for the liturgy is its orientation toward God, to be able thus to participate in his work."
"But," the Pope said, "we might ask ourselves: what is this work of God in which we are called to participate? The answer that the [Second Vatican] Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy offers us is seemingly twofold. In No. 5 it tells us, in fact, that the work of God consists in His actions in history, which bring us salvation, and which culminated in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; however, in No. 7 the same Constitution defines the celebration of the liturgy as the 'work of Christ.'
"In reality, these two meanings are inseparably linked," the Pontiff explained.
"If we ask ourselves who saves the world and man, the only answer is: Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, crucified and risen. And where is the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ made present for us, for me today? The answer is: in Christ's action in and through the Church, in the liturgy, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which makes present the sacrificial offering of the Son of God, who redeemed us; in the Sacrament of Penance, in which we pass from the death of sin to new life; and in the other sacramental acts whereby we are sanctified (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis, 5). Thus, the Paschal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ is the center of the liturgical theology of the Council."
Mind in harmony with voice
Benedict XVI invited a further step and asked how this making present of Christ's Paschal Mystery is made possible.
"[T]he first requirement for a proper liturgical celebration is that it be prayer, conversation with God, first listening and then response," he stated. "St. Benedict, in his Rule, speaking about the prayer of the Psalms, points out to the monks: mens corcordet voci, 'that the mind may be in harmony with the voice.' The Saint teaches that in praying the Psalms the words must come before our minds. Usually it does not happen in this way; first we have to think, and then we convert what we have thought into words. Here instead, in the liturgy, it is just the opposite -- the word comes first. God has given us the word, and the sacred liturgy offers us the words; we must enter into the words, into their meaning, receive them into ourselves, become attuned to these words; thus do we become God's children, like unto God. [...]
"A fundamental, essential element of dialogue with God in the liturgy is the harmony between what we say with our lips and what we carry in our hearts. By entering into the words of the great history of prayer we ourselves are conformed to the spirit of these words and become capable of speaking with God."
The Pope affirmed that living the liturgy well is possible only with an attitude of prayer -- directing our hearts to God and remaining in an attitude of prayer by uniting ourselves to the Mystery of Christ and to his conversation, as Son, with the Father.
"God himself teaches us to pray, St. Paul affirms (cf. Romans 8:26). He himself has given us the appropriate words for addressing ourselves to Him, words we encounter in the Psalter, in the great prayer of the sacred liturgy and in the Eucharistic celebration itself," the Pontiff said. "Let us ask the Lord to be more and more aware each day of the fact that the Liturgy is the action of God and of man; prayer that springs forth from the Holy Spirit and from ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the Son of God made man."
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