Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi - Learning From the Prayer of the Church

My liturgy professor at St. Meinrad (Fr. Godfrey Mullen, OSB) caught my attention one day when he said (I'm paraphrasing - and hope I don't miss the point he was making or misrepresent him), ‘Really pay attention to the words of the liturgy—as the official and public prayer of the Church, these words carry with them great treasures of understanding the theology, teaching, and tradition of the Church.” He had written the phrase Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi on the board. Over the last year, I’ve begun to pay particular attention to the prayers of the liturgy, and have found amazingly beautiful and deep meaning and insight that deepens my faith, and always provokes a sense of wonder at the infinitely knowable mysteries of our faith. This is certainly true of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we celebrate this weekend.

For example, consider the words of the alternate Opening Prayer for this celebration:

Lord Jesus Christ,
We worship you living among us in the sacrament of you body and blood. May we offer to our Father in heaven a solemn pledge of undivided love. May we offer to our brothers and sisters a life poured out in loving service of that kingdom where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

There’s more depth, faith, theology, and mystery in those two sentences than we could ever completely grasp in a lifetime. And yet, if we give ourselves to it in prayer and reflection, we can forever grasp more and more Truth from it. (I think this is what our Rector at St. Meinrad means by an 'infinately knowable mystery'...)

Surely we are reminded this Sunday that our sacramental and liturgical acts recognize the faith we hold that our Lord, the same Jesus Christ who first celebrated the Eucharist the night before he was betrayed truly lives among us in His body and blood made present in the Mass.

But what solemn pledge of undivided love do we have to offer to the Father? There are at least two that this prayer points us toward:

First, we know that we have nothing to offer the Father except that which God himself gives us through the perfect offering of the Lamb of God. We bring gifts of bread and wine, themselves gifts to us from God, and through the action of Christ who is both our offering and our high priest made present through the ministry of Fr. Joe at the altar, we are able to make the only acceptable offering to the Father: the body and blood of our Saviour.

But notice, too, that this prayer reminds us to unite with this another important gift: a "life poured out in loving service” to our brothers and sisters. Christ is our model, and the Eucharist teaches us every time we celebrate it a key (perhaps the key) trait we must learn: He poured out His very life for his brothers and sisters, even before they had reconciled themselves to Him.

How do we begin to live this example in our lives? What opportunities do you have this week to pour out your life to the people in our parish, in our local community even outside the Church?

If we can make this question a part of our daily lives, we can truly offer our Father in heaven the pledge of undivided love He asks of us.

This is important: after all, since its part of the ‘law of prayer’ - the Church teaches it is also part of the ‘law of our faith’.


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