We have come to second part of unpacking the General Instruction’s definition of the Mass. For the sake of convenience, here is a re-presentation of the definition of the Mass as prescribed:
16. The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and of the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually. For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit. In it, moreover, during the course of the year, the mysteries of redemption are celebrated so as to be in some way made present. As to the other sacred actions and all the activities of the Christian life, these are bound up with it, flow from it, and are ordered to it.
We continue our unpacking with…
-“For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father.”
I’ve been waiting for weeks to talk about this. (I will not excuse myself for this liturgical nerd moment. But if you skip a paragraph or five, I would not be surprised.)
In Eastern Christianity, we call this the synaxis.
It is the entire people of God, no matter what your position, no matter what your vocation, is lifted up to God. All of our prayers, desires, penances, your pains and faults and failings, your accomplishments, EVERYTHING—is lifted up to God in sacrifice. We lift up our entire beings in order to unite ourselves to God.
Ever have that relationship that feels like it came out of a fairy tale? Like when you see the love of your life, that one person you want to spend all of your time with, that one person in which you would give anything and darn next to everything for—just to see him or her smile? This is what we are talking about. Giving up your everything in order to love Love in a dynamic, intimate way. The synaxis!
Needless to say, the synaxis presupposes an intimate and dynamic love between God and the individual believer. In fact, the entire definition as given by the GIRM presupposes that you have an intimate, dynamic and REAL relationship with God and His Church. That God is not simply a thing “out there”, but rather, God is “in here”, in the echoes of our heart, waiting for us to turn to Him so that He can whisper “I love you.”
Within the synaxis, God takes these sacrifices, and sanctifies them as an act of worship, and thus bringing us into greater, deeper, and more profound union with the Trinity. Our sacrifices, as painful as they are, are made holy and wonderful in God’s site. By lifting up ourselves and our sacrifices to God, we are made holy. We put ourselves on the road to sainthood.
The synaxis is explicitly Trinitarian. The People of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, worships the Father, in the name of the Son. The prayers of the Mass are directed towards the Father, in Christ’s name, oftentimes invoking—if not inspired by—the Holy Spirit.
Next time, we will continue our reflections, focusing a bit on the Liturgical Year and encountering Jesus Christ.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!