Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

(Missale Romanum 1970) 

Accept, O Lord, the offerings we have brought to honor the revealing of Your beloved Son, so that the oblation of Your faithful may be transformed into the sacrifice of Him who willed in His compassion to wash away the sins of the world. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Epiphany-tide celebrates not only Jesus’ manifestation to the Gentiles, but likewise the beginning of His public ministry, with His Baptism and His first sign (the turning of water into wine in Cana). In fact, Jesus’ Baptism is properly called a theophany, because God Himself is revealed in His inner Trinitarian life in this event. As we hear in the troparion hymn in the Byzantine Church for this feast, “at Your Baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, worship of the Trinity was revealed.” Prior to the Incarnation, it simply could not be known that the One God was a Trinity of Persons. Christ, the divine Son, graciously and wondrously reveals this to His beloved Church. In fact, in Christ, God reveals fully to man both who He is and how He wants to be worshipped, and this latter item is the one we will treat today.

The revealed worship of the Bible centers around sacrifice. In His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus “brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifice,” because His sacrifice “completes and surpasses” them (Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1350, 614). As the divine Son, Christ’s obedience is the perfect sacrifice that infinitely atones for human sin and disobedience (Catechism nos. 614-16). How do we get in on something so good? How do we participate in this supreme sacrifice?  

Upon being baptized, and thereby being incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, each Christian is divinely equipped to worship God in and through Christ’s Sacrifice of the Eucharist (this is the seal or character of Baptism, to which I often refer in this column, and which we read about in Catechism nos. 1272-4). The character of Baptism capacitates one both to participate in and receive benefit from Christ’s self-offering, which is renewed and re-presented in the Mass.

In our Prayer over the Offerings above, we see that our sacrifice is sufficient only insofar as it is joined to and transformed by Christ’s oblation of Himself on the Cross, which is foreshadowed in His own Baptism, which we celebrate today. How joyful, then, should we be as Catholics to have such an inestimable gift! We have been endowed, for no merits of our own, with a supernatural capacity to worship God as He desires, and thereby, to merit grace for ourselves and others in union with the risen Lord.

For many American mainline Christians, one’s experience of Church on Sunday is often evaluated along the lines of “what do I get out of it?” For the Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox who are properly instructed in the purpose of divine worship, the paradigm is entirely different. It is not about what we get out of it. Rather, it is about what God is owed in justice as our Creator and Redeemer, what He has commanded, and, further, how we can properly fulfill this joyful and life-giving obligation in and through Christ alone. This is why the Canon ends with the very telling doxology: “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, for ever and ever.” As the late great Byzantine Jesuit liturgist, Archimandrite Robert Taft, once said, “Liturgy is for us, but it is not about us.” In other words, it’s about our Lord Jesus, and what He has done and continues to do for us and with us, His Bride the Church. 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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