By Robert B. Fisher, SVD
The term ‘Spirituality’ does not refer simply to the life of one’s soul or spirit isolated from the whole person, including the body. Rather it refers to one’s ‘passion,’ to one’s intense, all-embracing life in the Holy Spirit directed toward Christ. Spirituality is not the same as a ‘devotion’ one may have, for example, to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart, even the Divine Mercy devotion, or to the rosary, or to the an attribute of Mary, or one of the saints, or even going to church. Some individuals may be passionate about their devotions, but it does not make it a true spirituality. Spirituality refers simply to one’s strong desire to to be embraced totally by God and for a cause that works toward the betterment of human well-being. There has to be a fire burning within us that fills us with zeal for the things of God. Long before we develop some devotion or other religious activity, we have to be possessed with that passion for God, for Christ, or for the betterment of human life under the symbol of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus the Savior of humankind. How we channel that passion is what we can call spirituality.
Liturgical spirituality, one may say, is the central fire that should burn within every Catholic Christian. Vatican II, in December, 1963, promulgated the Constitution on the Liturgy. One might say that this document was the MAGNA CHARTA of that Council. There are several passages that underscore how central the Liturgy is to the life of the Church. I quote several of them--
- [The] liturgy, ‘making the work of our redemption a present activity,’ most of all in the divine sacrifice of the eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. [paragraph 2].
- Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others...[paragraph 7]
- [The] liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed, at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church’s power flows. [paragraph 10]
The liturgy is centered around the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, his life, passion, death, and resurrection. The Church makes memory of this Christ-event and participates in it by spreading its celebration throughout one year, recalling the other saving events in the history of salvation through the biblical readings. The liturgy moreover does this, not only in the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and ordinary time, but also during the hours of each day during the Liturgy of the Hours.
Hence, liturgical spirituality is biblical, time-centered, and always joyful in the daily celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Liturgical spirituality is passionately excited about the work of Christ in the context of time. That is why each liturgical activity, especially in the celebration of the sacraments, is a memorial, an actual participation in Christ’s work for human salvation. It is all about living out our baptism, for example, which St. Paul reminds us in Romans 6, 3-4, is a dying together with Christ so that we may rise with him for a newness of life. Liturgical spirituality is about becoming one with Christ in his Body, which is the Church, through our common worship of the Father.
Example of this spirituality is found already in an Advent spirituality, which we have lost with our cultural and secular celebrations of Christmas. Advent is the time when we become involved with the first testament messianic longings for the Messiah. Up until December 16 inclusive we find these longings in the first readings and psalms, but fulfilled in the Gospel readings. From December 17 until Christmas Eve we change into the immediate expectation of the birth of the promised Messiah. All this culminates with the midnight Mass and the announcement of the angels with the song Glory to God in the Highest. And further, all of this points forward to the PASCHAL MYSTERY at Easter,
the highest feast of the year. The road to Bethlehem merges with the road to Emmaus.