Reflecting on, Talking about Liturgy – the Work of the Priestly People

Mary Magdala Community

“Reflecting on, Talking about Liturgy – the Work of the Priestly People”©

by Rev. Jim Ryan,

Homily thoughts and Community Sharing on the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 5, 2016

This month of June we as a community will reflect on and talk with each other about our Worship.  It is about Liturgy, the ancient word that we recall is translated as the “work of the people.”  What follows begins with thoughts by myself and then the sharing by community members.  Since this typed out sharing is based upon my remembering what people said, let me first apologize for any misstatements and faulty recollections.  We all would welcome corrections, additions, and further reflection.  These can be added in the Comments section at the end of this entry.  

Liturgy is the work of the people.  This was what we thought we had resurrected over 50 years ago when theologians, teachers, historians and others translated the word, liturgy, for the bishops at Vatican II.  That was then.  This is now.  Now, all these years on of practice, insight, and transformation have convinced us that we are a people who are baptized to be a nation, a community of priests to serve our God.  We are a priestly people and liturgy is the work of the priestly people.

The whole liturgy is the work of the priestly people.  We, the Body of Christ, see that this liturgy we do is both promise and gift.  The promise is our Liturgy of the Word.  God promises, we listen.  We chew on God’s words, and here at Mary of Magdala Community we discuss at homily time what God’s promises mean.  We discuss among ourselves what we experience individually as God’s Word in our lives.  We gain insight from each one’s sharing and witness.

God’s promise leads to God’s gift.  We gather in the Name of Jesus.  We recall his gift, the bread and wine he said was his body and blood.  We make this gift real through liturgy – the work of the priestly people.  We together say the words of institution and, together, eat and drink his presence among us.

First question:  Since we have come this far as God’s priestly people what can we make of our future?  How will we pray within the circle of this promise and gift?  How will we work as God’s priestly people?

Second, the contemporary French philosopher, Jean-Yves Lacoste reminds us in his work of the beauty and the power of the word “presence” (the same word and spelling in English and French).  Presence is an umbrella term that relates to both space and time, as in 1) we are present here, and 2) we are present now.  Presence has the power to suspend confining walls of routine and ritual.  When we pray, when we are present to each other, we move through sacred space and time.  Liturgy as it takes place among us does so as a sacred presence – each one to each other and us together before God.

Second question:  How may we enjoy this sacred presence – working as we are as community at prayer?

Finally, liturgy has the quality of those occasions (surely we have all had them) those moments that we want to last forever.  You know, those times we say, “I wish this would never end.”  Well, what if this is not a mere senseless wish but is rather an indication that we can reach through to that dimension of eternity?  Suspend space and time, realize the sacred presence, and reach through to blessed timelessness and boundlessness.  Perhaps the calm and sense of fulfillment of such experiences, such liturgical experiences, is in fact a vision into the neverendingness to which we are destined.  In this community, within this worship circle we have shared with each other those moments and occasions of just such an experience of community at prayer before God.

Third question:  How do I/we recognize this experience, this performance of Sacred Presence?  Is this the manifestation of eternity in the here and now?

Others shared in this way as we reflected upon our worship.  (Again, my apologies for missing or misstating.  Please add your thoughts below.)

  • Discussion began with members sharing contrasts between their experience of liturgy with our Mary of Magdala community and recent experiences with other congregations. At one, the message that the preacher gave was that only in the official liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church does one have “authentic liturgical experiences.”  For this person, it is the contrary.  What we celebrate here is what this person sees as authenticate liturgical experience.
  • Another member shared hearing a Deacon preaching at a Mass recently. He asked the congregation, rhetorically of course, “ Who is the most important person at Mass today?”  This person immediately thought of the other persons in surrounding pews.  Surely each of us is the “most important.”  Or could it be Jesus?  Not so, according to the inquiring Deacon.  It is the priest, the one who will make Christ present.  The Priest is the most important person at Mass.  This person recounting all this to us could not disagree more.

Following these contrasts here is some of what others offered as we reflected upon our worship in this community.

  • We, together, share equally in the liturgy. This is a wonderful part of worship at Mary of Magdala community.  We share the message with each other, breaking open the Word of God.  Having several people share their own thoughts widens the message.
  • It is so good that women have equal and full voice in this community, especially at liturgy.
  • We are the Body of Christ – each one a priestly person. The mystical insights we share on how we as a community are this body is an encouraging witness of faith.
  • We come from different life experiences and backgrounds. Yet, what we share here in common is such a powerful expression of the faith we celebrate.
  • We take care of this space in this time we have together. We put up and take down those things we use for worship.  In this we are the keepers of the shrine.  These things we do in support of our community worship.
  • In liturgy we show ourselves that we are open to new and other ways to listen to the word as we speak to each other. There is a variety and a diversity in our common faith.
  • We are seekers and are willing to share this search with each other.
  • Reflecting on today’s readings especially 1 Kings and Luke where instant responses by Elijah and Jesus created “instant liturgies.” On the spot, both responded to human need and created a liturgy – a work of the priestly people – that gave new life.  Beyond our formal liturgies we can also create such instant liturgies by our actions.
  • Our liturgies celebrate God who is immanent and not transcendent. This sense of God’s presence among us is a clear aspect of our worship.  We also celebrate as a community at prayer the call we have as creatures in creation and the responsibility that puts on us to sustain this gift.
  • We participate equally as a priestly people in worship. If someone came along and said, “Only the Priest will read the Gospel” or “Only the Priest will say the words of consecration,” those would be dealbreakers for me.  We, the priestly people, assert the equal sharing to which our Baptism requires of us.
  • It seems to me that the gifts could be brought into our worship circle and placed in front of the lectern. They always seem a little neglected outside the circle.  Well, that just has been on my mind.
  • It would be great to return to the practice of the early followers of Jesus. Their gatherings were a time of sharing the Word, of talking with each other about applying the message, of laying hands on those who were sick and in need of help.  For them eucharist was more of a potluck dinner, a gathering with friends over a good meal and taking care of others.

Please add your thoughts………………..

A Prayer from “Iona Abbey Worship Book”

O God, open to us today the sea of your mercy

And water us with full streams from the riches of your grace and springs of your kindness.

Make us children of quietness and heirs of peace.

Kindle in us the fire of your love:  sow in us your fear;  strengthen our weakness by your power and bind us close to you and to each other.


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