Revised translation of the Missal
After Vatican II, when the word liturgy sprang into more common usage, its definition (from the Greek leitourgia) – the work of the people or work on behalf of the people – soon resulted in an emphasis solely on the first, rather than the more important second understanding.
Some explain this as a consequence of the Council’s call for “full, active and conscious participation” (Constitution on the Sacred Litugy, art. 14) in the worship of the Church as the “right and duty” of the Christian people, particularly as inspaniduals and the entire assembly gradually assumed a more active role in liturgical celebrations.
It is true that, immediately after the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, the tendency was to focus on the assembly’s role in the celebration of the liturgy while failing, perhaps, to recognize the more important “work of God” being accomplished in the assembly’s midst.
While a better balance in understanding both aspects of the liturgy now exists, an even greater grasp of what the Church believes and teaches about the Sacred Liturgy will bring forth much fruit for the life of the Church.
The Sacred Lliturgy is the Church’s official public and communal worship. While the celebration of the Eucharist is the Church’s principal act of worship, the liturgy also includes the celebration of the six additional sacraments, the official daily prayer of the Church (the Liturgy of the Hours) and liturgies for special celebrations.
As the Church’s official worship, each of these liturgies has at its heart the celebration of the “Mystery of our Faith” – that is, the sacred passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This mystery, known as the Paschal Mystery, is the continuing work of our redemption by Christ and through his Church.
Leitourgia in the New Testament referred to the participation of early Christians in the “work of God,” the continuing work of their redemption (cf. Jn. 17:4). While leitourgia also referred at times to the proclamation of the good news and charitable works, it referred particularly to the gathering of small Christian communities for prayer and, especially, for the “breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42).
Held as sacred by the Church through the ages, the Sacred Liturgy is understood as an “exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ” (ibid., art. 7).
It is he who, as both victim and priest, continues His self-offering to the Father, interceding on our behalf at every Liturgy. It is He, as head of His body the Church, His Mystical Body on earth, who makes present in the midst of the assembly His work of redemption. It is He who also joins to His eternal sacrifice the humble self-offering of the gathered faithful. And it is through Him, with Him, and in Him that our grateful praise and thanksgiving reach the Father in the power of the Spirit.
The Liturgy is, then, our participation in Jesus’ prayer, in His obedience and self-offering to the Father. Through that participation, the Liturgy becomes our work, the “work of the Church.”
We, as Catholics, must understand every liturgical celebration first and foremost as the work of God – through, with and in Jesus Christ; it is His saving work for us and in us. Only then can we understand it as “our work” of responding with praise, thanksgiving, supplication and fidelity.
This understanding is, with the Spirit’s help, the way to a deeper experience of a most profound mystery of our faith.
For more resources on the revised translation of the Roman Missal, visit the archdiocesan Office for Worship’s web site, http://archphila.org/Roman Missal/Roman Missal.html