Lesson Four: Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Liturgy of the Word
- To understand the deep biblical foundations for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
- To see how the Book of Revelation describes the liturgy of heaven.
- To understand how the Mass we celebrate on earth is a participation in the liturgy of heaven.
I. The Bible in Action
A. Lift Up Your Hearts
"Lift up your hearts!"
We hear these words at the high point of the Mass, at the start of the Eucharistic prayer.
In Scripture, the exhortation to "lift up" is often associated with offering one's self to God through prayer (see Psalm 25:1-2; Psalm 134:2).
In the one place where the specific expression, "lift up your hearts," is used, it is part of a cry for God's mercy and presence, and a vow to return to Him and serve Him (see Lamentations 3:41; Lamentations 2:19).
And the exhortation to "lift up your hearts" may well have been a part of the original celebration of the Eucharist.
But when we lift up our hearts in the Eucharist, there is a certain "realism" about it. It's not just a figure of speech. Our hearts are really going somewhere. We are lifting our hearts to heaven, joining our prayers of thanks and praise to those of the angels in heaven.
Our feet may still be planted on the ground in an ordinary parish church. But in the Mass, we enter heaven itself. We take our place in the ceaseless worship of the angels and the saints in heaven. Our liturgy on earth is part of the eternal heavenly liturgy. The Mass, in other words, is heaven on earth.
But before we go to heaven, we should review how the Mass has led us to this point.
B. The Bible Ends in the Mass
Thus far in our study, we've seen how the Bible and the Mass were made for each other. The "destination" that all of Scripture points to is the Mass. And the Mass is the Bible in action - right before our eyes the Scripture's saving truths are "actualized," made actual or real.
As we've seen, much of the prayer and worship of the Mass is taken directly from Scripture or is meant to evoke for us the events of salvation history recorded in Scripture.
Of course, in the Liturgy of the Word we actually hear the Word of God in Scripture. In fact, as we have seen, the Mass is the native environment of Scripture. The official "canon" of Scripture is first and foremost the list of books deemed by early Church authorities, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to be suitable for public reading in the liturgy.
When the Scriptures are read in church, God himself speaks to us and Christ is present. And He tells us, through the Sunday readings, how God's plan for our salvation has played out in history, leading us to the Eucharistic table.
Following the Word of God, we profess our faith "with one voice" in the words of the Creed.
Again, there is a biblical "precedent" for this practice of the Mass. In the Old Testament, the reading of Scripture is often followed by a profession of faith. Indeed, when God speaks, His Word requires an answer. The answer God desires is our vow of faith and obedience.
When Moses gave the Law to the Israelites, it was expected that they would answer. And they responded, "We will do everything that the Lord has told us" (see Exodus 24:3).
When priests rediscovered the book of the Law in the reign of Josiah, the king had it read in the presence of the people.Again we see that the reading of the Scriptures was understood to be a call to the people - a call that requires their response. That's why, after hearing the Word, the king made a covenant with God on behalf of the people, committing them to "keep His commandments, decrees, and statutes, with his whole heart and soul" (see 2 Chronicles 34:29-32; Nehemiah 9).
C. What We Believe
We do the same thing in the Mass. We hear the Word of God – spoken to us in our midst by Christ – and we respond to the story of salvation we hear in the readings from the Old and New Testaments. And that response takes the form of reciting of the Creed.
It is not just a rote recitation of articles of faith. When we say, "We believe . . ." we're saying what the Israelites said, and what King Josiah said – that we're ready to keep God's commands, to live in a way that's worthy of the words we've heard in the Scripture readings of the Mass.
Something else, too, about the Creed: Notice that it's an outline of the biblical story. In the Creed we repeat the history of our salvation - from the creation of heaven and earth through the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Ascension, right to the Last Judgment at the end of time.
And almost every word of the Creed we profess is drawn from Scripture - we profess our faith in the God revealed in Scripture, using the very words of Scripture.
To take just a few examples:
• We believe in "one God, the father" (see 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6); and in His "only Son" (see John 3:16); through whom all things were made (see Colossians 1:16).
• "For our sake" He was crucified (see 2 Corinthians 5:21); and He will one day come again to "judge the living and the dead" (see Acts 10:42), and His kingdom will have "no end" (see Luke 1:33).
• We believe in "one baptism" (see Ephesians 4:5) and the life of the world to come (see John 6:51).
After our profession of faith, we pray for one another and for those in need, another practice of the Mass that follows the example of the New Testament (see James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; Colossians 1:9).
- The Bible in Action
- The Liturgy in Heaven
- Worship in the New Jerusalem
- Study Questions
- Lesson One: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass
- 1. To understand basic Catholic beliefs about the relationship between the Bible and the Liturgy.
- To understand the biblical basis for the Mass.
- To understand how in the Mass, the written text of the Bible becomes Living Word.
- Lesson Two: Given for You - The Old Testament Story of Sacrifice
- To understand the biblical background to the Penitential Rite and the Gloria in the Mass.
- To understand how God is worshipped in the Old Testament.
- To understand the biblical notion of sacrifice as it is presented in the Old Testament.
- Lesson Three: One Sacrifice for All Time
- To understand the death of Jesus Christ on the cross as a sacrifice.
- To see the parallels between the Old Testament sacrifices and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
- To understand how that sacrifice is re-presented to us in the Mass.
- Lesson Four: Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Liturgy of the Word
- To understand Scripture as the living Word of God.
- To understand the place of Scripture at the center of the liturgy.
- To see Scripture as an encounter with Christ, the living Word of God.
- To see how the Liturgy of the Word prepares us for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
- Lesson Six: Memory and Presence: Communion as the Coming of Christ
- To understand the deep biblical foundations of Jesus’ command that the Eucharist be celebrated “in memory of Me.”
- To see how Scripture portrays Jesus as the Passover Lamb and how that portrayal is reflected in the Mass.
- To understand the Eucharist as parousia, the “coming” of Christ, and as the “daily bread” we pray for in the Our Father.