What is the essence of every liturgy?
Liturgy is always in the first place communion or fellowship with Jesus Christ. Every liturgy, not just the celebration of the Eucharist, is an Easter in miniature. Jesus reveals his passage from death to life and celebrates it with us.
The most important liturgy in the world was the Paschal liturgy that Jesus celebrated with his disciples in the Upper Room on the night before his death. The disciples thought that Jesus would be commemorating the liberation of Israel from Egypt. Instead, Jesus celebrated the liberation of all mankind from the power of death. Back in Egypt it was the “blood of the lamb” that preserved the Israelites from the angel of death. Now he himself would be the Lamb whose blood saves mankind from death. For Jesus’ death and Resurrection is the proof that someone can die and nevertheless gain life.
This is the genuine substance of every Christian liturgy. Jesus himself compared his death and Resurrection with Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Therefore, the redemptive effect of Jesus’ death and Resurrection is called the Paschal mystery. There is an analogy between the life-saving blood of the lamb at the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (Ex 12) and Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb that has redeemed mankind from the bondage of death and sin.
Who celebrates the liturgy?
In all earthly liturgies, Christ the Lord himself is the one who celebrates the cosmic liturgy, which encompasses angels and men, the living and the dead, the past, present, and future, heaven and earth. Priests and believers participate in different ways in Christ’s divine worship.
When we celebrate the liturgy, we must prepare ourselves interiorly for the great thing that takes place in it: here and now Christ is present and, with him, all of heaven. There everyone is filled with unspeakable joy and at the same time with loving care for us. The last book of Sacred Scripture, Revelation, portrays in mysterious images this liturgy to which we here on earth join our voices.
What is the Liturgy of the Hours?
The Liturgy of the Hours is the universal, public prayer of the Church. Biblical readings lead the person who prays it ever deeper into the mystery of the life of Jesus Christ. Throughout the world this gives the Triune God the opportunity at every hour of the day to transform gradually those who pray and also the world. The Liturgy of the Hours is prayed not only by priests and religious. Many Christians who take their faith seriously join their voices with the many thousands of praises and petitions that ascend to God from all over the world.
The seven “hours of prayer” are like a treasury of the Church’s prayers. It also loosens our tongues when we have become speechless because of joy, sorrow, or fear. Again and again one is astonished in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours: an entire reading “coincidentally” applies precisely to my situation. God hears us when we call to him. He answers us in these texts – often in a way that is so specific as to be almost disconcerting. In any case he also allows us to have long periods of silence and dryness so that we can demonstrate our fidelity.