Monday, February 4, 2008

The Sacramental Economy and the Liturgy as the Work of the Trinity (Part One)

Today comes part one of a two part post on the Sacramental Economy and the Liturgy as the Work of the Trinity.

Sacramental Economy

When we think of the word “economy” we generally think of dollars and cents. The English word actually comes from the Greek word “oikonomia” which means a father’s plan for his children. In learning and understanding salvation history, we begin to understand our heavenly Father’s plan for our salvation. From covenant to covenant, God prepared the world for the coming of his Son, who would redeem us of sin through his passion, death, and resurrection.

This “economy” does take a form similar to what we think of as economics – but in this case we are talking about spiritual economics! Paragraph 1076 explains: “[God the Father] acts through the sacraments in what the common Tradition of the East and the West calls 'the sacramental economy'; this is the communication (or 'dispensation') of the fruits of Christ's Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church's 'sacramental' liturgy.” You see, Christ merited for us all the graces needed for our salvation. Imparted through the Holy Spirit, God the Father is acts like a banker who dispenses (or communicates) graces freely to all who ask, via faith and sacrament.

[In case you're wondering: "Paschal mystery" refers to the the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus and "'sacramental' liturgy" means that Christ works through signs, perceptible to the human body, which actually do what the sign symbolizes. For instance, in baptism the water washing over the body points to the cleansing of the soul of original sin. This may be a bit confusing at the moment, but I will be talking more about it as we move along...]

The Father – Source and Goal of the Liturgy

Paragraphs 1077 to 1083 focus on the idea of blessing. I think we tend to use the word “blessing” quite often without ever really giving it much thought – thus I was happily surprised to run into a whole section on it in the Catechism! Hint: if you want to be happily surprised about your Faith, pick up the Catechism and start reading right now!

From the perspective of God, blessing “is a divine and life-giving action” while from our perspective, blessing “means adoration and surrender to [our] Creator in thanksgiving” (CCC 1078). Yesterday at Mass, Archbishop Flynn spoke of all that we have as a blessing from God. Indeed, the catechism in 1079 says that from “the beginning until the end of time the whole of God's work is a blessing.” I think this is important to remember. One popular author said that each man “is a great might-not-have-been.” We didn’t have to exist, yet the God of such blessings choose to create us out of love, that we might have life and communion with him.

Liturgy must always begin here. It’s called humility. Think about this when you pray (by song or speech) the Gloria at the beginning of Mass next Sunday. And if you are wondering how that Gloria goes:

Glory to God in the highest, and, peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Through liturgy, God is blessed (that is, adored and thanked) by man while man is blessed (that is, given grace - which is divine life). “In the Church's liturgy the divine blessing is fully revealed and communicated. The Father is acknowledged and adored as the source and the end of all the blessings of creation and salvation. In his Word who became incarnate, died, and rose for us, he fills us with his blessings. Through his Word, he pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1082). Notice here that the Catechism AGAIN focuses on the work of the Trinity as Father, Son (“Word”), and Holy Spirit!

Tomorrow I shall conclude this section with a look at the role of the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Liturgy!

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