In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Pope Francis expresses himself in these words: «The Church evangelizes and is evangelized by the beauty of the liturgy, which is also the celebration of the work of evangelisation as well as the source of a renewed impulse to give oneself» (para. 24).
With these words the Pope recalls the extraordinary power of the lex orandi, which, by its performance, by its implementation on the part of the Church, becomes a pre-eminent manifestation of the lex credendi, of the Mystery, which the same liturgy celebrates by its rites and prayers. What the Pope highlights is important, and certainly a definitive rejection of ritualism and the cult of ceremonial, in favour instead of the rediscovery of the deep richness of Christian celebration that has its roots in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, of which the rite is nothing other than a manifestation in prayer.
The role of liturgical study, and so of those means which, as in the case of this journal, put themselves at its service, is as far as possible to bring out the beauty of the liturgy by reference to its real sources, the sources from which such beauty wells up and pours forth. The “way of beauty” therefore becomes the mandate of the Church, which, by realising through the liturgy the priestly office of Christ, becomes an instrument of salvation for the whole world. We could say, as a result, that the Church evangelizes with the liturgy or, even, that the work of evangelization finds its culmination in celebration. This is made clear in para. 6 of Sacrosanctum concilium where we read: «Therefore, as Christ was sent by the Father, so also he has sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. By preaching the Gospel to all people, they were not only to proclaim that by his death and resurrection the Son of God has freed us from the power of Satan and from death, and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Father; they were also to implement the work of salvation they proclaimed, by means of the sacrifice and the sacraments around which the entire life of the liturgy turns». So the work of salvation is accomplished by bringing into close relationship the Word, and therefore evangelization, with what makes the Word itself effective and carries it out – the liturgy, of which the Eucharist is its culmination: «[The Church] has never ceased to celebrate the Paschal Mystery by meeting together to read “in all the Scriptures the things that refer to him” (Lk 24, 27), and, in the memorial of the Lord and by the sacraments, to realise the work of salvation. “Preaching the word”, is in fact “necessary for the actual ministry of the sacraments, since it deals with sacraments of faith, which is born and nourished by the word”. Nourished spiritually at each of these tables, the Church is enriched, on the one hand, in its doctrine and, on the other, is strengthened in holiness. In the word of God the divine covenant is proclaimed, while the Eucharist renews that very covenant, which is both new and eternal. At the one, salvation history is evoked afresh in the sound of words; at the other, the same salvation is again presented in the sacramental signs of the liturgy. It must always be borne in mind that the word of God, read by the Church and proclaimed in the liturgy, leads in some way, as its proper end, to the sacrifice of the covenant and the banquet of grace, that is, to the Eucharist» (Ordo lectionum missae, para. 10).
The Opus Dei does not remain enclosed in the rite, but seeks his own verification in life: the lex vivendi! «Joyful evangelization – says Pope Francis in Evangelii gaudium – is realised as beauty in the liturgy, in the midst of the daily need progress in doing good».
So the liturgy, besides being the celebration of the work of evangelisation and its effective implementation, has the responsibility to instil in the people of God a renewed impetus to progress in doing good and to imitate in our lives the deep love of which the sacrifice of Christ is sacramentum et exemplum.
PIETRO ANGELO MURONI