This past Wednesday, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, published an Apostolic Letter on the liturgical formation of the people of God entitled “Desiderio Desideravi” (‘greatly desired’). The title is taken from St. Luke 22:15 when Our Lord introduces the Last Supper to His Apostles saying, “I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you.” Pope Francis meditates on that theme for several paragraphs at this start of the document to bring out the core of our belief that in the liturgy we are encountering the Risen and living Christ who personally calls each of us to communion with Him in the Mass. “The Incarnation,” he writes, “in addition to being the only always new event that history knows, is also the very method that the Holy Trinity has chosen to open to us the way of communion. Christian faith is either an encounter with Him alive, or it does not exist.” The Pope explains that in the Mass we are not encountering a “vague memory” of Christ, but we enter into the experience of His Paschal Mystery — we are a part of it, present for it, just as Mary and the Apostles were present to experience it.
Continuing with this thought, Pope Francis considers how our worship in the liturgy has always been part of God’s plan for our redemption. He recalls the words used to bless baptismal water, which “reveals to us that God created water precisely with Baptism in mind.” The invitation to Baptism incorporates us into the Mystical Body of Christ which enables us to worship the Father through the Son. “Without this incorporation there is not possibility of living the fullness of the worship of God...the only possibility of being able to participate in His offering is by becoming ‘sons of the Son’.”
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council envisioned that this theological understanding of the liturgy would be rediscovered by modern Catholics. The liturgy is, as Pope Francis calls it, the “antidote for the poison of spiritual worldliness.” The encounter we have with Jesus Christ in the sacred liturgy is meant to draw us out of the world. This means that the liturgy is not just “decorative ceremonies” or pageantry, but a “symbolic language” which draws us out of space and time and toward the Father.
This summary brings us through the first third of the document. I will revisit this document in sections over the next few weeks.