Mystagogy Series

Beautiful Light: A Paschal Mystagogy, Part VII—The Joy of Trinitarian Adoration

Welcome to Beautiful Light, a liturgical catechesis rooted in the Church’s mystagogical tradition. Mystagogy is an ancient form of catechesis that helps us go deeper into the mysteries we celebrate in the sacraments. Every week a new theme will help you focus on the graces available to you through the Mass as you prayerfully reflect on the content.

Imagine the Rite

Yes, you sense the truth present before you: Jesus makes all things new. You cannot contain the joy as you realize an eternal answer to your deepest longing. The priest takes the chalice and the paten which hold the Holy Eucharist and lifts both high, for you, for all, to adore. “Through him, with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.” For ever and ever, yes—this is what your heart so deeply desires. A love that never ends. A peace that cannot be disrupted. A joy that can only be amplified. You respond from the depths of your heart and with a loud voice, “Amen”—the ancient response of Israel, the only response that can capture your assent. Yes, this is what you want: the greater honor and glory of God.

Reflection Question

We have just entered into the great mystery of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and we look at the raised host and chalice. We prepare to receive the Lord either fully or spiritually. Can we fail to experience the definitive expression of divine love for us? Do we offer ourselves and all that we do through him, with him, and in him?

Catholic priest and young adults worshiping with smiling faces

Excerpt from the Church Fathers

Sing to the Lord a new song; his praise is in the assembly of the saints. We are urged to sing a new song to the Lord, as new men who have learned a new song. A song is a thing of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love. Anyone, therefore, who has learned to love the new life has learned to sing a new song, and the new song reminds us of our new life. The new man, the new song, the new covenant, all belong to the one kingdom of God, and so the new man will sing a new song and will belong to the new covenant...

”My dear brothers and sons, fruit of the true faith holy seed of heaven, all you who have been born again in Christ and whose life is from above, listen to me; or rather, listen to the Holy Spirit saying through me: Sing to the Lord a new song. Look, you tell me, I am singing. Yes indeed, you are singing; you are singing clearly, I can hear you. But make sure that your life does not contradict your words. Sing with your voices, your hearts, your lips and your lives: Sing to the Lord a new song.

“Now it is your unquestioned desire to sing of him whom you love, but you ask me how to sing his praises. You have heard the words: Sing to the Lord a new song, and you wish to know what praises to sing. The answer is: His praise is in the assembly of the saints; it is in the singers themselves. lf you desire to praise him, then live what you express. Live good lives, and you yourselves will be his praise.”

—St. Augustine

A Catechetical Reflection on the Rite

The Doxology is a moment of summary. It is contained not merely in word but also in the gesture of the priest (or the priest and deacon) who raises the host and chalice for all to see, adore, and recognize the One who saves us. It compels us to recognize what we have celebrated and how we are united to the action of the priest. Our great “amen” is an affirmation of our belief and a recognition of the implications for our daily life.

The Trinitarian expression also resonates with our baptism into new life with the Triune God. I am reminded of the great Cathedral of St. Paul in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The building is a triangle—an invitation to visualize the distinctive nature of Christianity among the monotheistic religions. We believe in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are baptized in that faith, and we assent to it at every Mass, which begins with the sign of the cross, is punctuated with this Doxology, and concludes with the blessing of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The roof of that same cathedral is supported by seven cables tethered to an immense cross to convey that the Church is sustained by the seven sacraments, the fruits of the Cross of Christ. Our “amen” affirms our assent to the faith of the Church and our desire to deepen our understanding of what we believe.

Close-up of person praying with folded hands

After we have completed our catechetical training, with the exception of an occasional adult education course, the liturgy remains our opportunity to deepen our understanding of the faith. We are enriched by the Word of God and invited to increase our devotion and develop our conversation with the Lord by frequent participation in his dialogue with us. When we participate actively, we learn.

Consequently, I always change a verb such as “attend” or some form of “to be” when it refers to participation in the sacred liturgy. We are not invited to be passive spectators, as if we were going to the movies or a play. We are invited to participate in, through, and with the God who loves and saves us. We are privileged to unite ourselves with the mystery that saved us from sin and opened for us the privilege of everlasting life.

Indeed, the element of a journey and the notion that we are pilgrims are also a part of our celebration. Our contemporary world tries very hard to anchor us only in today, as if the human person were merely a consumer or able to be satisfied completely with material goods and the fulfillment of all of his or her whims. No, we journey to life without end, and the Bread of life is the nourishment that transforms us and allows us to move forward to the fullness of life on the other side of the threshold of death. It allows us to sing a new song that enlivens our daily steps and draws in others.

Crowd of people adoring the Eucharist in a monstrance

Living Christ Today

If we deepen our understanding of the Doxology and the great “amen” that is the assembly’s assent to this summary of our identity and our way of living, we discover two useful concepts that guide our “ordinary” activities.

The first reassures us that we are not “out there” alone, as if we had been cast out on a raft in a swift-moving river. There are challenges; we face some adversity; the Gospel message is demanding and sometimes counter-cultural. We never ignore that challenge. Our eyes are open.

However, we have been redeemed by Christ and filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. It is the same Spirit that animated the Apostles on Pentecost. We are fortified so that we can dwell in him, operate through him, and never be without him. It is essential to recognize the strength that we draw from the Eucharist. His divine nourishment empowers us for the tasks that stem from our membership in the Body of Christ. We are living stones that complete the mosaic and contribute to a clear image of the Lord’s action in today’s world.

Linked to that dimension is the notion that nothing is ordinary or routine, because “the world is charged with the grandeur of God,” as the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins, S.J., reminds us. We always have the possibility to draw on divine grace—his life within us in everything that we do. Every moment can be graced if we draw on our identity as beloved by God.

The Risen Lord uttered a greeting of peace to the Apostles locked in the Upper Room. That is always his greeting to us, because we dwell in his presence. Think about some great figures of the recent past such as Cardinal Van Thuan or others imprisoned for their faith. They persevered. They drew on the Lord’s presence even in what seemed utter darkness. We have also been anointed with the chrism of salvation, and with that comes the charge to fill our world with the fragrance of the Gospel.

At Pentecost, the Apostles were sent out to announce the message of salvation to the whole world. We, having been privileged to participate in his saving action, are sent out with the good news for all to hear. Our “amen” signifies our readiness for the task.

Through the Beautiful Light series, each week from April 13 to May 25, 2023, you'll be invited to go deeper into the mysteries of the Mass through four steps:

1. Meditating on a rite (or part) of the Mass;

2. Reading an excerpt from one of the Church Fathers related to the rite;

3. Engaging with a catechetical reflection on the rite of the Mass;

4. Considering how you can “Live Christ Today,” bridging your experience of faith with your daily life of discipleship.

We also invite you to go even deeper by praying with our Eucharistic Prayer Companions for the Easter Season [English | Spanish] which connect every week to our Mystagogy series.