Part 10: The rock and keystone of our faith

Friday, December 11, 2015 - Updated: 6:00 am
By Father James R. Gretz

Part 10 of a weekly series.

I am one of those priests who wears multiple hats. Let me share something about each of them with you.

One of my hats is as director of the Department for Worship. In this ministry, I assist Bishop David Zubik in his role as the chief custodian of the liturgy in the Church of Pittsburgh. I also consult with parishes on liturgical improvements and construction projects that impact the liturgy, oversee the training of liturgical ministers and answer any liturgical questions that arise.

Another of my hats is as diocesan master of ceremonies. In this ministry, whenever large liturgies take place at St. Paul Cathedral or at special parish events such as the dedication of a church or altar, my staff and I are responsible for all the liturgical preparations for that Mass. Once the Mass begins, I am responsible for the flow of the liturgy, making sure what is supposed to happen happens.

My third hat is as administrator of All Saints Parish in Etna. In this ministry, I am responsible for the care of the souls of the parish. I celebrate the sacraments and sacramentals of parish life. I personally see that the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are carried out. I try my best to bring Christ and be Christ to the parishioners.

All my hats lead to the same place — the altar. More than just a large piece of furniture, the altar has been anointed with sacred chrism in the Rite of Dedication. The altar then becomes Christ, the rock and keystone of our faith.

The altar, and by extension, the Mass, has a singular role in our task of being On Mission for The Church Alive! Without the altar, we’d have no mission, no parish, no church and no means of praising God.

People lament how the Mass "used to be." They tell me how sacred it used to be. They say that it was standing room only and "you can’t imagine how people used to dress for Mass!"

It’s time to turn our praise of God into even more vibrant worship. Fifty-two years ago the Second Vatican Council called for a worldwide liturgical renewal. That renewal is still being implemented today.

The council’s liturgical document called for "full, active and conscious participation" at the liturgy. As a presider, I want the congregation to be more fully present, more actively engaged and ever-conscious of God’s presence at Mass.

The council defined the liturgy as the "summit and source of our lives." Is it? Imagine if people would come to Mass with the same excitement and anticipation found in so many other aspects of life.

Finally, the council reminded us that liturgy is a "foretaste of heaven." At liturgy, Christ is fully present in the assembly. He is present in the presider, in the word proclaimed and in the Eucharist. We are able to experience Christ here and now. What a gift!

Now is the time to make our liturgical celebrations the best they can be. We can share the gifts and talents God has given us. We can prepare for, excitedly anticipate and participate in the celebration of Mass more gloriously.

When we do all this, what a celebration it will be!

Father Gretz is director of the diocesan Department for Worship.

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