Recently we shared with you the Liturgy Committee’s vision for the celebration of liturgy in the parish. We continue to explore the implications of this vision statement.
The gifts of culture and experience also challenge us to find common understanding. The clear, simple and careful preparation and use of liturgical symbols is key to transcending barriers so that all may grow in faith.
“The signs of celebration should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetition; they should be ‘within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.’ ” (United States Bishops’ Conference, 1972, Music in Catholic Worship, article 8)
The Mass has many symbols within it that allow us to engage with the ritual and to encounter Christ. To understand the power of our symbols, let’s take one that we use each time we enter the church – the holy water.
This holy water is baptismal water. Each time we sign ourselves with the baptismal water, we are recalling our own baptism. It is a baptism that makes us a member of this Church and gives us the right to enter and to fully celebrate the rituals that occur here.
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans (6:3-4): “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” This passage is proclaimed annually at the Easter Vigil; it is central to our baptismal theology.
So when we are baptised, we should be plunged into the waters of the font so that we may feel like we are dying, but rise to new life. We should witness and participate in such baptisms over and over again with people who join our community, celebrating their sharing in eternal life.
A baptism that truly feels like we die and rise with Christ makes our daily or weekly ritual of dipping our fingers into the holy water far more powerful. Suddenly a little bit of water makes a profound, repetitive impact on our faith. It becomes the life-giving water that keeps us from thirsting again.
And all this (please pardon the pun), only skims the surface of what holy water means. So imagine what would happen when we start thinking about all the other symbols. All of them are our own visible, tangible signs of the reality that is our sharing in Christ’s Paschal Mystery.