Liturgical Minute 4: The "Work" of Liturgy
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The New Liturgy of the Revised Roman Missal
Liturgical Minutes No. 4
The “Work” of Liturgy
The word “liturgy” refers to all of the official public rites in our worship, to include the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist – the Mass.
The word “liturgy” comes from the Greek that referred to a “public work.” Today, the term “public work” might refer to the construction of a highway or public building, but in New Testament times, it referred to an activity or service performed on behalf of the people. Jesus referred to his preaching to the people and his healing miracles as performing the “work” given to him by his Father. In the last prayer offered to his Father at the Last Supper before his crucifixion, as recorded in the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed, “I glorify you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.”
The celebration of the Mass is also intended to carry on the “work” of Christ in today’s world. In the Mass, there are elements that the priest performs “for the faithful” or “on behalf of the faithful,” and there are other elements that are performed “by the faithful” gathered as the liturgical assembly. Our active participation in the Mass, whether sung or through spoken prayers, through our attentive listening, and even our silent prayers, is considered as being work – that is, our active participation in the carrying on of the work of Christ – his work of loving us, and his work of saving us.