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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon) (8)
“The mystery of faith.”
For more on this moment in the Eucharistic Prayers, see Eucharistic Prayer III (4).
In Eastern-rite Churches the sacraments are called “mysteries”: μυστήριον. Even before Christianity “mystery” as a religious term represented the belief that through certain celebrations of worship the deeds of a god were made present for that religion’s initiates. In those religions only those who were initiated into the mysteries could participate; it was for a select few. That is the palest shadow of the mystery of faith we contemplate in the celebration of the Eucharist. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians describes the mystery of Christ in a way that refutes any exclusivity when it comes to the mystery of Christ:
[The mystery of Christ] was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…(Ephesians 3:5-6).
In Paul’s moment of salvation history he marveled at the saving plan of God being revealed to also include the Gentiles, not just the Jews. Salvation history is a mystery that keeps unfurling and straining to extend to everyone, not just an exclusive few.
Bishop Marcello Semeraro defined the Biblical meaning of mystery as a divine, transcendent, salvific reality that in some way is revealed and made manifest in history (cf. M. SEMERARO, Mistero, comunione e missione, EDB, Bologna 2008,p.13). Every sacrament is a sign that commemorates the past, effects something in the present, and testifies to the future; it connects us to the past, present, and future of salvation.
As the celebrant invites us to consider the mystery of faith, our hearts and minds in this moment can turn to the wonderful fact that in this moment, salvation history wants to reach me. As the Body and Precious Blood just consecrated sit upon the corporal on the altar the great mystery we try to fathom is that through them Our Lord is not only present to us, but his work of salvation extends to us as well. Christ in mystery sits upon that altar and invites our faith.
The work of our salvation didn’t conclude with our Baptism, nor can it be put on hold until the day we ask for the Anointing of the Sick just before we go to meet our Maker. From birth to burial we need to bask in the saving mystery of Christ; the more “exposure,” the more benefit, not only for us, but for all those we love. We can’t just let salvation history make a stop to visit and then continue on its way; we need to unite our life’s journey with Christ’s, and we do that through prayer, the sacraments, and living a holy life.
Faith not only helps us identify the mystery; it draws us into it. Let’s stay connected, in faith, to the mystery of Christ in order to follow him and never fall behind or lose touch.
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