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  • Immersed in Christ

The Greeting

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight


View readings for today:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011723.cfm


Dear Readers: Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)


When the Entrance chant is concluded, the [presider]... together with the whole gathering, makes the Sign of the Cross. Then he signifies the presence of the Lord to the community gathered there by means of the Greeting. By this Greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest. [1]


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the communion of the Holy Spirit

be with you all.


After the Sign of the Cross, the presider greets the people with the words above or with the shorter form that Paul used to begin all thirteen of the letters attributed to him: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Or he may just say, “The Lord be with you.” [2]


We shouldn’t just let these words slip by. The Greeting is a perfect example of the principle, “You will never be bored at Mass if you just pay attention to the words.”


What is the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”? I have asked this of gathered Christians innumerable times and never received a sure, precise answer. But these words should be so ingrained in our heads and hearts that just hearing them makes us vibrate all over.

The “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the favor of sharing in the divine life of God. That is exciting!


We begin the Mass announcing that we are divine! You are divine. The person next to you is divine. Does that give you something to think about or not?


We explained this mystery above. Here we just need to note that if we really listen to the Greeting it will define us and excite us at the same time. It is the Good News!


And the love of God...” The Mass in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian and Polish changes this to “the love of God the Father.” That makes the Greeting explicitly Trinitarian. Here again, the words should make us vibrate. Haven’t we all experienced the love of God? Do we think so often of the ways we have experienced his love that just hearing the words “love of the Father” sets us tingling?


Well, maybe not. But it should. And it can, if we let every Mass remind us to think back and remember his “great deeds” in our lives — and his “random acts of kindness.” Love lives on remembering. The Mass is loaded with remembrance.


And communion in the Holy Spirit...” We spent some time on this above. The presider is just reminding us that we are a faith community, an assembly united by shared faith, shared hope, shared love. We are here to experience the Holy Spirit, and to “manifest the gifts of the Spirit.”


Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.[3]


The point is, there are no “silent spectators” at Mass. Everyone is there to minister. Everyone is there to make the Mass “happen” for themselves and others. And we do it in a variety of ways: — in all the ways we express our faith. Our hope. Our love. All the ways that reveal the presence of the Spirit in our hearts. For example:


The entrance hymn: This is the first pass-fail test that reveals whether we are intend to just “be at Mass” or to “celebrate Eucharist.” Singing is a service. A gift of self.


Body language. Is mine as reverent as if I were up on the altar? In spite of architectural appearances, if the church were a theater, the sanctuary would not be the stage. The Mass is “theater in the round.” Everyone in church is an actor, a player. There are no spectators except perhaps the “great a cloud of witnesses” in heaven by whom Hebrews says we are surrounded.[4]


Gestures. Do I genuflect or bow when I enter church? Do I look at Christ in the tabernacle when I do? When I make the Sign of the Cross, does my mind seem to be somewhere else? When I stand or sit or kneel, am I consciously giving symbolic expression to an identified attitude? When the minister makes the Sign of the Cross on the book and on his forehead, lips, and breast before reading the Gospel, do I do it with him, desiring in my heart what these gestures mean? Whether I choose to receive Communion in my hand or on my tongue, do I know why I am making this choice? What I am saying by it?


The responses: When I join in the responses and “acclamations” as a member of the “chorus” when the congregation voices its union with the presider, do I sound like I mean what I am saying? Do I sound that way to my children? Do I mumble or proclaim?[5]


We could continue with examples, but these are enough to confront us with the basic choice: Do I want to participate in the “Eucharistic celebration” as a Catholic? This means giving that “full and active participation by all the people” that the bishops in the Second Vatican Council said was their “paramount concern” in the “restoration and development of the sacred liturgy.”[6]


Active participation in the Mass, they said, is the “indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.” We have seen that proven by the distressing number of youth and adults who, feeling that they were not “getting anything” out of the Mass, have just stopped assembling with the Church.


For that reason, the Council said, pastors should “energetically set about achieving” this participation through “whatever formation is necessary.” But it makes no difference what the pastors do if the congregation won’t cooperate.


That is a motive to take seriously this topic booklet and the Daily Lectionary Reflections of Immersed in Christ that accompany it. We are all called and consecrated by Baptism to be ministers and “priests” to one another. If we don’t accept to let the Spirit work actively in us at Mass for the good of all, when and where will we do it?[7]


All the bishops of the world, assembled at the Vatican Council, signed the statement:


Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation...” is their right and duty by reason of their Baptism.


Does this united plea of the bishops animate me to really “get into” the Mass? Do I find that prospect exciting?


“The Lord be with you”

There has been much discussion about the change the new Missal makes in the assembly’s response to “The Lord be with you,” which appears for the first time as the third optional Greeting in the Mass. Now, instead of responding, “And also with you,” the people will answer, “And with your spirit.”


Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, deceased Archbishop of Paris, would say we are focusing on the wrong phrase! He would have us focus on the greeting instead of on the response. The actual words of greeting are just “The Lord with you.”


Cardinal Lustiger prefers this Greeting to all the others, saying that it “sums up the whole history of salvation.” In Latin, Greek and Hebrew the wording is precisely and concisely, “The Lord with you.” This is the expression, he says, not of a wish but of a fact — “non un souhait, mais un fait.”


More than a wish, it is an act of faith, an affirmation which courses through all of Scripture, recognizing God unceasingly present to his people: thus, “with you.” It is the best of all blessings, for it is a condensed formulation of the Covenant God entered into with his people on Mount Sinai.


The Lord with you” pronounces the Name of God revealed to Moses.... Whether we say in Latin Dominus, in Greek Kyrios, or in Hebrew Adonai, the divine Name means God is with us. It is the revelation, not only of the Being of God, but of the presence of God to his people. To say, “The Lord with you” is to affirm the core of God’s Revelation: that God himself has covenanted to take up residence among his people. It is to renew, in hope and thanksgiving, the Covenant made through Moses.[8]


If we pay attention to the words, we will be led into depths of meaning that escape any particular translation or formulation. That is exciting!


Questions for reflection and discussion:

  • What is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

  • What experiences have you had of the “love of God”?

  • To what extent do you feel “communion in the Holy Spirit” at Mass?

  • What does “the Lord be with you” really mean?

  • What more could you do to take that “full, conscious and active part” in the Mass that the bishops proclaim is your “right and duty”?

[1]General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 2002, no 50. [2]The text under the title is the ending of 2Corinthians 13:14. The liturgy makes it more personal by changing Paul’s “the Lord” to “our Lord.” There are slight modifications of the second greeting in three of Paul’s letters. [3]1Corinthians 12:7. [4]Hebrews 12:1. [5] Vatican II lists these and other acts of participation in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 30. [6] See doc. cit., the Constitution... nos 11, 14 , 17, 19, 21, 30, and 41. [7] See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 783: “Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit as Priest, Prophet and King, The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them.” [8]La Messe, Bayard, 1988, pp. 56-57. See Exodus 3:14.


Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

www.ImmersedinChrist.org

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