introduction:

GATHERING & SENDING

     Each Liturgy Resource is framed by an opening and closing section. The opening section provides some ideas to begin relating the experience of this community which gathers with the themes of the readings of the day. A final section, offers suggestions to implement and extend the new awareness this community can gain, from the Scriptures heard and the Eucharistic Presence experienced.
     We commonly think that the main phases of worship are two-fold -- as "Liturgy of the Word" and "Liturgy of the Eucharist." The opening and closing section draws our attention to a third phase of worship. This third phase, is the Gathering and Sending process. The Liturgy of Gathering and Sending -- we usually refer to as, the "introductory" and "concluding rites." But the Eucharist is not simply introduced and concluded. Eucharist takes place only when believers are gathered together in the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit!
     We gather in such a way, that we form a Christian assembly. We come from and are dispersed to other places and to a variety of living situations. We do not simply go away. We are sent. We can't stay in the place and time of Eucharist. We are sent away from it -- commissioned to spread this power and this love, to the lives from which we came and to which we now return! People gather and after gathering they are sent out again on God's mission to the world.
     The Liturgy of Gathering begins when we start to meet oneanother - at some point a disparate group becomes an assembly - a process of people being gathered in preparation for what is about to happen.
     The Liturgy of Sending requires skill to relate the central strands of this celebration of Eucharist to the world from which we come. The sending focuses the central transformations which have occurred during this Eucharist - in the final prayers, blessings, gestures and movements.
     Leading the phases of Gathering and Sending expresses something of the relationship of this assembly to the world from which we come and to which we return. The opening and closing section the resources for each Sunday's liturgy is offered for those in the role of leadership of the Eucharistic liturgy. They are responsible for this gathering and sending of the people. They are the people of this place. They welcome others into it and establish the rules by which this gathering occurs. They dismiss the people from it - with a sense that they are missioned to the other places to which they return. And they assure by their commitment to the process, that future gatherings at this place will continue over time!
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the readings:

INTRODUCING THE READINGS

     The next resource is a summary in one or two sentences of the context of each of the readings - including the Psalm - of the day. This is found firstly in the left-hand column in the commentary or in the introduction to each reading in the liturgy resources. The commentator can use these comments to build on the work of facilitating gathering and centering -- in preparation for what is to follow -- the hearing of scriptures and the sharing of Eucharist. The brevity in the summary tries to avoid the danger of turning introductions of the readings into, mini-liturgies of the Word, before the event proper.
     Understanding the context of a reading helps us as listeners to hear the reading with awareness - a better awareness of how the readings were produced; a better understanding of who produced them; and a better awareness of how the modern church -- in fact -- uses the text today. Awareness of the context also guides the hearer in the way that they can use the text themselves.
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The Perspective:

THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE COMMENTATOR

     Our task in offering comments on the scripture readings is a modest one. It is to express the small "bits and pieces" from which we can put life together in fresh ways. The "bits and pieces" of faith, which make up the informal texts of the liturgy of Gathering and Sending -- and the more formal texts of the Liturgy of Word and Eucharist -- have a pull or inclination about how they 'flow' together. Some larger picture seems to be almost unavoidable from our hearing and experiencing this material. The work of "funding the infra-structure of our faith" consists not in an offer of a large, ordered coherent picture. It is about making more available a great number of rather disordered "bits" and "pieces" that are capable of more than one one way of ordering.
     The meeting for liturgy and proclamation is the place where people come to receive new material - or old material freshly expressed. This material will fund, feed, nurture, nourish, legitimate and authorise the counter-imaging of our world! The liturgical assembly is not a place to come to affirm the great absolute truths allied with modernist dominant values. It is not a place for claims that are so large and comprehensive that they have a hollow ring in a context of our general failure, discomfort, and unease.
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the response:

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

     In the Eucharistic Liturgy, the intercessions normally follow the Creed. Sample prayers of intercession are given in the resources for each Sunday or feast day. The following list outlines the structure of the prayer:

(a) A brief opening invitation to pray
     by the leader.

(b) Two or three intentions offered
     by the leader.
     Where these are taken from a book
     the most appropriate ones should be
     chosen, especially those which relate
     to the readings or the homily.

(c) An invitation to the congregation
     to offer their own intentions.
     It is helpful if these can be
     organised to some extent beforehand.

(d) If there are special events in the
     community or special needs for prayer
     which have not so far been mentioned,
     the leader could well introduce
     such intentions here.

(e) A concluding prayer by the leader.
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Reflection:

WORD, EUCHARIST & LIFE BEYOND

     Each set of resources has a brief reflection on the Liturgy of the Word -- its link with the Liturgy of the Eucharist -- and the significance of these texts for life beyond the liturgical assembly. Hearing of the Word of the scriptures and experiencing the Presence of God in the action of the Eucharistic liturgy, reinforces the unity of the, "good news" and the practice of discipleship.
     An energising, liberating process of imagination, inspired by liturgical worship, permits us to handle the feared, cherished parts of our own lives and to process them in the context of this, "otherness" incarnated among us! The Eucharistic liturgy does not have to be explained or justified. It need only be voiced and experienced. Like the unguarded conversations in good therapy - the unutterable is uttered!
     The Eucharistic Prayer helps redress the disparate parts of our lives - in being expressed the texts open to review and transformation, all the other images that exercise enormous hidden and often unacknowledged power over our lives. In coming closer to Jesus' mode of pedagogy, we break with modern pretensions that want large, settled, coherent 'truth'. To break with such pretensions we also break with the large cover-ups -- the results of our ruling ego-centricism and our massive social ideologies! In the detail of this text, or this image, or this story, or this memory -- as "funded" by the liturgical texts - we find the "otherness" of our own life given back to us!
     This 'other' material does not fit with our ways of settling things -- but it may generate openings where the truth of the "good news" can have its proper effect. The work of Liturgy as practised in the church is one-text-at-a-time. The texts, one-at-a-time, offer enough material and are close to our reality so that the transformation we are able to receive, is not grand or sweeping, but slow work; like the pace of teasing out tranformations in good therapy!
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Summary:

A FINAL WORD ON INTERPRETIING

     The interpreting of these text requires a minimum of historical-critical work. The primary requirement for leading liturgy is not a deep fund of critical expertise, but an imagination that lets the text touch the workings of our assumed world. The texts subvert our normally assumed world because they resist our unexamined assumptions about our world. Assumptions that are too often rooted in an alien ideology. The texts of the Liturgy don't subvert in a violent way. They undermine in the way true discernments always subverts mistaken assumptions!
     The texts as a, "cluster of metaphors" voice the "good news" elusively and porously. That is, they do not come down to us coercively or prescriptively; but requires us, as listeners, to share in the hard work! Only the other party in a conversation can decide to what extent a new insight is allowed to subvert their old thinking and in what way! The Eucharistic liturgy provides the materials for subversion, but the permission to subvert belongs to us who hear the text.
     In the Eucharistic liturgy, we stand between our old, unexamined world, and the new world voiced in this text. We are at the threshold of subversion - unsure and undecided! It is a moment of deep ambiguity. We must host the moment with respect, awe and patience. We cannot rush it or anticipate outcomes rashly, or push too hard for meaning on our terms! It is that precious moment at the threshold -- that makes serious change possible.
     Leaders of the Eucharistic liturgy stand before this congregation - who fear and yearn. For most of us there are few occasions for hosting the ambiguity where God's newness is given. Sometimes in the arts maybe - but only to a certain elite. Or perhaps in therapy, but that is often very expensive. For most of us the moment of liturgical worship -- the experience of visible signs of invisible reality -- is the primary place for such a threshold experience.
     We come to it with the strange expectation that we will be subverted. After all, the reading of this text, the interpretation of this text, the experience of these words of sacramental reality are claimed to be linked to, the Living Word and Actions of God in Jesus." How unusual and awesome, that in the normal round of our life we dare to voice the Word and express the Action of God. It is no wonder, in our weariness and in our confidence; partly out of habit and partly in hopeful passion; we respond; "Thanks be to God!"
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