The Relationship Between Liturgy & Mysticism

Feb 09, 2024

As we prepare to go to Mass this weekend, let me ask a simple question - What’s the point of the liturgy? What’s it all about? 

And perhaps one of the answers that comes to mind is that we’re going to worship God. We’re going to give him glory for what he has done for us. 

And that’s absolutely true. We certainly owe God praise and worship.

But realize that God doesn’t need our worship. He’s God. He doesn’t need us at all.

So why did he make us?

The old Baltimore Catechism says, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.”

So he wants us to know and love him now and be with him forever. 

And how does that happen? 

Primarily through the sacraments and a life of prayer. Through these avenues of grace he begins to restore us to his image and likeness, the likeness which was lost by Adam and Eve in the Garden when they sinned. 

And the whole point of all of it is to ultimately draw us into his self-giving communion of love, his Trinitarian family life.

And that’s where the liturgy comes powerfully into play, particularly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. After all, the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of Sacraments”.

So while liturgy is certainly designed to give glory to God, we can’t forget that part of the purpose of the sacrifice of the Mass is to help us become self-giving, to help us become like the God who made us and gives himself to us. 

By receiving Christ we’re being made like him. We’re being transformed from the inside-out as we participate in his sacrificial act of love on the altar and receive him in the Eucharist.

To put it a little differently, the exterior liturgy we celebrate in the Church leads to an interior liturgy in each of us. 

In other words, liturgy isn’t just something we do on Sundays. It’s a way of life…a way of mystical life.

One of the first things I go over in the Science of Sainthood is that every one of is called to the mystical life. It’s not just something reserved for monks and nuns off in the hinterlands.

And we’re called to it because as the great spiritual theologian Fr. Juan Arintero points out, the mystical life is basically the interior process of becoming more and more like Christ, of being transformed by Him.

And as we’ve said, the Mass is obviously central to that process. 

After all, “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows” (CCC 1074).

So all the power of Christ that the Church passes on to us flows out of the liturgy, particularly the Mass.

And because of that, you could rightly say that liturgy is the foundation and center of the mystical life. They go together hand-in-glove.

That’s why our interior lives cannot be separated from our exterior worship. Our personal devotions and striving for holiness don’t exist separately from what’s taking place in the liturgy. 

So we shouldn’t view the Mass as yet another spiritual activity that’s somehow a little more powerful than the others. 

It’s the source. It’s the font. It’s the summit.

So as Catholics, we need to penetrate its mystical depths – really know what’s going on - so that we can participate as deeply as possible in the beautiful, mystical, life-saving transformation that Christ wants to effect in us.

And I think that’s part of the point of this two minute snippet from a recent conversation I had with theologian Dr. David Fagerberg. 

Take a listen and hear why he says that liturgy, mysticism, and even theology itself need to be brought back together into a unified whole so that we can really enter into the life-changing love of Christ.

God bless you.

Matthew

P.S. Be sure to sign up for my brand new series on the Mass - streaming FREE this Lent! Click Here to register now!


 

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