The Centrality of paschal mystery in christian liturgical worship

   paschal mystery         “What looked to the bystanders like a display of weakness is in reality a source of power. A scene of utter degradation and shame is actually a place of glory.”(Jay 2009) The meaning of our liturgy comes from the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of our lord Jesus Christ. Each time Roman Catholics gather to celebrate the holy Eucharist, we’re invited to acclaim the “mystery of faith” at the very heart of the celebration.

            Furthermore, the whole point of liturgy is to re-learn and relive the paschal mystery that lies at the core of liturgy. Therefore the place of the paschal mystery in liturgy cannot be over-emphasized. The whole story of Christian liturgy is summarized in Mark 8:31 and 16:19 “…the son of man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by all, killed and after three days rise again…after Jesus has spoken to then was taken up into heaven and seated at the right hand of the father”

            In other words, the mystery of Christ is carried on and made actual in the mystery of worship. Thus, liturgy continues the saving action of the incarnate son and the redemption, and healing of the church after the glorified God-man has returned to his father.

            To put it differently, the church was born from Christ’s death-blood and the mystery with it so the Church and the mystery are inseparable. The mystery is the act of the bridegroom, while liturgy the act of the bride, without thereby creating too wide a gap. For instance, “when the church through liturgy performs her exterior rites, Christ is inwardly at work in them; thus what the church does is actually a mystery … in other words, Christ’s sacrifice is not a liturgy in the old, ritual sense, but plain and noble reality, the ultimate and greatest fulfillment of what the old covenant had given in type.” (Casel, 2000, p29, 30,31)

            Additionally, when we acclaim: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again,” we affirm that Jesus’ death was the culmination of his life of loving union with his Heavenly Father. This is the perfect act of love and pass overof Jesus [from death to eternal life] that has saved us from slavery of selfishness and enabled us to pass overinto the freedom of God’s children.             In simple terms, in expressing the paschal mystery, “liturgy fills the gap between the two fingers in the 1513 Michangelo magnificent creation scene. After all Eucharist is not to change bread and wine, but to change you and me.”(Taft, 2000, p.139, 144)As a result, paschal mystery gives a Christian liturgical identity, which is the act of perfect love because liturgy bridges the gap between the two fingers.

            Correspondingly, Joyce Zimmerman elucidated in her writing the place of paschal mystery as a “condutio sine qua non” – that is, a condition you cannot do without- in liturgy. “The liturgical celebration, in itself is a mediating configuring of the whole of Christ’s mystery (on its one side) and our refiguring of it in our daily living (on its other side).”(Zimmerman, 2000, p.311) This is a challenge to the Christian to answer the question “How does my life reflect Christ? Living as a Christian, should build a bridge between my daily life and my Christian faith. Because the “configuring activity of liturgy means we engage ourselves in an ongoing immersion in many ways of grasping Christ’s mystery.” (Zimmerman, 2000 p.315)

            To tell the truth, when we look at the Paschal Mystery in the context of our religious beliefs and the life of Jesus Christ, we come to a deeper meaning of dying and rising. Jesus Christ’s passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension are the ultimate event of dying and rising, of death and new life. Hence, “the liturgy of the church sets out the mystery of Christ as paschal mystery – his transitus to the father – for us and for our salvation.

            Also, liturgical activity focuses on the mystery of salvation revealed in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection to new life the convocation or the assembly of the people regularly to celebrate the paschal mystery in a ritual way. Intrinsic to the convocation is the understanding that the mystery in some way extends to and includes the participants personally.

            Aside from the ritual meaning, what then is paschal mystery in relation to liturgy? Paschal mystery is a liturgical formulation, which comprehends two salvific moments – the passing of Jesus through death to transforming union with his father, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus on those called to a communion of believers in Christ who are his body.” (Collins, 2000, p157)

            In summary, with the inseparability of liturgy and paschal mystery, we learn from Jesus that new life can come from death, that we can find meaning in tough times, that there really is light in the darkness. We learn that all life has this rhythm of dying and rising and that God is with us in good times and in bad. Christ’s experience of suffering, death, and new life has forever changed us and given us a different way of living. Death no longer has the last word. Plus, when we encounter tough times, we have the comfort of knowing that Christ has “been there and done that” giving us the power of hope in the new life.

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