Very soon English speaking Catholics throughout the world will begin using a new translation of the liturgy of the mass. While there are no seismic changes, there are a number of refinements and improvements in the interests of accurate translation. The first word to be changed in the mass is from one of the greetings the priest can use at the beginning. They were words we heard last week in the Epistle of St Paul, when he said, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The word “fellowship” is to be replaced with “communion”.
I like the new word and it gives a more definite sense of what we are a part of in the mass. I think “fellowship” seems a bit looser. “Communion” gives a more definite sense of participating in something very real.
But it also reminds us that there is a real connection between our celebration of mass and God the Trinity who is a perfect communion of divine Persons. But what is the connection between God's divine, perfect Communion and the communion we share through the bread and wine, which visibly seems so very ordinary?
One of the big differences between a Catholic approach to church and a Protestant one is I believe found in their fundamentally different understandings of worship. I think the Protestant approach is one of generating worship from the bottom, up. Whereas the Catholic approach is of worship coming from the top, down. Catholics do not generate worship, cause worship, but participate in worship that is going on already. The poverty of our offering is made perfect by its participation in something very much greater than us. So as Catholics we do not make up our own services or liturgies; they are a given. They are given to us by the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church. It needs to be refined from time to time, because we do not hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit perfectly, but nevertheless we receive the liturgy as a gift of God. It is not primarily something man-made. That is a big difference, and actually lifts a great burden from us.
As we reflect more deeply on the Eucharist/Mass we find this principle continues. If we think of this word “communion”, we do not generate communion ourselves. We do not create communion ourselves. We do not generate a fellowship by our own work. Through the mass we are drawn into a communion that already exists, and that exists perfectly. It is found perfectly in heaven, and its source is not in a perfectly arranged social programme (which I think is how many protestant churches try to do it); its source is in God who is perfect Communion. God who has revealed Himself as Three divine Persons in perfect Communion, perfect participation in one another. We cannot make ourselves be in communion, we need the grace derived from God's own communion.
At each Eucharist, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us so that we participate in the communion of the life of God, who is communion. The end of the Eucharistic prayer is called a doxology, and we say “through Him, and with Him, and in Him...” Through Christ we participate in the communion of God. We call this Holy Communion. We receive Communion directly from God who is communion. By means of the Eucharist the church participates in God's own life of communion and so is of itself a communion – a fellowship of brothers and sisters.
Hence we can say, the Eucharist makes the church. The most important thing we do in the Ordinariate is the Eucharist/Mass. And why we are called to share in that Communion each week – for we cannot do without it. If we do something else instead, we effectively say we can generate our Communion ourselves. Well we can't.
So let us rejoice in our Catholic Faith and with joy receive the free gift of Christ Himself, His Body and His Blood, which enables us to participate in the very life of God who is perfect communion.