Continued from last week: The Mass considered from the perspective of the classical "heroic journey." Recall that in the classical model of the "heroic journey," one leaves one’s normal routine to enter into a special place or journey in order to be transformed in some needed way. The transformation is not always comfortable. In fact, it is meant to be challenging, to trigger change or conversion.
What in the Mass challenges us? A number of realities are there to challenge us simultaneously to undergo transformation and conversion. In the Mass we encounter Jesus Christ himself, in the words and example of his teaching and life, in the Scriptures proclaimed and in his Real Presence in the Eucharist.
In the Mass we also encounter the Catholic Church to which we belong. Jesus is also present in his Church: especially in her Priests, in the People, in the Sacraments. We are members of this Church and as such we have certain rights and responsibilities and we need to be reminded of this and challenged when we remain ignorant or stray from our Catholic identity.
In the Mass, as part of our membership in the Church, we also encounter the example of the Saints and their own heroic journeys to follow Christ and we are challenged to be converted like them.
Finally, we are also challenged by the sheer transcendence we encounter in the Eucharist. There is more than meets the eye in every liturgy, be it ever so humble. The Mass is dealing with things high above us and far beyond us and deep within us. It is God who we encounter and God’s love which lifts us up.
There is so much that I could reflect upon in this but instead I’ll end with something I wrote in 1999 about the Mass being counter cultural. Some have said it is quite good.
Liturgy is Countercultural
In a culture that proclaims that persons are commodities, statistics, and consumers,
the Liturgy proclaims that persons are gifted, unique, and worshipers.
In a culture that proclaims the absolute value of independence, individualism, and self-interest,
the Liturgy proclaims the absolute value of communion, community, and compassion with others.
In a culture that rapes, pollutes, and exploits the earth,
the Liturgy proclaims the goodness of creation and our stewardship of its blessing.
In a culture that idolizes wealth and status,
the Liturgy proclaims that all are called to the dignity of the sons and daughters of God.
In a culture sated with violence and death,
the Liturgy proclaims: "blessed are the peacemakers," blessed is life.
In a culture that exalts ambition and self-centeredness,
the Liturgy exalts self-giving service.
In a culture that runs after entertainment,
the Liturgy is a slow pilgrimage into what is essential.
In a culture that asks: "What do I get out of it?"
the Liturgy asks: "What can I give?"
In a culture that has forgotten gratitude,
the Liturgy remembers that "it is right to give God thanks and praise."
In a culture that grows cynical,
the Liturgy gives birth to wonder.
In a culture that is enslaved and has lost its meaning,
that Liturgy calls the culture to freedom and transformation in hope.
While affirming what is good in the culture, the Liturgy is still counter cultural, a radical act calling our culture "back to its senses," through the senses, and our mind and heart, to its Original Blessing; for Liturgy calls us from idolatry to true worship, and from injustice to right relationship, in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit.