General and Introductory Materials
Part 2 History of the Liturgy

Chapter d28b  Four Treasures in the Attic

Preliminary Questions





Holy Thursday

Easter Sunday

The World

To Think About

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. (Mt 13:52)

Preliminary Questions

How old were you at the time of the Second Vatican Council? What do you remember of the Mass before the Council?  How soon after the Council did the changes in the Mass begin to be experienced?

On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII, at St. Paul's Outside the Walls, announced his intention to call an Ecumenical Council.  One of the purposes of the council was "to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ"  (CSL 1).  Now, some forty years, after the Council we find that the Council itself has sometimes become a issue of division in the Church.   The "Spirit of the Council"  has given rise to different interpretations and ideologies. 

In his study The Search for Common Ground, James Davidson, found that Catholics responded to various questions depending upon their age in relation to the Council:  1)  The Pre-Vatican II Catholics born (that is entered the Catholic Church) in 1940 or earlier (in 2002 = 62 years old and older);  2)  the Vatican II Catholics born 1941-1960 (in 2002 = Catholics aged 40 to 60); and 3)  the Post-Vatican II Catholics born in 1961 or later (in 2002 = Catholics under 40).

There are various theories as to how this data is to be interpreted.  Some think that the first group, the Pre-Vatican group, were taught a rigid and stern Catholicism and when the openness and flexibility of the Council entered the Church they were ready to throw off the old and embrace this Church which better fit their personal experience of God and the World.  The second group, the Vatican II group, were catechized in a time of change and with the catechists themselves uncertain of what to teach, they often went without "content" -- When Sadlier asked me to write the text for Junior High religion, they said that they wanted content;  too many Catechists were asking them "Where's the beef,"  in the words of a popular TV commercial at the time.  The third group, the Post-Vatican II Catholics,  have received the emphasis on the things changed by the Council and want a balance.   Having been catechized in a time of change and flux they long for stability and certainty. 

But whatever the explanation of the differences, the differences themselves exist and must be taken into consideration when exercising pastoral care, preaching, and catechizing.

A note of caution:  No one likes to be "put into a box" for example "Oh, you are an ISTJ;  I know all about you!"  Or "You are an Enneagram 6; I know how those people act!"  But at the same time, the realization that people are different, have different needs, and hear things in different ways is important for the pastor and the catechist.  It is particularly important not to presume that the people to whom we minister are exactly like us.

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Note:  Most of this chapter has been previously published as Chapter 11 of The Sacraments: How Catholics Pray, by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. © St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati OH, June, 1995.

Berry, Thomas. Dawn Over the Earth: Our Way Into the Future. Sound True Recording #A140, 1991.

Botte, Bernard. From Silence to Participation: An Insider's View of Liturgical Renewal, Washington, DC: The Pastoral Press, 1988.

Bugnini, Annibale. The Reform of the Liturgy (1948-1975), Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1571-6. Hardcover, 1000 pp. $59.50. [Publisher's description: Here is the definitive work on the Second Vatican Council as described by one who participated in it from its inception. As secretary of the preparatory commission on the liturgy (1960-1962), peritus of the Second Vatican Council and its commission on the liturgy, secretary of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy (1964-1969), and secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship (1969-1975), Bugnini is in the unique position to tell the complete story of the reform of the Roman liturgy. His careful account of the development of the rites illuminates the meanings and purposes behind the reforms, as well as the compromises that were made for the sake of reform.]

Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Sacrament of Baptism," #1213-1284. "Sacred Scripture," #101-141. "The Paschal Banquet," #1382-1405. "Mystery of Creation," #295-421.

Cuomo, Mario M., "Who is God," America , 165:15 (November 16, 1991) pp 356-358.

Davidson, James.  The Search for Common Ground.

Hebblethwaite, Peter. Paul VI: The First Modern Pope. New York: Paulist Press, 1993.

On the Environment and Theology:  "You Love All That Exists:  All Things Are Yours, God, Lover of Life." The Canadian bishops. statement:  You can get to it in HTML or PDF format by going to

Richstatter, Thomas  O.F.M. "The Sacrament of the Eucharist: What Has Happened to My Devotion?" Catholic Update, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, September, 1992. CU 0992.

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During the past thirty years I have tried to help the Pre-Vatican II Catholics come to an understanding of just what happened to them and their religion at the time of the Council.  Of course, the over 60 group was the over 30 group thirty years ago. 

I am often asked to address the question "What really happened to the Church at the Second Vatican Council? To help various parish and diocesan groups answer this question I have developed a talk which I call "Four Treasures in the Attic" which many older Catholics have found helpful (or so they told me).   The title of this chapter comes from a story. The story itself can trigger strong emotions in Catholic readers, but it is only a story and is intended to set the stage for what follows.

In the years following the Second Vatican Council many chapels and churches were renovated in order to accommodate the new liturgy. This was often accompanied by a certain amount of stress in a parish (not unlike the stress that can take place in a family when their home is being remodeled).

In 1972 the chapel of the school where I was teaching needed to be renovated. It had numerous side altars (each with it's own tabernacle) for the daily "private" Masses of the members of the priest faculty. The space around the altar needed to be enlarged to accommodate concelebration. The isles needed to be widened to accommodate the processions for the reception of Communion from the cup, etc.

A competent architect was hired and preliminary plans were made. One of the proposals of the architect was to paint the walls a solid color. This meant painting over several pictures of Franciscan saints who had graced the walls since the chapel was built. As you can imagine there were those in the community who thought that painting over these pictures was a desecration. Art was being destroyed. The community, holy and fraternal as we were, had several "discussions" (heated arguments) as to whether the pictures in question had any artistic merit or not. To help us end this argument, our friar guardian decided to invite the curator of the local art museum to come to the seminary to see whether these pictures had any artistic value.

The appointed day arrived as did the expert from the art museum. He was taken to the chapel and in approximately forty-five seconds he determined that the art world would be better served if the pictures in question disappeared! Now as we had paid good money for his coming, (too good for forty-five seconds of work!) and we asked the curator if he would be willing to see if we had any art in the building. He agreed to do so. He toured through the corridors, the study halls, the dining rooms, and the dormitories. He went through the entire building, top to bottom, and found that we did have four paintings of artistic merit, four paintings that were indeed good art. I am embarrassed to say that he found all four of these treasures in the seminary attic! We took the treasures from the attic and placed them at strategic and appropriate places throughout the building where they could be enjoyed and appreciated.

This story (with all of the details that I have added to it through countless retelling) gives the context for what I want to say in this chapter about the changes in the liturgy.

As you may recall, one day during the Second Vatican Council, good Pope John XXIII gathered with all the cardinals and bishops and they exchanged their silk cassocks for bib-overalls (no one else recalls this, but I remember it clearly!) They went up to the attic of the Vatican to see if they had stored away any treasures that should be taken down and returned to the faithful. As you know, as times change, sometimes the good stuff gets put away and forgotten. And indeed they too found four treasures. (You might stop here and try to guess what these four treasures were) The four treasures they found were: Baptism, the Bible, Holy Thursday, and the World. 

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Treasure 1:  Baptism

The Second Vatican Council certainly did not invent Baptism. Baptism has been around as long as the Church. But in a real sense the Second Vatican Council took Baptism out of the attic. The rites of Christian initiation as celebrated today were unknown to Catholics thirty years ago. When I was a child I viewed the Church as divided into two classes of people: the laity and the clergy, the non-ordained and the ordained. Baptism, of course, took away original sin; but to really be an active member of the Church one needed to be ordained. The Church, in my mind, was identified with the clergy: "Father says" equaled "the Church teaches."

Only the ordained "knew what was going on," only the ordained seemed to have a role to play and a ministry to fulfill. I thought that the command of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of Matthew was "go and baptize all nations then look at those whom you have baptized and pick out a few really good ones and make them disciples." This, of course, is not at all what the Gospel says. The Gospel equates Baptism and discipleship. Each of the baptized is to be a disciple. All the baptized have a ministry in the Church. This is the vision that has been restored by the Second Vatican Council. Baptism came out of the attic.

When you take something out of the attic, for example a picture which you want to hang on the wall, you may have to rearrange the pictures that are already there. Our faith is like that also. Sometimes when we add a new element, we must rearrange the elements that were already there.

To some it seemed that the new prominence given to the sacrament of Baptism caused the sacrament of Holy Orders to be neglected. Some even thought that the Second Vatican Council caused the decline in vocations to the priesthood. This, of course, is not the case. Rediscovering the importance of my Baptism has not caused me to stop wanting to be a priest.

Ministry comes from baptism: ...whether we use the word "service" or "ministry" the sacramental sign of our discipleship and our service/ministry is our baptism. In Matthew we read: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19) Discipleship and Baptism go together. Note that Jesus says "Go. Make disciples, baptizing them...;" he didn't say "Go. Baptize everybody and then let some of the baptized become disciples." (Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Lay Ministry: Not Just for a Chosen Few," Catholic Update, Cincinnati: ©St. Anthony Messenger Press, August, 1991. CU 0891.)


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Treasure 2:  The Bible

The Second Vatican Council did not write the Bible. The Bible, like Baptism, is as old as the Church (and much of the Bible is much older). However, before the Council the Bible did not play a very prominent role in the life of Catholics.

I still remember the day (I was in the fourth grade) when the Bible salesman came to our door, and my Mom and Dad purchased our family Bible. It was a beautiful book, the most beautiful book we owned. It was given a prominent place in the living room. Mother carefully recorded all our important family events, births and deaths, ordinations and weddings, in the "Family Record" section. It was a treasured book, but it was a book which we never read!

In school I learned about Jesus from a Bible History, a little book which synthesized the Gospels to bring them into harmony with one another. The teachings of Jesus I learned not from the Bible but from the Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was my most used Catholic book, the one I could quote by heart, chapter and verse.

During these years, those of us who went to daily Mass remember that at most Masses during the week the priest wore black vestments and said "the daily Mass for the dead." This Mass had one fixed scripture reading for the Epistle and the Gospel. Consequently, nearly everyday we heard these same two readings.

Not long ago, when I was giving this talk to a large group of Religious Sisters at their Mother House (sisters my age and older), I did some mathematical calculations ahead of time and figured out approximately how many times they would have heard those two scripture passages at daily Mass. It was lots! I asked the assembled sisters how many knew what those two readings were. No one knew!

I tell this story not to make fun of these sisters; quite the contrary. These sisters were not ordinary Catholics, these were among the most educated and most devout. I tell this story to remind us (who have now become accustomed to the daily Lectionary) that in the days before the Council, Scripture simply was not as important for us as it is today. If the content of the Gospel reading at Mass was not important in the lives of these Religious Sisters, I think the point is clearly made that the Bible did not play a significant role for most Catholics in their celebration of the sacraments. The Second Vatican Council took the Bible out of the attic and put it back into the hands of every Catholic.

1940:   no question in the Baltimore Catechism regarding the Bible; Sundays about 54 pieces, mainly from Matthew (and John);  No weekday lectionary;  Daily Mass for the Dead [same two readings];  Bible in the Catholic home: Family record -- but seldom read.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, article 24:Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from Scripture that the readings are given and explained in the homily and that the psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration; it is from the Scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the reform, progress, and adaptation of the liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for Scripture to which the venerable tradition of both Eastern and Western rites gives testimony.

To accomplish so great a work Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross," but especially in the eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised "where two or three are gathered together in my name there I am in the midst of them" (CSL 7).

2000:  Studies show that Catholics on the average hear two hours of preaching on TV (mostly fundamentalist) for every hour of preaching they hear in church.

Faith comes by hearing: "But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." (Rom 10:14-17)

When the liturgy was in Latin and our ear could not function fully, the eye (visuals: statues, stained glass, decoration, etc.) was of primary importance for faith.  At the time of the Reformation, many protestant Churches removed these decorations so that the Word of God could be heard more clearly. Excessive decoration is a hindrance to effective preaching. As the American playwright Thornton Wielder said regarding his minimal staging for his plays: "If the eye sees too much, the ear doesn't really listen."

Because our liturgy was in a language which many of us did not understand, Catholics were not as concerned about the ear and continued to create a visual feast for the eye. This changed when the Second Vatican Council allowed the liturgy in our own language so that we could hear the Sacred Scriptures and understand the prayers and proclaim our faith in songs and acclamations. Today Catholics are beginning to look for a balance: seeing, hearing, doing. One sign of our new interest in hearing is our increasing concern for good preaching and quality homilies.

We will not strengthen the ear by starving the eye! There is no movement to remove statues and decoration simply to make our churches bare and plain. Quite the contrary. To quote again the bishops' statement on the environment: "In a world dominated by science and technology, liturgy's quest for the beautiful is a particularly necessary contribution to full and balanced human life." (Environment 34) Statues and beautiful objects of art, banners and flowers will always be an important part of the environment for our worship. (See: Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "A Tour of a Catholic Church," Catholic Update, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, March 1991. C0391.)

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Treasure 3:  Holy Thursday

What does Eucharist mean? I wish I could answer that question! I thought that I knew what Eucharist was when I received my First Communion at the age of seven. I thought that I knew what Eucharist was when I was ordained a priest in 1966. Each year I teach courses on the meaning of the Eucharist at a graduate school of theology. And each year I am amazed at how much I learn. We can never understand Eucharist fully.

While it may be impossible to understand the Eucharist fully, I have become convinced that the road to understanding the Eucharist leads through three events or images: Good Friday, Holy Thursday, and Easter Sunday.

Christian Churches differ in the emphasis they give to these images with regard to their understanding of the Eucharist. Some put the primary emphasis on Holy Thursday and speak of celebrating "the Lord's Supper." Many Catholic Christians think of the Eucharist primarily in terms of Good Friday and speak of celebrating "the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass." I have come to believe that balance is the key.

Good Friday was the main image which shaped my Eucharistic devotion when I was a child. When I entered my parish church in Wichita, Kansas, the first thing I saw was a larger-than-life-size crucifix hanging over the altar. I knew that being at Mass was like kneeling at the foot of Jesus' cross on Calvary with the Virgin Mary and Saint John. My silent reverence at Mass reflected their reverence at the death of Jesus. In grade school I learned that the Mass was "the sacrifice of the New Law in which Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine." Even though I did not understand the full meaning of some of these words, the mention of "sacrifice," "priest," "offering," "blood" brought to my mind the image of Good Friday and I permanently associated the Eucharist with Jesus dying on the cross.

I never thought much about the "meal" aspect of the Mass (the Holy Thursday image) when I was a child. This may seem strange today, for when you go to Sunday Mass you will see that nearly everyone receives Holy Communion. In the 1940's this was not the case; very few people received Holy Communion at Mass. And because I understood the Mass in terms of Good Friday, going to Communion was not an issue. After all, no one went to Communion on that first Good Friday! I expressed my devotion to the Eucharist by kneeling at the foot of the cross, gazing at the sacrifice of Jesus, and expressing my gratitude for so great a love and being sorry for my sins which caused so great a suffering.

The image of Good Friday remains an essential element of the Catholic understanding of Eucharist; but while it is essential, it is not enough. An adequate understanding of the Eucharist involves not only Good Friday, but also Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday.

During the 1950's when more and more people began to receive Holy Communion at Mass, Holy Thursday gradually began to play a larger role in their understanding of the Eucharist. During the 1970's the parish with which I celebrated the Eucharist began to use bread in place of hosts at Mass, bread that looked and tasted like "real" bread. People began to take Holy Communion in their hands and to drink from the cup. Mass began to look more like a meal. Altars began to look more like tables. The prayers of the Mass and the songs we sang spoke openly about eating and drinking, about meals, suppers, and banquets. All of these things caused the image of Holy Thursday to be added to the image of Good Friday in helping Catholics understand the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

My own devotion began to take on a more joyful tone. I began to speak of "celebrating the Eucharist" rather than "going to Mass." To the image of "kneeling at the foot of the cross" I added the image of "sitting with Christ and the saints at the heavenly banquet, listening to His words, sharing the Bread and Wine."

And now, as I grow older and continue to reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist, I see how the image of Easter Sunday is also essential for an adequate understanding of the Eucharist.

The results of this change are still being experienced in parishes across the country. And as the Easter Sunday image is added to the Holy Thursday and Good Friday images we can expect even greater changes in our understanding of the Eucharist and further changes in our eucharistic devotion.

Good FridayHoly Thursday
Sacrifice / priestMeal / host
Altar / victim / painTable / food and drink / comfort
secret actspublic acts
Sacred persons / sacred garmentsfriends / hosts / ordinary clothing
special / transcendent / godlydaily / ordinary / immanent / earthly
separated from peopleeaten and ingested
remote / sacred distance /hospitality / intimacy
special food / sacred daily bread / abundance

Incarnation -- God in the everyday / Atheists, no religious acts... / meals / bathing, / nothing sacred, holy, priesthood, / God became one of us... 30 years and didn't look any different! / Incarnation -- Divine in the ordinary....

Mass had that ordinary quality / no special priesthood / no special vestments / no special food / but gathering, story telling, meal sharing, commissioning / e.g. Emmaus story

Change: / Began to explain in terms of sacrifice / Priest began to take the role of Christ / Special words of Christ / ninth century / Rise of the vernacular languages / Latin became a special language / if you don't know the secret language you can't do the action / become act of priest! / began anointing hands of priest / began depriving the cup from the laity / and began communion in the mouth for the laity / Laity convinced they were un worthy to go to communion. / (1254 go once a year)

Language and Power -- Knowledge is power / [Story: Mr. DonMoyer lost in french speaking Canada / can't talk, reduced to spectator]

Liturgy was inaccessible to the untrained and "merely baptized." Invent accessible devotions -- devotion to the elements / separated from eating and drinking

Vatican II Balance -- CSL Chapter II: The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist, Note the change in the title of this chapter from The Sacrifice of the Mass in draft one to The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist in draft two.) 42. At the Last Supper, on the night when he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until he should come again and in this way to entrust to his beloved Bride, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a body of charity, a paschal banquet "in which Christ is eaten, the heart is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us."

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Easter Sunday

St. Paul realized from the moment of his conversion that the Risen Christ was so identified with the baptized that to persecute the Christians was to persecute Christ. Not just once, but three times the experience is described in the Acts of the Apostles. In chapter nine we see Saul (not yet "St. Paul") terrorizing the followers of Jesus when suddenly, one day on the road to Damascus, Saul "fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me," He said, "Who are you, sir?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:4-5) Later Paul himself retells the incident: "I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' I replied, 'Who are you, sir?' And he said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.' (Acts 22:7-8) Paul tells the story again in chapter 26: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." (26:15) The experience revealed to Paul that Christ cannot be separated from his members. The Risen Lord is so united to the Christian that what we do to one another, we do to Christ. The Eucharistic Body of Christ is our body.

This was the very point at issue in the First Letter to the Corinthians, the earliest written account we have of the Last Supper (from about the year 50 C.E.). Paul writes to the Corinthians and voices his concern about the way they understand the Eucharist. "Your meetings are doing more harm than good. First of all I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you, and to a degree I believe it... When you meet in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk. Do you not have houses in which you can eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed? What can I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this matter I do not praise you. (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

Paul reproaches the Corinthians for celebrating the Eucharist without recognizing the Body of Christ -- the poor who go hungry while the rich get drunk. His criticism of their Eucharistic devotion is not directed toward the songs they were singing, or the vestments they were wearing, or whether they received Communion standing up or kneeling down -- or any of the issues that disturb some Catholics today. The issue was much more important. They were trying to remember Christ without remembering his Body, which necessarily includes the poor and the "unacceptable." They wanted to celebrate the "head" without the "body" -- a risen and glorified "sacramental" Christ separated from his actual Body now. Paul's experience at his conversion had convinced him that the Risen Lord cannot be separated from his disciples; they are one Body.

St. Paul tells the Corinthians that they must examine themselves as to which Body they are celebrating. The Christ they are proclaiming is the Risen Christ, glorified in his members, inseparably united with the poor and marginal. This is the Body they must see at the Eucharist if they are to celebrate worthily, for all who eat and drink without discerning this Body, eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:29)

Paul reminds us of an awesome responsibility. Coming forward during Mass to receive Holy Communion is a promise that we will treat each person who receives the Bread and drinks the Cup as a member of our own body! It is no longer "us and them" but "us." Sharing the meal is a promise that we will treat all men and women as Christ would treat them, indeed as we would treat Christ himself. This is what it means to "do this in memory of me" -- to see in this celebration the mystery of the Risen Lord, the mystery of the interconnectedness of all creation.

This is an enormous responsibility -- one which I do not think about often enough -- and one which has greatly influenced my understanding of the Eucharist. It is easy to lose sight of this relation: Risen Christ - Mystical Body - Eucharistic Presence. Catholics have always believed in the Real Presence of Christ at the Eucharist. We steadfastly believe that the Bread is really Christ's Body because we steadfastly believe that we who eat the Bread are really Christ's Body. As the early Christians sang at Eucharist: "As many grapes are brought together and crushed to make the wine, and as many grains of wheat are ground into flour to make the one bread, so we, although many, become one Body when we eat the one Bread."

Whenever I try to explain the meaning of the Eucharist, I try to focus on this relation between the Eucharist and the Easter experience of the Risen Lord. In this I am following the example of St. Paul who reminded the Corinthians that they must discern the Body of the Lord when they celebrate the Lord's supper. I am following the example of St. Augustine who reminded his fourth-century parish of this same reality. He taught that the Eucharist was a "sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity," and told them: "If then you are the body of Christ and his members, it is your sacrament that reposes on the altar of the Lord... Be what you see and receive what you are." (Sermon 272) "There you are on the table, and there you are in the chalice." (Sermon 229)

Balancing the images Good Friday, Holy Thursday, and Easter Sunday (sacrifice, banquet, unity of creation) is not an easy task. Sometimes I feel like a juggler at the circus trying to keep three objects in the air at once. I am no good at juggling three objects; the best I can do is to let one drop to the floor and just hold on tightly to the other two. But when it comes to keeping these three ideas in balance, I think the Church is asking us to hold on to all three. The opening paragraph of the Second Vatican Council's treatment of Eucharist very carefully balances these three images: At the Last Supper [Holy Thursday], on the night when he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross [Good Friday] throughout the centuries until he should come again and in this way to entrust to his beloved Bride, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection [Easter Sunday]. (Constitution on the Liturgy, #42)

Oh what use is it to weigh down Christ's table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs? What profit is there in that? Tell me: If you were to see him lacking the necessary food but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold, would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry? What is you were to see him clad in worn-out rags and stiff from the cold, and were to forget about clothing him and instead were to set up golden columns for him, saying that you were doing it in his honor? Would he not think he was being mocked and greatly insulted? (St. John Chrysostom) (Excerpt from Homily 50, 3-4: PG 58, 508-509, quoted in Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. VI, pg 183.)

Americans Need to Retain Good Friday: The "American Gospel" of achievements, affluence, and success is so dominant and universally acknowledged that in the United States a large portion of the population of lifelong churchgoers have a value system in no way significantly different from their "unbelieving" neighbors. In fact, this attitude is carried over into the spiritual domain. Religion is increasingly becoming a kind of spiritual consumerism. This is mirrored in the "spiritual" success stories of American televangelists: glowing individuals, filled with vitamins, bursting with cheerfulness and optimism and with Jesus in their hearts. Jesus is sold for success, and the cross no longer plays any role. If the symbol of the cross is used at all, then it's "dolled up" with glow, glitter, and neon. (See Richard Rohr. Discovering the Enneagram, "Type Three: The need to Succeed", pp 79-70.)

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Treasure 4:  The World

Perhaps the greatest treasure which the Vatican Council found in the attic (and the treasure which has caused the greatest change in the way we Catholics pray) was the "world." In the time before the Council, I remember that I was to despise the things of this world. The world was a "valley of tears," sort of a "spiritual boot camp" whose sufferings and trials strengthened and prepared me to one day join the ranks of the heavenly host. Religion was to keep me unstained by this world and to get me safely to heaven. Three things were to be avoided at all cost: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The Vatican Council took the world out of the attic and proclaimed its beauty and positive value. Creation is to be treasured and cared for. All created things are inter-related. Ecology, acid rain, the environment, extinction of species, these are not concerns of a few marginal people. These are religious issues which are at the very heart of our Catholic faith.

With the "world" out of the attic, we rediscovered the meaning of the Incarnation. Christ took flesh and became truly human; and with that Incarnation, God became "mixed up with" all that God created. Liturgy and Catholic prayer began to rediscover its bodily character. We began to drink real wine and eat real bread. The waters of Baptism became more than just a few drops of water on the forehead.

For Catholics the Incarnation means that the very stuff of this earth has been taken up into the Reign of God. The things of this earth are not distractions from praying or hindrances to our worship, but can become the very instrument --' way, medium, means, symbols, sacraments --' for liturgical prayer.

Catholics worship not just with their heads but with the things of the earth: bread and wine, water and oil, coming together and going apart, standing still and processing forward, lighting candles and smelling flowers, even dust and ashes! That's liturgical prayer --' prayer with the body, the earth, ritual, song, celebration.

In recent years we have come to see that our daily work, --' as the Bishops of the United States have said recently --' "is more than a way to make a living. It is an expression of our dignity and a form of continuing participation in God's creation."

On the very first pages of the Bible we see God working: working in the garden, watering dust into clay, and forming the earthling from the earth. And we are told that we are created in "the image of God" --' in the image of the God who works, makes, forms, reconciles, calls to full life. We are created in the image of this "working God." Our task, our principle Christian "ministry," is to work and transform the earth. Our work continues the creative activity of God.

Farmers can see their work as continuing the work of God in the garden of the Genesis story. Doctors and those involved in health care participate by their work in the life sustaining activity of God. Artists and builders continue God's creation. Social workers and politicians continue God's work of justice and reconciliation. But whatever our work, --' teaching school or cooking hamburgers, building a fence or waterproofing a basement --' our work should be more that merely the means to get enough money to buy things. Our daily work must be taken up into the Lord's prayer "Thy kingdom come!"

Daily Mass for the Dead:  the readings were:  Revelation 14:13 In those days, I heard a voice from heaven telling me: Write this: Blessed are the dead who have died in the Lord. They are at rest from their labors and all their works follow them.  John 6: 51-55. I am the bread of life come down from heaven. The one who eats this bread will live forever.

Hail Mary... now and at the hour of our death.

The simple folk of South Jamaica who came from behind the grocery stores, from the tenements, from the little houses on Liverpool Street, perceived the world then as a sort of cosmic basic training course, filled by God with obstacles and traps to weed out the recruits units for eventual service in the heavenly host. The obstacles were everywhere. Their fate on earth was to be "the poor, banished children of Eve, mourning and weeping in this value of tears," until by some combination of grace and good works -- and luck -- they escaped final damnation. Their sense of who God is was reflected in the collective experience of people who through most of their history had little chance to concern themselves with helping the poor or healing the world's wounds. They were the poor, the wounded. Their poverty and their endless, sometimes losing, struggle to feed themselves and hold their families together had varied little across the centuries. (Cuomo, Mario, M. "Who is God," America , 165:15 (November 16, 1991) pp 356-358.)

The Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 39: "We do not know the time when earth and humanity will reach their completion, nor do we know the way in which the universe will be transformed. ... Yet our hope in a new earth should not weaken, but rather stimulate our concern for developing this earth, for on it there is growing up the body of a new human family, a body even now able to provide some foreshadowing of the new age. Hence, through earthly progress is to be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, yet in so far as it can help toward the better ordering of human society it is of great importance to the kingdom of God." (Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time.) 

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: "The adulterous marriage between the Church and the world."   Society of St. Peter: not primarily a liturgical issue but a new ecclesiology is at issue.  On September 13, 1964 Paul VI received a "personal and private note" which greatly perturbed him, as it was intended to do. It was an outright attack on collegiality as found in Chapter 3 of Lumen Gentium: it contains novel opinions and doctrines;  these are not uncertain, but are not even probable, or solidly probable; etc. ...This diatribe came from Cardinal Arcadio Larraona, canonist and notorious champion of Opus Dei. ... [Among the religious who signed it] was Marcel Lefebvre, former Archbishop of Dakar, Senegal, by now General of the Holy Ghost Fathers. Peter Hebblethwaite Paul VI. New York: Paulist Press, 1993, pp 385.)

Very early in its life, the church was threatened by a heresy which, as the theologian Walter Kasper says, was perhaps "the most serious crisis [the Church] had ever to sustain and which was far more dangerous than the external persecution of the first centuries." This heresy was Gnosticism, the belief that salvation comes through knowledge (gnosis, in Greek), and that mental enlightenment helps people release themselves from the material world, which is evil. Gnostics believed that the world was not God's handiwork. For them, creation was not a stairway by which we might meet God, but rather a place of disorder, a place from which the truly enlightened person wishes to escape. The whole material order, including the body, is seen by Gnostics as evil. Redemption could never be accomplished in the world or in the flesh, but only apart from the world and from the flesh. Gnostics not only rejected the doctrine of creation and the true humanity of Jesus -- they also rejected the bodily resurrection. -- Great heresies seem never to die, but just to reappear later in history in different forms. Thus the resurrection of the body underscores the importance of our earthly existence. We should not try to escape the world, rather we should hold the world in great reverence. Our earthly body is the only one we have, and we should take good care of it, believing, as we do, that in our resurrected state our body will be transformed, as is the resurrected body of Jesus. (James L. Heft, "What Should We Believe About Jesus' Resurrection, Catholic Update, April 1990, pp. 3-4.)

Franciscans Spirituality has always emphasized the beauty and the goodness of the world and all created things. St. Francis himself had deep insight into the unity and relatedness of all creation as is evidenced in his poem "The Canticle of Brother Sun":

Most High, all-powered, good Lord,
all praise, glory, honor and blessing are yours.
They belong to you alone, Most High,
for no one is worthy to mention your name.
Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun.
He is day and through him you give us light.
He is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
and bears your likeness, Most High One.
Praised be you, My Lord, through Sister Moon and all the stars.
You formed them in heaven
clear and precious and beautiful, etc.

The fundamental law of morality for Teilhard was to liberate that conscious energy, which seeks to further unify the world. He calls this energy the zest for life -- that disposition of mind and heart that savors the experience of life, and manifests itself particularly in the relish a man has for creative tasks undertaken from a sense of duty. His life, in a true sense, has ceased to be private to him. Body and soul, he is the product of a huge creative work with which the totality of things has collaborated from the beginning. If he refuses the task assigned to him, some part of that effort will be lost forever... (Richard Rohr, O.F.M. Breathing Under Water. 1989, St. Anthony Messenger Press.)


In an article on Teilhard de Chardin, "A Holy Man and Lover of the World:  The Spirituality of Teilhard de Chardin, " in America magazine, (March 28, 2005 [192:12] page 8) Thomas M. King writes:  "Teilhard was striving for sanctity by working in science, and this effort would require a new understanding of what it means to be holy. The traditional understanding of sanctity regarded secular work as a 'spiritual encumbrance' and viewed 'the world around us as vanity and ashes'. To come to the things of God required rejection of the things of earth. So says the First Letter of John: 'Do not love the world or the things of the world' (2:15). Likewise, St. John of the Cross: 'Desire to enter into complete detachment, emptiness, and poverty with respect to everything that is in the world.'  Worldly knowledge and secular concerns were thought to lead to pride. 'Study to withdraw the love of thy soul from things that be visible, and turn it to things that be invisible,' wrote Thomas à Kempis.  As the 20th century advanced, seminaries still recommended such texts, but most Christians no longer found in them the expression of a human ideal. Nonetheless, when Teilhard's Divine Milieu was finally published in 1958, the dedication came as a shock: 'For those who love the world.' ...  It was a new way of thinking. Christians could love the world --' for Christ was found there. Suffering was no longer a penalty for sin, but the price each of us must pay to bring the universe to its completion in Christ."

Social justice: One of the specifically American contributions to the liturgical movement has been and will continue to be insight into the relationship between the call to social justice and the eucharistic presence. How can we continually experience the radical equality we have at the eucharistic table (i.e., no matter what our needs, problems and hungers, we receive enough in Christ Jesus) and the radical inequality we have when we step outside the liturgical assembly to the world's table? How many times can we "who share this bread and wine be gathered by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise" (Eucharistic Prayer IV) and then, only moments later, turn from that table of unity to pursue our wars and divisions?  Eucharistic symbols must match worldly realities.  Bread broken and shared -- lives shared.  Blood poured out -- lives poured out in love and service.  Bread of heaven -- Bread for the earth.

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To Think About

1.  Do you think that Baptism actually makes a difference in a person's life?

2.  Is the Bible your most important book? Why or why not?

3.  In what ways do you make a conscience effort to conserve creation? Do you reuse, reduce, and recycle?

4.  In your opinion, how has the Mass of Paul VI changed the eucharistic piety of those Catholics who were brought up with the Mass of Pius V?


Loving God, womb and source of all life, you have created all that exists. Help me to appreciate and to treasure the wonders of your creation. May I see you beauty in all created things. May I care for creation and preserve creation as co-creator with you. 

You have created us in your image to till the earth and preserve it. Help me in my work that I may bring your creation to completion. Help me especially to...

Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to you and all the ages. To you be glory and power through every age forever. Amen. [Prayer of the Easter Vigil]

Ageless Christ, keep me young in every age that I may grow with your Church. Help me to let loose of the past and to reach out to ...

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 07/12/12 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at