By Claire Walker
The highest form of worship in our Church, is the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. The epitome of this celebration is the moment that the host becomes the body of Christ. It is the moment that the sacrifice is made by us and received by the Father. The source and summit of our faith hinges upon a sacrifice.
I had always known the importance of what was taking place on the altar. I always knew that it was a time of reverence. The bells ring, people are on their knees, and the host is elevated. What takes place is not of the flesh, but of a heavenly reality. Reverence is the response that we have to the presence of our God. When we are not participating in the Mass, how are we to worship Jesus?
I had always asked myself this question. Even so, I did not have the urgency to seek an answer. I did not see my fellow Catholics pursuing lives of worship. That is the kind of life we should live, isn’t it? A life that worships the Lord. Recalling my first experience with praise and worship, I was uncomfortable. Why were people so animated? What was all of this about?
I came to realize that it is about Jesus and it always has been. If the highest form of worship we know and participate in is the celebration of a sacrifice, what would become of the songs I sang if I incorporated sacrifice? It was in that moment of confusion that I had the thought, “If Jesus gave me His body, I can give Him mine.” I started small and opened my hands in front of me. I lifted my voice knowing that I was probably off-key. Halfway through the song, my hands went from in front of me, to lifted high and wide open. By the end of the worship set, I was experiencing freedom in a way that I never had before. I was overwhelmed with the joy that a child experiences when their dad comes home from work. God the Father was being magnified in my life as I partnered with the citizens of Heaven and sang His praise.
After this experience, my soul experienced a shift. I realized that I had been closing off part of my heart from so many opportunities for encounter. There are so many instances in scripture where worship is used in times of triumph and joy, but also times of uncertainty, and battle. I have picked up on the notion that some are under the impression that praise and worship is reserved for times when one “feels like it.” However, I would like to raise some questions to refute that response. Did not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego praise the Lord while King Nebuchadnezzar tried to burn them alive? Did not King Jehoshaphat fall to his knees in worship when battle was on the horizon? Did not the Levites proceed in front of the tribe of Judah to lift high their voices against the encroaching enemy tribe? In each of these instances, the people who sacrificed their time to worship their Lord in their distress were protected, saved, and redeemed. In the Lord’s infinite goodness, He extends grace to us when we exalt Him, opening ourselves to trust in and receive that goodness. He fights our battles.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives beautiful insight into worship. It writes:
To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the “nothingness of the creature” who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that he has done great things and holy is his name. The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2097
By nature of the fall of man, we are selfish. Humans tend to look inward and act out. How beautiful is the reality that worship releases us from that reality.
It is a prayer of mine that my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ would experience this freedom in worship. Authentic worship is biblical. Authentic worship is what God desires. Authentic worship is sacrificial. Authentic worship is Catholic. Come and behold our Lord and encounter Him with the hymn of Heaven.