This morning at Mass I used the second Eucharistic prayer. After the Memorial Acclamation, there's a line that has bothered many a presider, I know: "We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you." I know it has bothered some presiders, because I occasionally hear it changed to "worthy to be in your presence." A friend recently asked about the discontinuity of what the presider is saying in the first person plural, and what the congregation is doing.
I pointed out that in much of the Catholic world, I believe, the congregation stands again after the Memorial Acclamation, and that the posture of continuing to kneel at that point is the result of a request from the US bishops after the council. The passage is pretty much a quote from the Canon of St. Hippolytus, written in the third century.
Remembering therefore His death and resurrection, we offer to Thee the Bread and the Chalice, giving Thee thanks because Thou hast held us worthy to stand before Thee and minister to Thee.
I'm not a historical liturgist, or much of any kind of liturgist, so I don't know what the posture was of the early Christians who were praying this with St. Hippolytus.
What caught my attention this morning was the connection between the liturgy and our life as Christians. Yes, we are standing (and kneeling, and sitting) in the presence of God at Mass, listening, responding, singing, and hopefully participating "fully and consciously."
But the liturgy, if we are fully present to it, invites us to link our worship with the whole of our lives. Perhaps it was because I was standing for three hours helping out at the Marian House soup kitchen the day before and my back is still complaining, but I realized that I am "made worthy" by receiving Jesus in the Eucharist to stand in his presence and give glory to Him throughout my day. When I am standing before my brother or sister, whom, Scripture says, is made in God's image and likeness, I am given another opportunity to serve Him in them. One of my favorite quotes from CS Lewis reminds us of this:
“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest thing you will ever encounter with your senses. . . if he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also, Christ . . . Glory himself, is truly hidden.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Then, when I return to Mass, I again stand (or kneel) in the presence of God the Father and offer to Him, with Jesus, all the various ways I have attempted to serve Him and give glory to Him through actions of service, kindness, reconciliation, patience, gentleness, etc. In this way, my entire life - not just the time I spend at Mass - can become an act of worship and an act of service.