Today was a great example of how the Church’s liturgy, all of it, forms a complete, unified whole. The signs exist everywhere, but today’s Office of Readings emphasized it, at least for me.
The second reading in the Office of Readings is a non-scriptural reading taken from the vast body of church writings and teachings. Many times, the reading is from the writings of a saint, or about a saint, especially the saint of the day. Other times, it is a meditation on the liturgical feast (again, usually penned by a saint), and sometimes, like today, the reading comes from the written magisterium, such as the documents of a council. As an aside, this is part of why I became interested in the Divine Office, as a way to read more of the Church’s teachings and to meditate on them.
Today, we had an excerpt from Gaudium et spes, the pastoral constitution of the Church in the modern world. The reading focused on how, even though the current world will pass away, we should cultivate the development of “the good fruits on earth of man’s co-operation with nature in the Spirit of the Lord and according to His command,” so as to better orient all of society towards the coming of God’s kingdom. In short, although we know that the world will end, we should not despair and give up on our neighbor (or ourselves!) but should always work to make things better and as close to in accordance with God’s will as we possibly can. This can be difficult because while our eyes are set on eternity, we are living in a changeable, temporary world. The mismatch between those two states can be disconcerting and make it easy for us to lose sight of the ultimate goal of being with God.
Enter the final prayer of the Office of Readings, which was also the Collect at mass, as is usually the case:
O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
A beautiful echo of the passage from Gaudium et spes in which we pray for the ability to look past the uncertainties (the transitory nature) of the world and to keep our eyes focused on heaven.
Finally, our priest this morning picked up on the idea but with a slightly different slant. Keying off the question in the Gospel of whether many will be saved, he spoke about how hard it is to make it to heaven, especially given the state of society around us. Referring to the visions at Fatima and the diary of St. Faustina, he commented that the writings of the saints tell us time and again that many, many people fall into damnation without seeing where they are going because they go along with the tide of the world and take their eyes off the true prize of heaven. Obviously, we need all the help we can get, and the Church recognizes that fact, putting it not only into the Liturgy of the Hours, but also into the collect at mass.
Just one example of how, if we allow the Church to speak to us through the liturgy, we see that it is all of one piece, and designed to direct our hearts and minds towards God, making it easier for us to join Him in heaven.