Faith is Personal, not Ideological
Every prayer and every slogan—religious or secular—introduces and reinforces some doctrine. Catholic prayers beckon us to enter into the mysteries of the Faith. The Sign of the Cross expresses the first mystery and the central mystery of our existence: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” In one brief statement, we assent to the entire Catholic faith.
The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father with the procession of the Holy Spirit in infinite perfection and unity. But the perfect love within the Trinity presents us with the question: Why did God create us? He does not need us, and He does not improve His love by creating us. But He shares His love in Creation. The mystery of Creation reveals His generous and selfless love.
The Old Testament reveals the one God, the creative and loving Father. The Gospels reveal the Son—the Word made Flesh—sent into the world for our redemption and salvation. Pentecost definitively unveils the Holy Spirit and inaugurates the age of the Holy Spirit. With every Sign of the Cross, we witness God’s dominion throughout all history and rejoice in our redemption.
The prayer draws us into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. It reminds us that God created us in His image and restores us in His name. The perfect love of the Trinity is not closed in on itself. The love is mysteriously selfless and creative. When we acknowledge the God of history—and, in faith, enter into the inner life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—He sends us forth into the world to love with selfless Trinitarian love. Our “Amen” is the most concise acknowledgment of the mystery and our assent in faith.
The Sign of the Cross calls for continual doctrinal expression and reinforcement in the Mass. We begin every Mass with the Sign of the Cross. The “Amen” indicates our firm assent in faith. The Collect introduces the Liturgy of the Word, but in humility, we do not directly address the Father. We conclude by invoking Jesus as our one Mediator: “through Christ our Lord.” The Liturgy of the Word deepens our understanding of the Trinity. The Creed expands upon our faithful “Amen.”
The Canon of the Mass at once represents the Cross and Resurrection, but also the Transfiguration. Immediately preceding the Consecration, the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine and invokes the Holy Spirit in the Epiclesis. Then the priest solemnly pronounces the sacred words—“This is my body” and “This is my blood”—that transform the substance of the bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. Before and after the Consecration, we recognize the company of Mary and all the saints. We stand with Jesus in prayerful conversation with the Father.
With Jesus now present on our altars, the Canon concludes with the prayer of our transfiguration: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.” This Per Ipsum echoes the heavenly prayers of the Book of Revelation, rejoicing in our mystical union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory….” (Rev. 19:6-7)
The Transfiguration of the Canon allows the priest to introduce the Our Father with startling words: “At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say:” Jesus commands us, the Holy Spirit forms us, and so we can approach the Father without a Mediator. In the presence of Jesus and the saints on the Mount, we do not even need the mediation of a priest!
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our existence in the Trinity and a foretaste of heavenly glory. During Holy Communion, from the Heart of the Mass, we receive the glorified Body of Jesus. Our conversation may be like that of Peter, James, and John, in awe and perhaps confused. For the few minutes in union with the Presence, our prayer continues in an intensely personal encounter speaking heart to Heart.
But the demands of this life require that we come down from the Mount of Transfiguration and return to the world to carry out His will. So the “Prayer After Communion” restores the formula of mediation as it again concludes with: “…through Christ our Lord.” The phrase reminds us that until we see God face to face in the beatific vision of heaven, our prayers need Jesus as our Mediator.
The Mass concludes as it begins, invoking the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. But now, the invocation is a prayer of priestly mediation, at once blessing our departure from the sacred feast and sending us forth as ambassadors of Christ. We depart with the Spirit of His blessing—faith renewed, and our soul refreshed. Imperceptibly, at every Mass, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—Three in One—gradually transforms us, restoring us to our original dignity in Him.
Secular religions also use prayers that summarize their ideologies. But the slogans are manipulative with a fearful symmetry. The infamous “pro-choice” epithet attracts our freedom-loving sentiments, but the meaning behind it is grotesque. The tired “inclusive” bumper sticker, “Celebrate Diversity,” is presumably immune from criticism; yet the proponents would never include the Ten Commandments in their celebration. The slogans of pandemic porn demand that we “follow the science,” wear masks even when outdoors “out of an abundance of caution,” and “take the vaccine”—all code for genuflecting to the capricious directives of Dr. Fauci.
When we pray the Sign of the Cross with fervor, we enter into the inner life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for our redemption, restoration, and salvation. The Sign of the Cross is not ideological. The Catholic faith is personal.
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