The liturgical year in the life

and the ongoing formation of priests


         The Christian Liturgical Year is the time of the life and the prayer of Jesus Christ; it is the embodiment in time of the prayer of the Lord, of his relation with his Father, and therefore of his life and his mission.  Christ lived his having been sent by his Father in perpetual relation with Him.  As John says, in his gospel, “The one who sent me is with me” (Jn 8:29).


         In the life and in the formation of a priest, whose ordained ministry is fundamentally apostolic, he has “been sent” by Jesus just as Jesus was sent by his father (see Jn 20:21) and the Liturgical Year is the path and the substance of the unity of prayer and mission for which he has been called to serve as an instrument of Christ, and to represent him personally in the Sacraments and in the proclamation of the Word.


         In the gospel of Luke, the first order that Jesus gives the seventy-two disciples whom he is sending on mission is to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers to his harvest field (Luke 10:2).  He asks those he is sending out on mission to pray to the Father that he send missionaries.  It is as if he wanted them to understand that the very act of being sent out must always be requested, must always be prayed for, must always be received from the Father, just as Jesus himself has always lived in his prayer to be sent out into the world by the Father, for the salvation of mankind.


         To be sent is a grace, a gift to be begged for and obtained, constantly; and in the prayer of the Liturgical Year, that is in the time dedicated to prayer which is the Liturgical year, it is given to us to request and receive the mission of the Son, from his Incarnation to his return to the Father, as soul and substance of the mission entrusted to us by Christ.


         But for the priest the Liturgical Year is in and of itself mission, his specific mission.  The priest has the task and the responsibility not only to receive the liturgy from the Church, but to give it, to transmit it, as well.  His prayer to the Lord of the harvest is not solely to inspire his mission, but also those of the others.  For the mission of Christ is the life of the entire Body of the Church, of the whole People of God.


         When he recites “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24-25) the priest receives the mission of the living memory of Christ in all its mysteries, which derive from the Eucharist and culminate in the Eucharist.  The Liturgical Year is the memory - distilled and distributed over all time and circumstances of life - of the heart of the Christian advent; Jesus who comes, who dies, and who returns to give us his eternal and filial life.


         “Do this in remembrance of me!”: the priest is entrusted with that “this” of the event of the Redemption.  It is his task to fulfill and to commemorate in the active and living liturgical memory of the Church.


         He who acts in remembrance of Christ finds himself “made”, recreated by that very memory; remodelled ever anew by the Mystery which he is celebrating.  This is the essential formation in the Church, and he who in primis has the task of  “remembrance” must also be the first to allow himself to be made, modelled, in remembrance of the Mystery.  In remembrance of Christ, for the “this” that the priest performs in remembrance of Him is the Gift of His living Presence.

As the rite of ordination reminds the new priest at the very outset: “Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord's cross”.


The formation that the Liturgical Year provides for the priest and all the faithful is not simply one of instruction; it is not just a catechesis, but the gradual eucharistic assimilation of the form of life and of sanctity of Christ himself.  The Liturgy, more than simply forming, conforms to the Lord.


         I once celebrated the Eucharist before the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  The way in which she “received” the Liturgy brought me sharply back to the way I should be celebrating it.  The Bride, in receiving it, reflected to me the Bridegroom, and reminded me that Christ is only properly celebrated through love; in the desire for communion with Him, the reflection and welcoming of His desire for communion with us.  This is why the Liturgical Year is often a Marian year.


         In fact, it is precisely the desire for the coming of the Bridegroom which begins and completes the liturgical period.  Whosoever lives and celebrates the Liturgical Year as “the best man, who stands and listens for him” (Jn  3:29) derives from that the full substance of the mission, and joins in the rejoicing at the wedding banquet, in the communion of Christ with the Church.




Fr. Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, OCist

General Abbot