It strikes me as interesting how much the sun impacts our daily lives. It’s important for temperature, for growing food, for telling time, and it even creates mass chaos on the highways at certain times of day (Ever hear of a sun visor or sunglasses, people? Good grief!) Its amazing what impact that ball of fire has for us every day!
As we begin looking at Eucharistic Prayer III, one of the first things we hear is that phrase, “…you never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that, from the rising of the sun to its setting, a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.” This is a new translation from the previous Missal, which used the phrase, “from east to west”. Both are intended to get across the idea that a vast gathering of people desires to offer praise and honor to God, but “from the rising of the sun to its setting” is very poetic, and it follows exactly the words of Psalm 113. Also, with us St. Louisans as territorial as we are, you might leave out folks from North or South County!
The sun is something universal – everyone on earth is looking at the same star. But it’s also a powerful symbol for the Christian Church of the Resurrection of Christ. The sun appears to be dying in the evening, disappearing into darkness, but then reappears in glory at the beginning of a new day. In the same way, just as the story of Jesus appeared to be coming to a gloomy end, he was risen and triumphant on the third day!
The rising sun in the east has always been an important part in the liturgy as well. Many probably recall from their childhood the priest praying ad orientem, or “to the east”. For many people, it came across as anti-social or dismissive, but in reality, the priest was called to lead all the faithful, focused in a single direction, toward the rising sun (or Son, pun intended), the risen Christ. Even from the days of the Early Church, prayer to the east, to the Risen Christ, was important for worship.
When we think about our own celebration of Mass, we realize that the universality of the Church isn’t just people all over the world, but the whole Church – in every stage. It’s not just those who are rising, but those who are dying as well. All belong to Christ, and all worship him together when we celebrate Mass: those of us here on earth struggling to be his disciples, those who have gone before us and prepare to see God face to face, and those victorious in heaven, who sit at his right and left, worshipping him together with the angels and saints.
Ha! And you thought 10:30 Mass was packed! It’s nice to remember that we’re in great company as we pray, together offering our prayers and praises in one voice to the Risen Christ!