“Christ is always present in His Church, especially in its liturgical celebrations. (7)
Christians have confidence in Christ’s promise that “when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” Thus the Christian liturgical assembly isn’t simply a memorial, or only a human undertaking, or a gathering to worship a deity who is distant and removed. On the contrary, the Council Fathers assert what the Church has always believed: that Christ is truly and really present when the Church prays and sings. God is with us (Emmanuel) in Christ’s Body the Church and Christ’s Spirit, who dwells within us.
While the mystery of Christ’s sacramental, abiding presence in consecrated bread and wine had developed into a identity marker for Catholic Christians and remains at the center of the sacramental mystery, the Council Fathers go on to enumerate the manifold modes of Christ’s true and real presence in the liturgy…teaching that was not new, but perhaps underappreciated.
Christ is truly present in the assembly that is gathered to pray, whether two, three, or three thousand! Christ is present in the Word when the scriptures are read in the church: it is Christ who speaks, not merely the lector or the psalmist or the deacon. Christ is present in the ordained presider, who sacramentally stands in the person of Christ the Head of the Church. Christ is truly and really present in the Church’s celebration of the sacraments. When one baptizes, it is really Christ who baptizes.
The liturgy, then, is the prayer of the whole Body of Christ – united with its Head – in the worship of God the Father. Christ is truly and really present to us in so many ways in the liturgy: are we present to Him?