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The Sacred Liturgy - A Foretaste of Heaven for Shrine Pilgrims

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with all its activities, is defined by a single unifying mission: to serve the spiritual needs of all people, those who come on pilgrimage and those who may be influenced by the Shrine in some other way. Of all the means to provide spiritual service, the greatest is in the Sacred Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium §10).

The Shrine’s regular schedule includes ample opportunities to attend Mass. Two Masses are offered daily on Monday through Saturday; Sundays include three Masses, in Latin, Spanish, and English, respectively. Yet even more than the frequency with which Mass is offered, the Shrine endeavors to ensure an atmosphere of reverence and beauty in the liturgy, so that pilgrims and all who experience it may find their hearts more readily drawn toward God.

Pope Benedict XVI powerfully described the heavenly encounter that takes place in the Mass in his book Theology of the Liturgy. From an unlikely starting point—a comparison made in the 1920s between the liturgy and children’s play—he notes that this play can be “a kind of anticipation of life, a rehearsal for later life, without its burdens and gravity.” If we think of things this way, he explains:

“Liturgy would be a kind of anticipation, a rehearsal, a prelude for the life to come, for eternal life … Seen thus, liturgy would be the rediscovery within us of true childhood, of openness to a greatness still to come, which is still unfulfilled in adult life. Here, then, would be the concrete form of hope, which lives in advance the life the come, the only true life, which initiates us into authentic life—the life of freedom, of intimate union with God, of pure openness to our fellow-man. Thus it would imprint on the seemingly real life of daily existence the mark of future freedom, break open the walls that confine us, and let the light of heaven shine down upon earth.”

This is the greatness of the liturgy: In it we receive a foretaste of heaven; we encounter God and, so far as we can in this life, share in union with Him.

The Shrine aims to help pilgrims experience this encounter through a liturgy rich in sacred beauty. On occasion, the regular schedule is supplemented with special Masses, such as the Pontifical Solemn High Masses which his Eminence Cardinal Burke offers periodically. The first Pontifical Solemn High Mass of 2023 was offered February 1, with three more to come this year on June 9, August 5, and December 9. These are, as Executive Director Fr. Paul Check comments, “a part of the rich liturgical patrimony of the Church.” Yet, whatever the type or form of Mass being offered, its heart remains the same:

Jesus Christ becomes truly present among His people, is offered to the Father in sacrifice, and gives Himself to all who accept His gift.