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Catholic Diocese of Rochester, New York

"One body though many parts"

"Un cuerpo aunque muchas partes"

 

 

 

The Eucharistic Movement of the Mass

 

          If someone had a video of the Mass during the early ages of the Church, it would have proven to be a rich historical document, according to Father John M. Scott, S.J. in his booklet Our “New” Mass.

          He says we might have been especially interested to have seen the Offertory procession. If you had seen it, you would have noticed that the women had baked the bread in their homes and the men had made the wine from the grapes in their vineyards… These gifts expressed the dedication of their lives to God. They presented these gifts made by their hands to the priest at Mass to be consecrated into the Body and Blood of Christ.

          Today, while the bread and wine offered at Mass are not personally made by our hands, nevertheless, as in the early Church, they signify the giving of ourselves to God. These gifts of bread and wine and what we do with them, identify strongly what we are called to become as we celebrate Mass… As we present and offer the bread and wine to be transformed, we are also called to present and offer ourselves to God to be completely transformed too!

          We present and offer to the Lord everything we are and do, as well as everything about our lives: our joys and sorrows, our blessings and trials, our surprises and disappointments… All that makes us feel happy and ecstatic and all that makes us feel depressed and utterly helpless. We give and present to the Lord all those we love: our family and friends, and anyone who is hurting. At Mass, we offer all this and any of our suffering and unite it to the saving death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

          We know that Jesus has given and is still giving Himself completely for us. Jesus is interceding for us even now. At Mass in a very special way, we have access to and tap into this incredible spiritual reality. As we celebrate Mass, we are entering into the one, eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ – as if what happened at Calvary and on Easter were happening right now and it was immediately and directly washing over us! And into us!

          The Mass makes this reality present. The same Love and Power poured out at Calvary, is being poured out to us now! If we could only absorb this truth my dear brothers and sisters in Christ! …The same Love and Power poured out at Calvary is being poured out to us now as we celebrate Mass!

          Once the gifts of bread and wine have been prepared, presented and offered to God, the Eucharistic Prayer begins. It starts with the greeting: “The Lord be with you!” You’ve already been greeted twice before in this way – at the beginning of Mass and before the proclamation of the Gospel. So why do we repeat this greeting again in the middle of the Mass? …Because we need to pray with much more intensity now, and we are going to need God’s help.

          We are strongly encouraged: “Lift up your hearts!” … This is the only way we are to be able to take in what is about to happen. By giving our hearts – the absolute core of who we are – to the Lord!

          We are also told and reminded what our response and the way that we live our entire lives is to be: “Let us give thanks to the lord!”

          This beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer leads us by invitation to literally join the Angels and the Saints as they are giving to the Almighty God their worship, adoration and praise at this very moment in Heaven. And so, with them we sing and cry out: “Holy, Holy, Holy…!   At this moment in the Mass, it is as if both time and space were being unzipped and there were no separation between heaven and earth, between time and eternity. We are one with and present to all the heavenly host –we are all caught up with adoring, worshipping, and loving Our Awesome God at the same time….And in  unity we are exclaiming and praising: “Holy, Holy, Holy…!...”

         

At the heart of the Eucharistic Prayer, are the words of consecration. Please notice the shift in the verb tenses. The first part is in the past tense, in a familiar storytelling style: “On the night He was betrayed, He took bread and gave You thanks and praise…”

          But when we come to the words Jesus spoke on that night we move into the present tense: “This is My Body…”, “This is My Blood…” Why? …Because as Catholic Christians we believe that Christ, truly becomes present in this moment. He is literally here…in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The bread and the wine are no longer bread and wine. Under what only appears as bread and wine, it is really, truly and literally Him!

          While I offer the bread and the wine to God on behalf of us and say the words of consecration over them, I am only a representative of Christ. I act in the Name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, however, He is the real Priest. It is always Christ who offers Himself for us at each Mass and makes present to us now as we celebrate, what already took place at Calvary two thousand years ago.

What makes the Mass so sacred? As Father John M. Scott, S.J. says,

‘At this Sacrifice Banquet, Christ is at once the Victim offered and the Priest Who offers the Victim.

It is Christ who is at the same time the Priest Who offers the Sacrifice and is the Sacrifice Itself.

Christ the Priest, offers the Sacrifice which is Himself!’

 

          Eventually, during the Communion Rite at Mass, Our Lord Who literally has come to be with us and is on our altar, longs to be consumed by us.

          During Jesus’ life on earth, those who just touched the hem of His garment were healed immediately. But in reality, the Lord does not want us to just touch Him or His clothing, nor does He only want to touch us nor just instruct or inspire us…

          The truth is, God wants and desires even more! God wants to be one with us! God’s love for us not only rivals, - it far surpasses any desire, longing or ache for human affection and love we may have!

          The Lord’s Love for us is Fierce! God’s Love is not satisfied to remain external to or outside of us. God Himself craves total union with us – God desires to be part of every fabric of our being – to be fully absorbed, becoming part of all that we are.

          I love the way that Father John Scott explains this longing of God… here is part of what he says:

“Think of it as a man who is in love… Of such a man, a name rings in his heart, making him tremble with joy… A name shouts through his mind, and echoes a thousand memories of sheer joy. A face is framed in his thoughts. Every fiber of his being vibrates with happiness at being one in spirit with her who is (to him) life itself. His whole existence circles around her who is his sun, and moon, and the center of his universe.

He devours her face and image fixing it in his mind, that he may possess it forever… In his own mind she walks, silent and serene. There is the sound of her voice, the movement of her hand, the peace in her eyes, and more than these, a strange ecstatic wonder he can never forget. Mystery and tenderness, strength and rapture, all these, and a strange rare essence that reminds him of heaven.”

 

MY FRIENDS, THAT’S THE WAY GOD THINKS ABOUT US!

 

          Father Scott quotes Father Walter Farrell, O.P. who is his book “A Companion to the Summa” says,

“… Love will not be satisfied with mere possession, even with mere enjoyment of that possession; it goes further and seeks perfectly to assimilate the object to itself, to penetrate its inmost depths…”

 

Father Scott continues and then quotes saint Peter Canisius…

“Why do we speak of someone being “on fire with love?”  The answer is simple. Fire not only strives for union with what it embraces, but seeks to transform whatever it embraces into itself. Love does likewise. Saint Peter Canisius wrote, “As it happens to a coal, to be changed and totally converted into fire, so by a worthy reception of the Eucharist, we become changed in a wonderful manner into Christ, are made partakers of His divine nature, and grow somehow to be the very blood-brother (blood-sister) of Him (Jesus Who is), Our Head.”  

 

Wow! Don’t you see my dear friends; the celebration of the mysteries of the Mass is the celebration of the mystery of Love Itself! First, God gives Himself to us. Then we give ourselves to Him and then He gives Himself to us ever more intimately, deeper and passionately.

It is a “Fire” my friends! When we are receiving Holy Communion, we are receiving “Fire!” “Fire!” …It was “Fire” that transformed Charles de Foucauld who had lived an utterly undisciplined and wild life – when he was converted instantly at Mass as the priest elevated the Body of Christ, the consecrated Host… It was the “Fire” of daily Holy Communion that gave Father Damien the strength to endure the loathing conditions of the lepers he ministered to… It was that same “Fire” that gave Assunta Goretti the ability to forgive the man who murdered her twelve year old daughter, Maria, while attempting to rape her… How many other stories could we recant? Many – almost countless!

The “Fire” of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion has transformed millions upon millions of souls! When you are receiving Holy Communion, you are receiving that “Fire”! You are receiving that “Fire” of the ‘Bright Morning Star’… You are receiving that “Fire” that is ‘The Burning Furnace of Charity’ that is the Sacred Heart of Jesus! …You are receiving that “Fire” that solely belongs to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords… There is no other Fire like It! None with its Intensity, Power and Effect!

It is for that reason that we are prepared to receive Holy Communion in a holy manner. We don’t take it for granted. If we need to go to Confession, we go… When we come forward in the Communion line we are alert, attentive and aware of what we are doing and Who we are about to receive! We have been fasting from all food and drink for at least an hour before. There is absolutely nothing else in our mouths and nothing else in or on our hands including gloves! We receive Jesus reverently and prayerfully and go back to our pew – concentrating only on Him Who we have just received and letting His “Fire” burn in us!

If we have received Holy Communion worthily, a tremendous exchange is taking place between us and the Lord… Before the consecration had taken place, I poured a drop of water into the chalice of wine and I prayed, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”

In the time after Communion, the power of this mystery is being released in you – Divinity is seeping and being released in you.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, in her autobiography, The Story of A Soul, describes it as being kissed. Here is what she says of her First Communion:

“Ah! How sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: ‘I love You, and I give myself to You forever!’ There were no demands made, no struggles, and no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and poor little Therese looked at and understood each other. That day it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Therese had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained; He was the Master, the King. She felt so feeble and fragile that she wanted to be united forever to the divine Strength. Her joy was too great, too deep for her to contain… all the joy of heaven had entered my heart.”

 

No doubt Therese shared in the joy of today’s Psalm (103).

“Bless the Lord, O my soul and all my being bless His Holy Name.

Bless, the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits!”

 

          We ought to be able to experience the same as we experience these spiritual movements of the Mass. Indeed, this is my prayer for you, for me, and for all of us. …may the awareness of what is happening as we celebrate these Sacred Mysteries here together at Holy Apostles, fill us with the powerful and joyful spirit to cry out:

 

“Bless the Lord,

O my soul and all my being

Bless His Holy Name!

Bless the Lord

O my soul and forget not

All His benefits!”