Tag Archive: Christ


Returning from Mass around 5:30 in the evening, I set down my car-keys and checked the mailbox. Nothing was there. A sinking feeling came into my heart as I realized it wouldn’t be until Monday that my newly ordered, 4 volume set of breviaries arrived. Not that the wait particularly bothered me as I currently had an old crinkled volume IV from the church’s library in my custody. Still, anticipation boiled within me. I longed to feel the weight of each volume in my hands and smell the newly printed pages while chanting the psalms. 

All day, I believed that my breviaries awaited me on Monday. I made dinner, said my Legion of Mary prayers and began surfing the internet. Finally a thought came to mind. I forgot to feed that cats! My mother entrusted me with this duty before embarking on a trip with her sisters. The poor babies were probably starving by now. Curse my negligence! Stealing into my mother’s empty room, I turned the light on and saw a rectangular cardboard box sitting on her bed, two envelopes on top of it.
Excitement surged forth as I read “Amazon.com” on the sides and saw the curved arrow on the logo. I cried out “It’s them! They’re here!” Like a child on Christmas morning who just sited the biggest shiniest gift box with their name on it, I seized the box. My brother, Kevin came in the room wondering what all the shouting was about. All I said was “My books are here! They’re here!”


My fingers trembled as I retrieved a pair of scissors yet Kevin easily tore the box’s lid with his finger. He pulled out a smaller, white box, paused for a moment, then handed it to me saying, “You should be the one to open it.”
In black letters, the words were written across the white box: “Liturgy of the Hours” Without a doubt, they had arrived! Blue, red, brown and green, they lined up inside the box, waiting to be freed by my anxious hands. Carefully, so as not to hurt them, I turned them to the side and let them slide out onto the couch. One by one, I investigated them. They were perfect! At once, I felt unified with the entire Church, enrolled in the camaraderie of countless priests, seminarians, monks, nuns and lay people. God’s hand was in my hand. He gently led me to a piece of tilled land, the fruit of which I was yet to discover.

(By the way, I later discovered that my father fed the cats at 5:30.)

Advertisements

The glistening tabernacle silently greeted me, sending forth an arch of gold, yellow and bronze light. I sat down and opened my book of hours. Nothing could be heard, no birdsong outside nor distant lawnmowers roaring,-not even the shuffle of feet as others entered the church. Periodically I glanced up at the abode of my Lord, perhaps nervously but more likely, full of thoughts. Sally, one of our sacristans, approached. Her neatly cropped hair and white shirt shone like silver beneath the bluish stained-glass window. Seeing me paused, with the open book, she said:
“Sing.”
And so I began chanting as she slowly opened the tabernacle, retrieved a golden container of already consecrated hosts. Beside it, was placed a small silver monstrance holding a larger, exposed host. She knelt down in reverence before closing the tabernacle and bringing the container to the sacristy. Immediately, I realized that a priest wasn’t available to say Mass today, that we would be holding a communion service led by the deacon instead. Anxiety gripped my heart as I thought of our parish priest and the sickness in his family that kept him away at this time. Ringing out the psalms, I asked God to watch over him. A thought suddenly came to mind. I stopped chanting and turned to Sally who now sat behind me. My heart thudded. The odd request lingered on my lips. Nervously, I asked:
“If it is allowed, can you open the tabernacle so that we can adore the host?”

~ ~ ~

“We can do that as long as I’m here,” Sally answered.
I didn’t check the expression on her face, whether it was joyful, eager- or baffled but gladly knelt down when the heavy metal doors were opened again, revealing the silent little host in its silver casing. Feelings of littleness and aggravation at my sins hit me full force. I really was no one and nothing compared to Our Almighty God who deigned to descend from heaven and dwell with us. I finished my prayers and remained kneeling on the floor for several minutes as love gently emanated from the small host, washing over everything like the sunlight, making cold places grow warm again. And at that moment, love was enough. He was enough.
Shuffling emerged behind us and glancing over my shoulder, I saw a man with sparse hair, glasses over his bright eyes and a white collar. Slung over his arm was a long, white garment. A priest! Rather flustered, he asked about the time of the Mass, explaining he got lost on the way to the church. Sally instantly sprang up to help him and followed him down the aisle. Hurriedly, not considering propriety, I closed the tabernacle, dropped upon one knee and said farewell to my Jesus, knowing I would see him again in just a few moments. My mind leaped and ran in circles as I absentmindedly followed them into the sacristy.
“Is there anything I can do?” I blurted out.
The priest was already throwing on vestments and I eyed the floor, worried I’d interrupted him somehow. I always worried about this. However, relief flooded my heart as Sally answered,
“Yes, you can take these hosts, put them in the tabernacle, lock it and bring me the key.”
As she placed the round, golden container in my outstretched hands, I bowed down and closed my eyes like a samurai receiving his sword in some epic movie. I walked gingerly, like a chemist carrying concentrated acid. I shivered expectantly, like a young, virgin girl pregnant with the Savior of the world. The thing in my hands was infinitely more precious than gold, jewels, the finest spices, more weighty than the universe. Every instinct in me wanted to loudly start singing: “Pange lingua gloriosi.” I sang it in my heart instead.

ciborium

The Priest

christ the priest

 

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” –John 14:18

A discussion on the Mass cannot be separate from a discussion on the gift of the priesthood. Crowing the offering of the priesthood of believers, God’s ministerial priests make the Eucharistic sacrifice present. The word “priest” means one who makes sacrifice. Chosen from among men, he presides over the banquet of love. As “another Christ” his hands, voice and body become the very instruments of Christ, used to pour out every kind of grace. The priest’s vocation is to be steward of all gifts which the Mass imparts. We see clearly that his actions, words, prayers and vesture have something to teach us about the gifts.

Gold in the vesture of the priest is not belonging to the man, but to God’s presence which wraps him as a mantle. We think of how the prophets of old chose their successors by placing their mantle upon them. We think of how Christ elected his own apostles and remember that every priest is enrolled in the apostolic ministry of preaching the Gospel to every nation.

The oil of a priest configures him especially to Christ. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit burns a brilliant seal upon his soul. It is the oil of gladness, of Our Savior’s eternal priesthood. He goes to the wellspring of Christ’s own life and draws out the Eucharist from which we all drink. He gives us the sacrament that heals, atones and saves. During the elevation of the host and chalice, let us imagine that oil is being poured out over the people, cleansing us, strengthening us, making us new.

When the priest prays quietly at the altar, he is praying for himself- and for us. Jesus’s disciples asked him: “teach us to pray” and this is what the priest does. Like the Good Shepherd who leads us, he teaches us a silent way of prayer, of turning our eyes to the Heavenly Father and trusting in Him. He lifts up his children, diligently cares for them and feeds them honey from the promised land.

The priest does many acts of reverence during Mass. He bows his head, lifts his hands, makes small crosses and big crosses. Genuflecting before the consecrated Eucharist, he shows adoration for Christ. We worship with head, hands, feet and lips because Christ became man and worshiped his Father in this way. Watching these gestures and responding to them, our whole being participates in the Holy Sacrifice.

Lastly, the priest works hard to provide for our nourishment. He spends many hours in toil, tending to the sick, weak and spiritually wounded. His celibate fecundity and wholehearted devotion become rich milk flowing in the desert. By laying down his own life for us, he provides us with a model of Christian living. In following self-abandonment, we find true happiness. What a happy sight is a priest wearing his collar amidst a bustling, public place! The priest is a quiet, humble enduring token of God’s presence with us always.

The Wine of the Mass.

 

wine

“Take me away with you–let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. How right they are to adore you!”– Song of Songs 1:4

 

When confronted with the mystery of the altar, the presence of God dwelling there, one is overcome by awe. Words escape some while others long to open their mouths in praise. In both cases, the heart groans silently. Have you ever taken time to notice all of the postures and gestures used during Mass? When the priest speaks a certain verse, we say a certain response. He kneels before the consecrated Eucharist, he whispers certain prayers and holds out his hands. When crossing the altar, we bow and starting the Mass, we make the sign of the cross. These actions are really just a hundred tiny ways we say “Lord, I love you.”

This disposition of reverence is the wine of the Mass. Our chanting, our vigils, our candles brightly burning are all signs of a people enamored by God’s presence. These things all serve to foster a union with God. They help us understand who God is and how we respond to Him. Reverence is the song of the wedding feast.

We behave differently at Mass than in the outside world. Feeling a sense of the sacred, our minds cease their restless churning. The structure and solemnity of the Holy Mass brings peace. It conveys a respect for the Lord’s house. In order to drink more deeply of the sacraments, we must lower ourselves, be humble and meek. It is then we hear what God is trying to tell us. Before approaching Holy Communion, we drink the cup of reverence which prepares us to drink the Saving Cup. Our palates are softened to receive the Living God.

To some, reverence is foolish, the dusty remnants of an old religion that lacks contemporary value. But nothing is further from the truth. Amidst materialism, reverence points to something higher. In a world of darkness, reverence sows light. We exert ourselves in charity, feeding the hungry caring for the sick, ministering to the sinner. Having drunk our fill, we may even give our very lives. Capable of so profoundly moving us with love of God and neighbor, wine is corresponds to the end of the Mass, which is adoration.

Wine is intoxicating, like the powerful, just and merciful presence of God, who loves us beyond measure. Our minds reel at such a love! Running and warm, it also becomes the precious Body and Blood of Christ, who intoxicated by love for us, gave up his life on the cross. Enlivened by this spirit, let us run to the King and Bridegroom of our souls!

The Honey of the Mass.

honey

 

“Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 24:14

There are some things about the Mass that we can just savor. In a sacred place, praying silently, folding our hands, perhaps whispering, we are comforted. Eyes closed, hearing a gentle hymn about the mercy of God, we are given hope. Seeking him, we know he seeks us. This is the honey of the Mass: God’s peace, which the world cannot give. The soft prayers, small gestures and mumblings of the priest are soothing to watch and hear.  A pilgrim people, we are nestled in the arms of God, and there, tell our many petitions.

Honey shows our special relationship with God. Our liturgical gestures reveal a people conversant with God, knowing him as both friend and lover. Every movement is charged with meaning, every word profound. Listening to the Gospel, let us remember that His word is like a honeycomb, beckoning us closer. As the priest recites prayers we may not be able to hear, remember that Jesus often went alone to pray. It reminds us to watch and pray.

You may notice that the words said at Mass have a set text. They are moreso echoed in every Catholic Church around the world. These petitions, handed down in the Church’s wisdom, are the prayer of the universal people of God who intercede for the world.  We don’t just recite these prayers, but enter into them, learning their meaning as we hear them again and again.

And how sweet the words of Jesus that flow from our mouths when we say: “Our Father, who art in heaven”? Our prayers join with those of the whole Church and Christ, who is the Head of the Body, prays with us. In receiving the Holy Eucharist, God becomes our humble guest. In silence, we talk to him, tell him our many needs and the needs of others. At this time, we might say private prayers in our hearts.  Because it is savored so long in the heart, honey characterizes the end of the Mass which is petition.

In our desert lives, it is necessary to seek refreshment. The sweetness of the Mass gives us energy to confront a world that is seldom peaceful. Jesus came to give us peace, to bring good tidings to all men. He taught us how to pray and united with him, we worship the Father. Our lasting union with him, is supreme happiness. In him, is our hope and the Mass reminds us of this time and time again. In his body, he died, rose and ascended. Knowing that Our Lord and God endured the hardships of life, gives us courage to face our own trials. Honey sweetens the vinegar of suffering.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most-perfect gift in which God gives himself to man, and man gives himself to God. When we go to Mass, a banquet is spread before us full of splendor, richness, sweetness and praise. God’s goodness overflows.  As a Protestant, I couldn’t really see God’s love for me, nor touch or taste it. God was an abstract person, far from us, that the preacher only talked about. Yes, he did tell us to “accept Jesus into our hearts” but this sort of prayer seemed like an intellectual exercise. When I finally discovered the Catholic Mass, I was able to say, here is truly the outward manifestation of God’s love for us! In the act of receiving communion, believed to be the actual body and blood of Jesus, “accepting Jesus into your heart” became more than just an idea but a real, concrete thing.

The Mass is our “Mysterium Tremendum”. It is the kingly, priestly and prophetic prayer of the entire people of God. Both a banquet and a sacrifice, it reopens every grace bestowed to us by Jesus on the cross of Calvary. In a lifetime, it would be impossible to understand all that happens at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or count all its gifts. Before such a tremendous mystery, we can only reflect on bits and pieces until the whole is revealed in heaven, where at the altar not made of human hands, we will worship for all eternity. The following gifts I now reflect on are just a foretaste of what God prepares for us, that which eye has not seen and ear has not heard.

 

The Gold of the Mass:

gold

“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” – Malachi 3:3

When the sweet smell of incense rises in smoky curls, the organ thunders and heavenly strains of Gregorian chant hit your ears as you see the priest process by wearing vestments that shimmer like fire, you are experiencing the gold of the Mass. These are the outward treasures of the church proudly displayed. While such beauty may consist of expensive materials, they speak of the treasures of heaven rather than earth. We do not count the cost of this perfume poured out in devotion, for God is master of all things.

Some may deem beauteous things as mere externals however, we know their true purpose: our senses, sight, smell, sound, touch, are guided to heavenly realities. Mysteries are brought low, so that man may taste and see. We see before us, entrance into that paradise lost and a foretaste of eternal delight. A lavish wedding feast calls our attention, our minds and hearts.

The gold of the Mass is the priceless adornment of the temple of God, which should match the adornment in our heart. Since we cannot see the hearts of others, we are shown something to strive for, the adornment of virtue, faith, hope, charity. It is also a reminder of God’s greatest gift to us, His Only begotten Son, who was incarnated of the Virgin Mary and became man. The Lord of all creation became poor so we may be rich. He became human so we could become divine. Gold was presented to the newborn babe in Bethlehem, placed before the manger of the King of Kings. Now, chalices and plates of gold are a fitting throne for Him. From a gold vessel we receive something infinitely more precious than gold. We receive the price of our redemption: the blood of Jesus Christ!

The beauty of the Mass summons our collective memory as ransomed people of God, no longer slaves but friends and servants of the most high. A royal priesthood, whose bonds have been loosed, we stand and give thanks to God, carrying our gold, singing our song of victory. Thus the gold corresponds to the end of the Mass which is thanksgiving.

Instead of being a pompous parade of human accomplishments, fine vestments and solemn chant sing of God’s accomplishments. He shed all the glories of heaven and while still Lord of Lords, died on a barren cross for our sins. He wore the sorrowful vestments of death so we could wear the glittering garments of resurrection. Being tried in fire, gold is living. Pressed in the crucible, it emerges stronger. It is also a very pure element, mirroring pure worship. Therefore, being given an inheritance that never fades away, we echo the words: “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me.”

 

 

Image

 

There is nothing on earth or in the heavens that compares to the greatness of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, In the outpouring of this Divine Love, all the earth’s nations are as naught, regarded as rust on the scales. The great cities would not suffice to fuel it’s flames and men, princes of men are just a breath!

No treasure has been, is, or will be greater than this precious medicine of souls, this balm of the True Savior. But a drop suffices to cleanse away all sins- a world of sins. But a drop is worth more than all the priceless gems of the earth or mounds of purest gold.

Oh most priceless Sacrament, Sacrament of Sacraments! My hands are not worthy to touch thee, my eyes not worthy to see nor my tongue worthy to taste.

Yet, Oh God, You have let the heavens rain down the Just One and Your mercy pour like the dew-fall. Like a torrent has Salvation come. Oh, how the heavens tore open and from the side of Your Only Begotten, came our only life!!

The Meaning of Man

Michelangelo,_Creation_of_Adam_03

 

Love is bitter passion,

a crucifixion is love.

No benefice to man arrives without suffering.

Elixirs, useless should not the sweat of doctors fall into them.

Gold, dross should not the fire of a smith sear it.

Verses, naught without the poet’s tears.

Gardens, barren without the winter’s frost.

How is there a wedding without the bridegroom?

How is there a Mass without the Christ?

Oh, it is of blood and Christ that all love sings!

 

Let me sing of the bridegroom and the priest.

One wraps a bed of roses round his heart,

the other round his feet.

One requires an ass to bear his tokens of love,

the other rides an ass unto his love.

The young groom cries: “I shall be one with her!”

The acolyte says: “I shall be one with all!”

The sons of a groom are honor,

sons of a priest are woe

for the Good Lord deigned one to give life

that the other may sanctify it.

 

Adam was a sinner and so are his children.

The groom needs law and the priest, mercy.

Abraham was a patriarch and so, his children.

The groom’s seed yields flesh and the priest lends spirit.

David was king and so will be his children.

The bridegroom rules his house and the priest, his flock.

Zadok was a priest and so are his children.

The bridegroom offers his blood and the priest, his cross.

Isaiah was a prophet and so, his children.

Both bridegroom and priest foreswear vows.

Eve comforted the stricken Adam and so the wife, her husband.

Mary endured the crucified Christ and so the mother of a priest.

How the wife’s marriage-bed is veiled in purpled silk,

the holy altar swaddled in gold.

 

Hear the story of the pelican.

Who, in winter lost, suffers not her children to starve.

Whose breast is pierced that they may drink her blood,

her death-throes giving life.

 

The father is a warrior, bearing the standard of sacrifice.

He is the pelican with bleeding heart.

 

The husband bleeds in his heart,

the priest, from his hands,

The husband suffers old age,

the priest lost souls.

A marriage unconsummated mourns virginity,

the priest consummates and rejoices in virginity.

For Holy Church is a woman of women

while an earthly wife shall never satisfy.

 

The lyre sings sweetly for a lover.

Chant rings out while asleep.

The marriage bed must be left for toil and work,

whereas the altar bears testimony forever.

Death dissolves husband and wife

but the love of Christ for Church is eternal.

 

A husband bleeds in his heart,

the priest, from his hands.

The husband’s cup flows with wine,

it inflames his lust.

The priest’s chalice holds blood,

it destroys his self-will.

This is the way of man, why for God made him.

Unhappy is the man who lives for himself.

Gracious a man who gives his life in sacrifice.

Crucifixion with sun and moon.

Crucifixion with sun and moon.

 

You believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth. So let us remember that when He had created all things, He declared them to be “good.” Let us remember Our God, who after He created man and woman, declared them to be : “Very good.” Why very good? The universe, the earth, sea, beasts and birds, they were good. The sun and moon, night and day, they were good. But man, he was pronounced “very good.” Stooping down, God then crafted the jewel of His creation: the woman. He made her man’s helpmate, his spouse, mother, sister and daughter. Then truly, did God say “It is very good”!

The man was made like the sun at day, providing by his guiding light and strength, creating life in his rays or subjecting it to burning heat. No corn gives ears without the sun nor do trees put forth their roots. Yet the sun is charged to rule half the day and the moon rules the other. Thus, woman is made like the moon, cradling life in her silver beacon, nurturing, killing nothing. Lilies do not bloom without the moon nor does corn lay down its seed. Without the moon, seas cannot rise and feed the earth. See how both sun and moon are needed and not one has greater importance than the other? The same with man and woman!

What if the moon decided she should be like the sun? Should she try to rule the day, giving light and burning rays? What if she busied herself with furrows instead of the sea? Would not everything die? With great reason did God give half the day to the sun and half to the moon for if only sun, the earth would bake and wither and if only moon, growth would cease and the seas flood.

Remember that God fashioned man like the sun and woman like the moon. Therefore each holds partial rule. Adam was given Kingship and Eve was made Queen. In the King is creation, justice, force and command. In the Queen is nutrition, mercy, reason and intercession. One does not take place of the other. Or is God’s work deficient in some way?  Maybe you admit this scheme of things… but still you claim that such was the old world and in the new world, Christ sees no difference between man and woman and in their terms of service. Let me instruct you…

When Saint Paul says in his letter “There is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman…” he means their station before God. No longer does the Jew stand greater chance of salvation or the freeman or the man. All are free to partake in Christ’s Passover, in His new life and in His salvation. Things of status or cleanliness do not matter anymore but one’s purity of heart and perseverance in faith. Moreso, all can take the Holy Eucharist- provided they are free from grave sin.

In the heavenly liturgy, just as in Eden, there is surely distinction. While both Adam and Eve join in hymns to God, Adam must give the offering. Recall how the fathers offer sacrifice- not the mothers. Though the mother prepares the table and candles, she touches not the Paschal lamb. Thus why the risen Christ says to Mary “Touch me not” and to Thomas, “Put your hand into my side.”

Maybe you still say, “Look how women were superior disciples of Christ.” This, I concede to you. Besides John the Beloved, Our Lord had no more loyal friends than Mary Magdalene and Mary, his mother. Indeed the Samaritan woman posessed greater faith than Thomas who claimed he would die with the Lord. Martha had more charity than Philip who said the thousand could not be fed. If anyone should have been charged with offering Christ’s Eucharist, it should have been Mary, his mother of matchless faith. Yet, he did not take her into the Upper-room.

Being an apostle doesn’t make one more holy. We see the example of Judas who betrayed and Peter who fled. Women were charged with spreading Christ’s words and deeds, asked to witness miracles, give prayer and sanctify their households. They were not told “Do this in memory of me.”

From Genesis to Revelation, men are chosen to stand in the person of God. In the Old Covenant; fathers of great dynasties gave mediation and in the New; chaste eunuchs. Women have always stood by man’s side, at the foot of the cross, at the side of the altar, offering goodly prayers, their undying devotion and sanctity.

Keep in mind that a bishop, no matter how holy he may be, can never offer motherhood to God. He can never offer a womb or a fairness like the moon. He lacks the jewel of creation, which is to be a mother, daughter and sister. Man stands in the person of Christ but woman, she spreads her arms in the venerable person of Mary. Christ was the Lamb of God but Mary was the Ewe. Man offers sacrifice but woman offers her glory which reflects like moonlight, a glory never to be stolen away or diminished.

 

I have figured it out, the reason why I feel such a burning love for priests and the priesthood: Because it all reminds me of the true Beloved of my heart, Jesus Christ. You see, all along, I have wanted to marry a priest! I speak here of the heavenly High-priest who I am madly in love with, who I want to walk with me, who I want to stand beside… who I want to be my Husband.

It is religious life!