Thursday, June 18, 2009


The very next sentence of the Mass I find very intimidating. The priest asks the congregation, “Pray my brothers and sisters that this our sacrifice will be acceptable to God the Almighty Father,” to which they respond, “May the Lord accept this sacrifice AT YOUR HANDS, for the praise and glory of His Name, for OUR GOOD, and the good of all His Church.” The first time this really hit me was in my first year of the priesthood when one day it turned out that I was the youngest person in the sanctuary and, on that particular day, much of the congregation. I remember thinking, “They are trusting ME with this? What are they thinking?” Of course it is not me per se, they trust God and the Church that He established. But this little exchange still gives me chills from time to time.

The prayer over the gifts comes next. Notice once again that it is directed to the Father, through the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then we hit the preface. One way of looking at it I suppose is like the preface of a book. It will mention a little about what we are to celebrate. Often it reflects the season or special feast. It sets the mood, prepares the heart, and gives us focus. For this reason, better than a preface in a book, I like to think of it as the half time speech by the coach revving the team back up for the all important second half as the “source and summit of the entire celebration begins.”

It starts with a call and response like a cheer. “The Lord be with you.”

“And also with you.”

“Lift up your hearts.”

“We lift them up to the Lord.”

“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!”

“It is right to give Him thanks and praise.”

Then it is time for the speech of inspiration. There is an option among 7 that you might hear this weekend and they all begin with, “FATHER, all powerful and ever living God . . .” (Funny how few people realize the direction of these prayers even though the Mass is in supposed easy to understand English.)

They have varying endings but they all include that the song we are about to sing is in chorus with angels and saints. The Mass is not just us, it is the whole Body of Christ united in Christ through the Holy Spirit. So we join the saint in their never ending joy and worship of God and the angels who are ever before Him. This is not “our” Mass. This is the one Mass being offered around the world and throughout time. A curtain has opened in time and we are all present at Christ’s one great sacrifice.

And the angels are there. They are not fanciful creatures we tell stories to children about. They are true and serious beings and the song we sing, the Sanctus, is the song of angels that comes to us from Isaiah 6:3 and we join in. “’Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts’ they cried one to the other, ‘all the earth is filled with His glory!’” Three is a number of perfection. He is not just holy, but holiness itself! Thrice or perfectly holy! Then, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord,” is, “by all rights” a reference to Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jeruselem – Christ Who is about to be made present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity on our altar.



Kevin said...

This is an awesome (sorry Father) series and I thank you with all my heart for the reminder and insight.
My memory needs that little gentle nudge once in awhile. This is opposed to the gentle reminders those wonderful holy sisters provided in my youth.
I remember as a youngster meeting a pair of nuns in the parking lot of a grocery store and being surprised at how fast and furiously my palms began to sweat. And my stumbling barely audible " Good morning sisters".
Now, many many moons later I think I would give a great deal to meet a pair of nuns in my day to day travels.
I suppose we don't always recognize the gifts we receive, nor appreciate them as we should. Thought I'd just let you know I really appreciate your gift.
God bless you.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kevin and thank you, Father.

Michelle said...

The summaries are lovely and accessible -- at the end perhaps you would provide a short reading list?

I'm always looking for short, accesible pieces to link to my columns (I write on spirituality for the Philadelphia archdiocese -- this week about the word "amen", so these are timely!)