Friday, 26 April 2013

Divine Intimacy - Holy Mass

The following passage is taken from Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen. Interestingly, this passage can be very relevantly applied to the current debate about the liturgy and the mass. Note the emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the mass.


1. The heart of liturgical worship is the Mass. Just as the redemptive work of Jesus reached its culminating point on Calvary by His death on the Cross, so too, the liturgical action, which continues His work in the world, has its climax in the Mass, which renews and perpetuates on our altars the Sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus has willed that the precious fruits of redemption, which He merited on Calvary for the whole human race, be applied and transmitted to each of the faithful in a particular way by their participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This fountain of grace which Jesus opened on Calvary continues to pour over our altars; all the faithful are obliged to approach it at least once a week by attending Sunday Mass, but we may approach it even daily, each time we are present at the Holy Sacrifice. Holy Mass is truly the "fountain of life". By offering and immolating Himself continually on our altars, Jesus repeats to us, "If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7,37).

"The august Sacrifice of the Altar," says the Encyclical Mediator Dei, "is not merely a commemoration of the Passion and death of Christ, but is a true and proper sacrifice, in which, by immolating Himself in an unbloody manner, the Great High Priest renews His previous act on the Cross." The Victim is the same, so is the Priest; nothing but the manner of offering is different -- bloody on the Cross, unbloody on the altar. If we do not see in the Mass, as Mary did on Calvary, the torn Body of Christ and the Blood flowing from His wounds, we do have, by virtue of the Consecration, the real presence of this Body and Blood. Moreover, as this divine presence becomes actualized under two distinct species, the bloody death on Calvary is mystically renewed by the real separation of the Body and Blood of the Saviour.

2. The best way of assisting at Holy Mass is the one which makes us participate most in the sublime action taking place on the altar. The liturgical method is especially recommended; by having us recite the same prayers as the priest, it makes us follow more closely the various parts of the Holy Sacrifice. However, instead of being preoccupied with the exact rendering of the words, which is obligatory only for the priest, we should penetrate the meaning of the different prayers, especially those said at the principal parts of the Mass, such as the Offertory, Consecration, and Communion. Although the liturgical method is very good, it is not the only one; the Encyclical Mediator Dei expressly says, "The needs and dispositions are not the same in all souls, and they do not continue to remain the same in each one." It is not uncommon, for example, that, after following the liturgical method for a long time with fruit, a particular soul might feel the need of closing the Missal in order to taste a little more profoundly the very substance of the Mass and to "penetrate" it further. This is not going backward but forward. Instead of focussing the attention in a special way on the various ceremonies and prayers, the soul feels the need of "getting into intimate contact with the High Priest" (ibid), in order to unite itself interiorly with His action, His offering, and His immolation. By doing this, she follows the Mass in a manner which is more contemplative than liturgical; we have the simple "loving attention" which is the characteristic of contemplative prayer. Without necessarily following the development of the Sacred Rite in all its various parts, the soul fixes the mind and heart upon the Mass drama with a general glance, made keen by love. Thus we advance in an ever clearer understanding of the Holy Sacrifice, and acquire a more profound "sense" of it, which in turn awakens in us a more efficacious desire of uniting ourselves with the Sacrifice. However, it will be well to return to the Missal from time to time, especially to follow the liturgy on Sundays and feasts; each time our soul does this we will find new light, and a new sense, which will help us to penetrate the very substance of the Holy Sacrifice.

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