Thursdays on the blog we are going through the Mass, bit by bit, to see how it teaches us how to live – what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Last week we were at the pinnacle moment of the Mass, the Institution Narrative and the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ
Today we are at what comes immediately after this:
Priest: The mystery of faith:
People: A - We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.
or B - When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.
or C - Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.
Well, familiar words to those of who are regular Catholic church-goers, of course. The mystery of faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus, proclaimed through these verses but more so by the sacrament of His body and blood, crucified and risen, present on the altar and in the sacred liturgy.
At this liturgical moment we are expressing, simply, our faith in this reality. The bread and wine are no longer bread and wine, but have become Jesus, and so we are the very heart of reality here, the heart of God and the heart of the cosmos. The mystery of faith—mystery because we do not ‘see’ it, really (it still looks like bread and wine to me!), but only know it is so because He said it was so, and we trust Him.
A discussion popped up on my Facebook feed the other day as to whether we could say ‘the Mass is about us and who we are’ or not. The person posting it was responding to a certain approach to the liturgy whereby it is all about the community, the congregation, and affirming people’s general wonderfulness.
Well, of course the liturgy is not about that. It is about Jesus, and what He has done and is doing in the world. But my point would be that this is, in fact, precisely who we are, this is precisely about us.
Our lives are a mystery of faith, too. Our lives are about the death and resurrection of Jesus—ultimately our lives are to be transformed into nothing more and nothing less than a sharing in His death and resurrection. This happens as by his grace we grow to love God and love neighbor as Jesus did and as He commands us to do.
But ‘who we are’ is already, fundamentally, Jesus. This is the meaning of baptism. Insertion into the Mystical Body of Christ—this is not just some nice pious formulation, some abstract theological concept up there somewhere. It is your life and my life today.
And so the mystery of faith we touch on the altar is one mystery with the mystery of faith we touch when we are called to serve, when that extra mile or extra hundred miles is lying before us, when our bodies are tired and our minds reeling, our hearts heavy with the burden of the day, and yet we keep going. The mystery of faith.
The Eucharist and all it holds is one mystery with our choice to forgive when we have been hurt, our choice to keep our hearts open in a situation where that causes us suffering, our choice to stay the course in love even though there is little to show for it as far as we are concerned. The mystery of faith.
It is when we offer up sufferings, the great and calamitious sufferings of life along with the petty annoyances and irritations. It is when we are patient with the demanding and gentle with the rough, listen to the tiresome and walk with the troubled and anxious. And it is when we rejoice with those who rejoice and delight in the delightful, too—it’s not always all about suffering and toil.
The mystery of faith is the mystery of Jesus in the sacrament of the altar, and it is the mystery of Jesus on the altar of your life. One mystery, and it is who we are and what our life is about, and who He is and what His life is about. Alleluia.