Quiet desperation, part II

…Then we all knelt together as the celebrant prayed the Roman Canon:

…we, your servants and your holy people,
offer to your glorious majesty
from the gifts that you have given us,
this pure victim,
this holy victim,
this spotless victim,
the holy Bread of eternal life
and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.

I thought after these words prayed in the aftermath of Consecration: Did anyone hear this? Among us now is a victimized God, the risen Jesus, and He’s just devastated this creation by making it pass-over into the new creation in that bread and wine! He’s inviting us to heap on Him our burdens so He can re-create them as well. But He makes all things new so gently, “like the dew fall.” Here we heap our heavy burdens on Him, and He makes them light. He is immaculate, yet became filthy. Holy, yet made sin. Joyful, yet shared our sorrows. All “for us men and for our salvation…” Do we know that He treasures our unkempt offerings — gathered in quiet desperation — as the most precious of gifts? Are we aware that Jesus is inviting us to co-offer ourselves with His broken Body and spilled Blood to the Father? Do we see this Mass as the fulcrum of life’s deepest meaning, where resignation becomes hope and desperation becomes prayer? The God of the Mass is not ethereal but earthy, not saccharine but sacramental, not distant but dirty. Our holy Communion is with Jesus, God-with-us, stooping down at every moment to save, redeem, heal, restore, strengthen, enlighten, purge, raise up and fill us with every good. He loved us into existence, and does so again at every new moment, and at Mass more than anywhere He asks to receive the entirety of our life’s reality so He can make it His own. He wants everything.

Now it’s Communion. “…enter under my roof…” How absurd it really is: God chooses bodily ingestion as the way to effect our supremely intimate Communion with Him? Madness! What an unconditional and staggering affirmation of God’s desire to enter even every messy detail of our bodily life, from the lowest digestive secretions to the highest spiritual aspirations. Or really is low-high there appropriate? “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14).

Aside: I recall here my dogmatics professor in grad school once describing the Gnostic heretical rejection of this orthodox Christian doctrine of God-becoming-flesh as a natural instinct — a “theological yuck factor” — for those who find the material/fleshy world less than good or beautiful (which btw is the double meaning of the Greek in the LXX of Genesis 1:31, καλὰ λίαν, “very good/beautiful”). “For Gnostics,” he said, “the idea that God would condescend to assume the basest bodily functions and raise them to divine dignity was utterly disgusting.” But, he continued, for those who believe that God created those bodily functions and stamped them with His image, and believe that God drew humanity out of a swamp teeming with life, the Incarnation was supremely sublime.

On the way out of Mass, a woman near me muttered to someone next to her: “…I know, we have to go visit her now, but damn I hate going to that Godforsaken place. So depressing.”

I went to my car and drove away. What did we miss? Ite, missa est. Go, be sent.

The liturgy, like the feast, exists not to educate but to seduce people into participating in common activity of the highest order, where one is freed to learn things which cannot be taught. — Fr. Aidan Kavanaugh, OSB

10 comments on “Quiet desperation, part II

  1. nos says:

    Go — be sent ” ,,, ” and along the way be a good Samaritan… hmmm easy to think and say but for me so hard … my nature is to shirk this command so often . Thank you Thomas for the insight,the need for introspection and meaningful contemplation… P.B.W.Y.A.A.

  2. LP says:

    Thank you Dr / Fr Tom (yes, you have become a father to many of us) for your words of insight and inspiration.

    I appreciated your thoughts re reception of Communion. The other day, I looked down at the Host in my hand and thought: How can I consume this Host? How can I subject it to my destructive digestive process? That is so similar to the way I wounded (destroyed) Jesus human form by my sins, my many sins, as He was nailed to the Cross.

    But then I thought how much I needed the sustenance provided – not so much the digested bread, but Jesus Himself, our Bread of Life. I now look at the Host with a new vision and a new, hopefully better, prayer of Thanks.

    Thank you once again. LP

  3. AMDG says:

    So much to ponder in these posts!

    I think Fr. Kavanaugh’s insight has to be the starting point for understanding the liturgy’s “Ite, missa est,” spoken to us. You quoted: The liturgy, like the feast, exists not to educate but to seduce people into participating in common activity of the highest order, where one is freed to learn things which cannot be taught.

    “Are we aware that Jesus is inviting us to co-offer ourselves with His broken Body and spilled Blood to the Father? Do we see this Mass as the fulcrum of life’s deepest meaning…”

    You are right; at the heart of our royal priesthood is our self-offering. Once we live in imitation of the Trinitarian kenosis, once we give ourselves away in love, then we will be conformed to Christ, remade in His image, sharing in His very life, and *this,* the ‘new man,’ Love living in us, will seduce others and ignite their longing for All-Love. The Truth, of which we are blessed to see a glimmer, but to which the eyes of many are blinded, will be revealed only as we give ourselves over to the Love who pursues us. And giving ourselves over, we will see more.

    So, “ite, missa est” to be Love to the blind, lame, and leperous (who we are too!), so that Love enflames the hearts’ longing and to receive the Blood — the very life of the Trinity — letting it wash over us and course through us until the whole body is transformed.

    • Jennifer says:

      AMDG: your comment is gorgeous. And this: ”The Truth, of which we are blessed to see a glimmer, but to which the eyes of many are blinded, will be revealed only as we give ourselves over to the Love who pursues us” was like an arrow that struck me in my heavy heart. Thank you for offering your rich reflection on Dr. Tom’s exposition of the wonder of the Mass. God bless you!

    • Wow. Wow. Wow. I just sent your comments to a ton of colleagues and friends. Thank you for pouring our your faith here, AMDG. Truly always AMDG. Peace and joy and all good to you

  4. Thanks for your inspiring article , it is so full of meaning and love that Jesus has for us. Apart the meditation you offered it struck me the last sentence of that woman who was going to visit a God forsaken place to see someone who is desperate- we need to be like Jesus be of help to those who are desperate. After all this is what yhe mass offers to us sinners ,refuge in the eounds of Jesus who wants to embrace us our wretched bodies vice versa the mass continues after we leave church.

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