…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