The intimacy of Mass

I wanted to share a brief reflection with you all, in hope that it will bless you as it did me.

This week at work has been extremely difficult for me, my wife is away for the week helping her brother and his wife up in NY, my girls have been at school late every night this week — sometimes coming home at 10:30 p.m. — for a musical they are in, my sons have had a difficult week at work and school, and a slew of other things happened in the midst of it all.

At the end of today’s work day, which began for me at 3:30 a.m., a priest at the seminary asked me if I wanted to join him as he celebrated Mass in the sacristy. As my home and work commitments had prevented me from attending Mass that day, I was overjoyed, especially since I always try to go to Mass every day of the Easter Octave.

It was a profound experience. Afterward, I ran to my office and wrote out my reflection quickly so I would not forget it. Here’s part of what I wrote:

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The intimacy of Mass, the two of us. Christ, risen, inexplicably tender, was palpably present. It was almost disconcertingly immediate. Father Joe prayed for my wife and children, for Fr. John. It seemed as though space bent, warped, spiraled, as though we were all suddenly thrown together in this small space. Unwittingly caught up in the communion of saints. Fr. John in the hospital bed, my wife taking care of Mike and Arron’s children. The Mass swept into its gravitational pull those whom we had borne there by our intentions. I could almost hear the IV pump, the children’s laughter, my wife’s voice. I welled up.

I read the reading from Acts, and the psalm. A simple “Alleluia” response. Again, I felt we were there with Peter and John, the Sadducees, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander and all who were of the high-priestly class. No mere memoir. I’m telling you. A sacrament. Anamnesis. Living memory. A dangerous memory that renders past and future, present. Or present, past and future? Obliterated, transfigured. What has become of time? Of space? What did He do when He rose?

That Gospel! Again, intimate. Jesus cooks breakfast, invited us to join Him in the sacristy. He’s so close. Psalm 139:7:

O where can I go from your spirit,
or where can I flee from your face?

I want to run.

Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.

Then the petitions. “Lord, hear our prayer.” Father prayed for various intentions — the seminarians, Fr. John, Patti. I prayed. All of these people, needs, joys, worries (all) were sent up. Sirach 35:21 popped into my mind:

The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal;
Nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds.

I want to be lowly. I felt lowly, not through my virtue, but by virtue of the Presence there, then that made me feel very small, extremely tiny. A Most High God stooping down low to listen. No mere metaphor. Absolutely real.

Then the Preparation of Gifts, the Offertory. Sublime. Father took the bread and wine and just packed them dense, an initial singularity, with all of these intentions. I felt all of my week, all of my struggles, all of my exhaustion, all of my nightmares, my failures and all of my friends and co-workers and children and wife and mother and seminarians and others who have populated my thoughts this week all lift off of my shoulders and — how best to say this? — enter the bread and wine. My God. Missa est, “it is sent.” How did he lift up, so high, all that weight on the paten and in the chalice? In Persona Christi, clearly.

And then — I knew it was coming — he invoked the dewfalling Spirit over “your sacrifice and mine,” and spoke those words I can never wrap my head around:

Take this, all of you, and eat of it:
for this is my body which will be given up for you.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
for this is the chalice of my blood,
the blood of the new and eternal covenant.
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins .
Do this in memory of me.

All of it, sacrificed, offered Up. Broken, bled, buried, risen, exalted. Everything of my life, of others’ lives was all lost (and found) in Him. I handed all of it over to Him, more willingly than usual (clearly grace) and He took the whole of it up to Himself. Deposited in that rot-free Treasury. Gaudium et Spes #39:

For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and labor, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.

Us, Priestly us. Nexūs.

As he prayed the long Eucharistic prayer to God the Father, we were being seen. “Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church…” The whole of my week, all of those people’s faces, were there, all at once, Christ having already made its catholic entirety His on the Cross. One Sacrifice. Carrying it up on, or in, His risen, ascending Body. Not then, now. I, His risen, ascending Body. I, inseparably joined to Him, baptized into Him. Shattering: What I intend, He intends, inasmuch as what He wills, I will. So when I carried all of those people, all of that history to Him in my intentions, He obeyed, He took it all up with Him into glory; soon to give to His Father.

I am His, He is mine.

Liturgy is this, enacted, realized. Liturgy vivisects this world with the Risen One who holds the keys of death, whose sacrificial offering on Golgotha drenches, washes, inebriates a world now rendered immortal. A furnace. A consuming fire. Where am I? Amen.

4 comments on “The intimacy of Mass

  1. Joanna Brady says:

    Amen.

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