Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mass Density (Mass, not mass)

The prior post (nthngbtcnsnnts) about Jesus quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah, using excerpts as oral shorthand to refer to the bigger passages, reminds me of my favorite part of the Mass, also notable for its Biblical density. It's right before Communion:

The priest says "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

Then, "Happy are those who are called to his supper."

And we reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

The Mass marinates in the Bible, but these three lines are especially appropriate at this particular moment, and combine to have a synergistic impact greater the sum of the parts. The high point of the Mass was a couple of minutes earlier, at the Consecration. Now we are moments away from receiving the Body & Blood. I'll shift now to classroom Q&A.

Hey, y'all, where in the Bible have you heard this line before: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?" No takers.....who's the Lamb of God? Jesus! So whoever is talking, is talking about...? Jesus? Yes, in fact the speaker may have been pointing right at Jesus.

So....who was the speaker? Peter? Mmm, a good guess, but no. This person was Jesus's cousin......was a little bit older.......Mary went to visit his mom when they were both pregnant......we call that visit the.....Visitation! Yes! And Mary's older cousin was....? Elizabeth! Yes again, honorary sons & daughters. And who was Elizabeth pregnant with, the baby that jumped inside her? Oh, John the Baptist! Yes, John the Baptist. John said that line to Jesus when He came to be Baptized. By the way, what did John eat in the desert? Bugs! Mmmm, tasty when dipped in honey!

Next line: "Happy are those who are called to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb." Where's the Wedding Feast of the Lamb? In heaven! Where else? At Mass! Yes, because Heaven and Earth are connected at Mass. Who says this line in Heaven? An angel. Yes, in Revelations.

Last line: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." I'll drop dead if anyone knows the Bible story this comes from. The words in Mass are way different from the Bible story. In Matthew & Luke's gospels this line is "Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed." Oh, it was the guy who wanted his servant healed... Yeah, that wasn't too tough after hearing it the regular way. Who was this guy....the popsicle man? No, a soldier. An Imperial Stormtrooper? Ha, no a Roman soldier. Yes. He was a pagan; he worshiped Jupiter, Vulcan, make-believe gods.

Back to the Mass, here's what happens: the priest raises the Host, and quotes John the Baptist: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." This reminds us that Jesus is just as physically present to us at that moment as he was when John said it at the Jordan River. It's the Lamb of God, it's Jesus. And what's the deal with the Passover Lamb? You have to eat it! Right. Kill, spill, and....eat your fill! Yes.

Then the priest quotes the Angel of Revelations: "Happy are those who are called to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb." This reminds us we're about to share in the Wedding Feast. It's in which two places? Heaven and Earth. And who is the Lamb marrying? The Church! Why? Because he loves Her! Yes. So much that He died for Her. So it's a happy feast, but serious, too.

Then we quote the centurion: "Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed." I really like to say this. I always have to pray for faith before Communion because it looks like bread. I struggle with doubt even while I believe. But I'm reminded of the faith of the centurion. He believed Jesus could miraculously heal his servant without even seeing him; and even though he was a Roman officer, he was so humble that he didn't feel worthy to have Jesus come to his house. If a pagan can have such faith and humility then it's not beyond my reach.

This is how the Church uses the Bible to prepare us to receive Jesus at Mass. But you have to know what the verses mean, and think about them, for it to work. Think about John and Jesus at the Jordan, the Wedding Feast, and the believing Roman officer, and why the stories are put together right before Communion.

At Mass you should always.....pay attention! That's right!



(Doesn't that look like the Angel Standing in the Sun? It's the Rodina statue in Volgograd)

1 comment:

Tiber Jumper said...

A most excellent post. The Mass is so full of Scripture, would that our separated brethren see it!
But even as Catholics we can sleep through the enormity and magnificence of what is occurring right before us.
Your catechism class is so blessed to have a teacher like you. Lord willing you will train a whole new generation of the faithful.
God bless