Last week we spoke about the Canon of the Mass.
The Canon of the Mass makes present again, for our benefit today, the events of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening. The bread and wine – things essential for our life and wellbeing and symbolising the offering of our lives and possessions to our God – are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The separation of body and blood signifies the execution which Jesus underwent on Good Friday on a cross.
During the Canon, as well as following the words spoken by the priest, we might find it helpful to picture ourselves reclining at table with Jesus and the Apostles and participating in what is happening. The Apostles, although well aware of the danger they were in from the authorities while they were in Jerusalem, were unaware of events about to happen and the significance of what they were taking part in. We, on the other hand, are well aware of what is happening and of what is about to happen and their significance. The changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ signified his death on the cross which in turn signified the lengths our God was willing to go to in pursuit of our total wellbeing and in his stand in the fight against injustice and oppression. This he has asked me to do in remembrance of His trust-wordiness, faithfulness and total dedication to my welfare.
During the elevation of the body and blood of Christ after the words of consecration (the elevation of the bread and wine) it can be helpful to look on the crucifix and ask myself if this man, Jesus of Nazareth, who is willing to go to such extremes in pursuit of my total welfare, can be trusted. What more could he realistically do to win my total confidence in him and in his promises?
Should I not ask myself if the above is not sufficient to awaken in me a deep and abiding sense of gratitude to my God.
(As an aside, at this stage, it might also be helpful to consider how such a God could possibly be confused with the judgemental, accusatory and punishing god many of us were brought up to believe in).
The concluding part of the canon is when our offerings of thanksgiving now incorporated, or changed, into the total self offering of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross is raised up by the priest and presented to God our Father as the ultimate expression of our gratitude.
Raising up the Baby and Blood of Jesus of Nazareth and our self – offering the priest intones:
‘Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever.’ And God’s whole family here present respond all together in a joyous chorus; ‘Amen.’
This is called the great Amen and signifies our total agreement with, participation in and response to, all we have done and said.
We then move on directly to the Communion.
The Communion is God’s response to our gifts of gratitude to Him/Her.
God receives our gifts (signified by bread and wine). In doing so they are incorporated with, changed into, the self giving (the gifts) of Jesus of Nazareth and offered to us (God’s family here present) as our food and drink. This food and drink is now God’ only begotten son. This unites us with God the Son and thus unites us with the Holy Trinity. It makes us full participants in the life of God. It Makes us participants in the eternal life of God.
This means that symbolically, spiritually, we have already entered into the Eternal Life of God.
We are already in Heaven but cannot experience it physically until our bodies are glorified at the resurrection of the dead.
Receiving Holy Communion is a time of realisation. Realising that we are already one with our God, have already entered into Eternal Life together with and in unity with all our brothers and sisters here present and throughout the world and from all times, past, present and future.
Realising that we should now treat each other as fellow saints in heaven and as God’s beloved children. Realising that the promises of our God are already fulfilled in our lives in spiritual reality.
For the last seven weeks I have talked on the Mass. There is a lot more to be said about the Mass and many more, and different, approaches. I have given you, in these seven homilies, what I myself have found helpful. Some of it is not easily understood so I recommend that if you are serious about learning more about the Mass and about how you might participate more fully in the Mass I would recommend a rereading of these homilies.