There are many ways to prepare your heart to receive the Eucharist. This is just one of my favorites. It comes from The Way of the Cross meditations in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. During this part of the Mass is it the pinnacle of everything we believe and everything we hope in. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ and he has given his very body for us. This is an expert from Station 13:
Jesus did not descend from the cross but remained on it until He died. And when taken down from it, He in death as in life, rested on the bosom of His divine Mother. Persevere in your resolutions of reform and do not part from the cross; he who persevereth to the end shall be saved. Consider, moreover, how pure the heart should be that receives the body and blood of Christ in the Adorable Sacrament of the Altar.
O Lord Jesus, Thy lifeless body, mangled and lacerated, found a worthy resting-place on the bosom of Thy virgin Mother. Have I not often compelled Thee to dwell in my heart, full of sin and impurity as it was? Create in me a new heart, that I may worthily receive Thy most sacred body in Holy Communion, and that Thou mayest remain in me and I in Thee for all eternity.
When I reflect on how pure and humble Mary the Mother of God is, I do not feel at all worthy to receive our lord. When I go to receive the Eucharist I am filled with such gratitude that he would allow me to hold his body, when I am no where’s near the level of holiness that Mary is.
The Offertory is another one of those hidden treasures at Mass. It is easy to miss because a lot is going on at this point in the Mass. The Altar is being prepared, the offertory basket is being passed around, and the gifts are being brought forward. I want to focus on the latter of these events.
In the early Church when the congregation would bring up the gifts, it was not the same as it is today. “ They brought not only gifts of bread and wine, but also gifts besides for the Church, and the clergy and the poor. There were many things described: food stuffs, candles, oils and the like. The descriptions of these offertories vary a good bit but some were very elaborate. Gifts were brought forward and sorted out on the spot by deacons and others.” People would give of themselves for the Church, offering food, chickens, and whatever they sought fit to gift to the Church.
This is a beautiful way in which we as lay persons participate in the sacrifice of the Mass. In the early Church we brought forth the work from our hands, the fruits of our labor, grapes and bread for the Church to make the bread and wine for Mass. For me this was a mind-blowing discovery. How wonderful it is that we are asked to offer gifts that will in turn unite us fully to Christ.
So how does this relate to us now? I am certainly not going to bring a chicken into my Church and place it on the altar. However, what this does mean for us is that we need to think about what we offer to God during the Mass.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
We are meant to offer our lives, all the struggles and joys of the past week, to God. Place everything you have on the altar as you watch the bread and wine being placed there. Especially pay attention to when the Priest pours the wine into the chalices. You’ll notice that in every chalice along with the wine he will pour a drop of water. As he does this he says,
” By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
Here the Priest is acting as our intercessor and asking that our self-offering to God may be a worthy and living sacrifice.
Take a look at this stunning picture and recall the story from the book of Numbers. The Israelite people complained about being in the desert and doubted God’s plan for them. The Lord in turn sent them serpents. Appreciate for a moment the stern parenting of the Old Testament God, he really is trying to teach his unruly children to trust him. Anyways, the people then repent and go to Moses for help. Moses asks God for forgiveness for his people and God tells him “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived” (Numbers 21:8-9).
Now I want you to put yourself in the shoes of the Isrealites. You have been given a life full of good things, and you come across some hardship. You doubt God, and you speak ill of his path for your life. Things get worse for you and you are ‘bitten by the snake of sin.’ Where do you go? Well if you have been reading along, you’ll know I’ve been writing about the Mass. The Mass is the answer. When you look at the staff with the serpent on it, you are healed. In our case, there is no fiery serpent at Mass. However, there are two symbols of this Old Testament story that will help you truly appreciate the healing power of Christ.
First, when the Priest (or Deacon) goes to read the Gospel he does so in a very ceremonious way. He lifts up the book from the altar and raises it above his head. At this moment I always think about Moses holding the staff with the serpent. The book is the Gospel, and the Gospel is the Word of God, and the Word of God is Jesus Christ himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Christ is our healer, our savior, and or deliverer. We must not let such a beautiful sign pass before out eyes without taking notice of it. When the priest lifts up the book, he is lifting up Christ. Be present in this moment. This is in a symbolic way, not in the same way as the priest lifts high the Eucharistic Host.
Which brings me to my second point. The symbolism of the story of Moses as seen through the Eucharist. The Eucharist has saving power. Just as the serpent was held high on a staff, Christ is held high on the cross to cure us of the snake bites that we suffer from.
I will stop talking about the Eucharist now, before I get carried away. Look for my next post on the altar, it will contain more Eucharistic goodies.
To close, I want to remind you about how beautiful the connections between Old Testament and the Church today truly are. Don’t miss out on how full of tradition an hour in Mass is. Also, to point out something interesting. The next time you see an ambulance look closely, you’ll see a staff with a snake. God reminds us that he is very present in our world through the little things in life
During the Liturgy of the Word (the first half of Mass) we hear a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the Psalms, a reading from the New Testament, and finally a reading from the Gospel. This is the part of the Mass where we hear God’s word and we must ask him for his help in understanding what he is trying to reveal to us. The readings are very relatable to life and the psalms are especially useful in our own personal prayer life.
The psalms are a book of prayer. The psalms can be used for more than just supplying the mass with beautiful songs. They are a perfect model for our own prayer life. The Book of Psalms is a compilation of 150 prayers that can be categorized into 5 groups: praises, thanksgiving, laments, royal and wisdom. They are directed toward God and they are a model of how to express ourselves and communicate with him.
These prayers come from the Old Testament and it connects the Church today with the Church of the past. Humanity can come together in these prayers asking God for the same things and praising him together. It unites our hearts with the prayers of all the faithful from the very beginnings. You can relate to the psalms and feel as though you share something with the Old Testament Church.
Sometimes praying seems very empty, or rote. However God knows our human frailty and in his mercy sent the Holy Spirit to teach us, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). The beautiful thing about the Psalms is that they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you are ever feeling lost in your prayer life, or at Mass you seem like the Responsorial Psalm is empty, ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray.
The Psalms will come alive when you reflect on the transcendent power they contain. Some of the Psalms are basically 3,000 years old. However the desires and longings of man have not changed over the course of time, and therefore the Psalms are still relevant today.
Here are Psalms that might be useful in your life:
My soul waits for God alone. He alone is my rock and my salvation. Trust in him at all times, O people. Power and love belong to God. (Psalm 62).
Do not be envious of evildoers, for they will fade like the grass. The righteous will inherit the earth. The LORD is their stronghold. (Psalm 37)
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 42)