The Mass: Part 4; Bring Your Chickens

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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.

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The Mass: Part 3; The Fiery Serpent

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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

Med Unit

The Mass: Part 1; Lord Have Mercy

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I decided my first big project for this blog would be to walk step by step through the Mass. The Mass is full of mind-blowing realities, unfortunately many people view Mass as another obligation they must fulfill to ‘be a good catholic.’ Often when people think of Mass “boring, long, and not pertinent to my life”  immediately comes to mind. Hopefully by revealing some awesome hidden secrets of the Mass, it will open your eyes to how magnificent celebrating the Mass is.

So one of my favorite parts of the Mass is the Kyrie eleison invocations. This is the part of the Mass where we say “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” When we hear this in Mass, it is very easy to repeat back the lines we have all memorized with no feeling or thought. However, I invite you to really think about what it means to ask Christ for mercy. This brings to mind the story of Jesus healing the blind man in Mark 10:46-52.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

We must ask God for mercy in the same desperation and with the same faith as this blind beggar. We are blind in faith and we do not truly see how blessed we are. In our culture there is a dangerous mindset to believe we are entitled to everything. However, before God we do not deserve anything Therefore when Mass opens and you are bored already, ask the all-forgiving God to grant you mercy.

We expect our experiences to make us feel good, and when they don’t we don’t want to participate in them.  Unfortunately if we have this approach to our sacramental life we will be sorely disappointed. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth” (CC153). To fully participate with faith in the Mass we must first ask for God to help us. “We must beg the Lord to increase our faith” and believe that he will give us the consolation we need (CCC166).

We have to make a step toward God and ask for his mercy, we must be conscious of our unworthiness, ready for his healing power, and completely full of faith that he can and will move us if we ask him to. When we begin Mass and say “Christ, have Mercy” become the blind beggar and ask God to open your own eyes to the mysteries he wants to reveal to you.