But what is implied in this word “attendance?” Those who hear Mass not only perform the office of attendants, but likewise of offerers, having themselves a right to the title of priests. Fecisti nos Deo nostro regnum et sacerdotes (Apoc. 5:10).
The celebrating priest is, as it were, the public minister of the Church in general; he is the intermediary between all the faithful, particularly those who assist at Mass, and the invisible Priest, Who is Christ; and, together with Christ, he offers to the Eternal Father, both in behalf of all the rest and of himself, the great price of human redemption.
But he is not alone in this so holy function, since all those who assist at Mass concur with him in offering the Sacrifice; and, therefore, the priest turns round to the people and says, Orate fratres ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat— “Pray, O my brethren, that mine and your sacrifice may be acceptable to God”; in order that the faithful may understand that, while he indeed acts the part of principal minister, all those who are present make the great offering together with him.
So that when you assist at holy Mass, you perform, after a certain manner, the office of priest.
What say you, then? Will you ever dare, from this time forward, to be at Mass sitting, prating, looking here and there, perhaps even sleeping, or content yourselves with reciting some vocal prayers, without at all taking to heart the tremendous office of priest which you are exercising?
Ah me! I cannot restrain myself from exclaiming, O dull and incapable world, that understandest nothing of mysteries so sublime! How is it possible that any one should remain before the altar with a mind distracted and a heart dissipated at a time when the holy angels stand there trembling and astonished at the contemplation of a work so stupendous?
You are surprised, perhaps, to hear me speak of the Mass as a stupendous work. But what tongue, human or angelic, may ever describe a power so immeasurable as that exercised by the simplest priest in the Mass? And who could ever have imagined that the voice of man, which by nature hath not the power even to raise a straw from the ground, should obtain through grace a power so stupendous as to bring from Heaven to earth the Son of God?
It is a greater power than that which would be required to change the place of mountains, to dry up seas, and to turn round the Heavens; it even emulates, in a certain manner, that first fiat with which God brought all things out of nothing, and in some sort would seem to surpass that other fiat with which the sweet Virgin drew down into her bosom the Eternal Word.
She did nothing else than supply matter for the body of Christ—made indeed from her and her most pure blood, but not by her, in the sense of her own potential act. But altogether different, and most marvelous, is the sacramental manner in which the voice of the priest, operating as the instrument of Christ, reproduces Him, and does so as often as he consecrates.
The Blessed Giovanni Buono made this truth in some sort comprehensible to a hermit, his companion, who was unable to imagine how the words of a priest could be allowed such power as to change the substance of bread into the Body of Jesus Christ, and the substance of wine into His Blood, and who, unhappily, had consented to the devilish suggestions of doubt.
The good servant of God, perceiving this man’s error, conducted him to a fountain, took thence a cup of water, and gave it him to drink. He, when he had drunk of it, declared that during his whole life he had never tasted a wine so pleasant.
Then Giovanni Buono said, “Do not you now feel, my dear brother, the marvelous truth? If, through means of me, a miserable man, water is changed into wine by divine power, how much more ought you to believe that, through means of the words of God— for the priest only uses the words instituted for the purpose by God Himself—the bread and wine are converted into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ? Who shall dare to assign limits to the omnipotence of God?”
This so effectually enlightened the hermit that, banishing every doubt from his mind, he did great penance for his sin.
Let us have but a little faith, a little living faith, and we shall confess that the mighty and admirable things contained in this adorable Sacrifice are without number; nor will it then seem too strange to us to behold the marvel repeated continually—the thrice-holy humanity of Jesus multiplying itself in thousands and thousands of places, enjoying, so to speak, a kind of infinity denied to every other body, and reserved to it alone through the merit of His life, sacrificed to the Most High.
It is said to have been once granted to an unbelieving Jew to have the mystery of this multiplied existence illustrated by the mouth of a woman.
He was amusing himself in the public square, when there passed a priest who, accompanied by a crowd, carried the most holy Viaticum to a sick person. All the people, bending the knee, rendered due homage of adoration to the Most Holy Sacrament; the Jew alone made no movement, nor gave any token of reverence.
This being seen by a poor woman, she exclaimed, “O miserable man, why do you not show reverence to the true God, present in this divine Sacrament?”
“What true God?” said the Jew, sharply. “If this were so, would not there be many Gods, since on each of your altars there is one during Mass?”
The woman instantly took a sieve, and holding it up to the sun, told the Jew to look at the rays which passed through the chinks; and then added, “Tell me, are there many suns which pass through the openings of this sieve, or only one?”
And the Jew answering that there was but one sun.
“Then,” replied the woman, “why do you wonder that God incarnate, veiled in the Sacrament, though one, indivisible, and unchanged, should, through excess of love, place Himself in true and Real Presence on different altars?”
Through this illustration, he was held on to confess the truth of the Faith.
O holy Faith! A ray of thy light is needed in order to reply with energy of spirit to the captiousness of carnal minds. Yes, who shall ever dare to assign limits to the omnipotence of God?
Through the great conception which St. Teresa had of the omnipotence of God, she was wont to say that the more lofty, deep, and abstruse to our understandings are the mysteries of our holy faith, with so much the more firmness, and with so much the greater devotion, did she believe them; knowing full well that the Almighty God could work prodigies infinitely greater still.
Revive, then, your faith with Heavenly grace, and, acknowledging this divine Sacrifice to be the miracle of miracles, feelingly confess that Majesty so great must needs be incomprehensible to our poor minds, and is, therefore, the more sublime; then, full of astonishment, exclaim again and yet again, “O treasure, how great! O treasure of love, how immense!”
The truly religious wife finds God at Mass and from Him receives the strength to become the ideal helpmate to her husband. She does not leave God at church but keeps Him with her every minute of the day in every nook and cranny of her home. Each menial, repetitious task she must perform is a work of love for her husband and children, and through them, a work of love for her Creator. – Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J. 1950’s
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