“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field which a man having found, hid it, and for joy on account of it goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” (Mt. 13:44)
The Holy Eucharist is our true treasure, the heavenly banquet here on earth, the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, the Holy Mass. The 19th century catholic convert, hymn writer and theologian, Father Frederick Faber, captures my sentiments best when he said: “The Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.” The form of Mass known to Father Faber is that which we celebrate this evening, here at St. Rose of Lima and increasingly in many other parishes, religious houses and chapels throughout the world.
Here we adore the one God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We give God due honor, due praise, and due worship. We come before Him with all humility, and in doing so we imitate the Blessed Mother and the saints and martyrs throughout the ages. This is a submit the will, humble the heart, bend the knee, bow the head, strike your chest encounter with Almighty God.
In the complex rituals of the Mass, there is a splendor which brings to mind the sacred. All of her varied elements combine to create a symphony of reverence, and the worshipper remains fixed in wonderment and awe-filled adoration.
We should not be surprised that an increasing number of people, and particularly the young, feel a strong attraction to this Mass. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, they “find in it an encounter with the mystery of the Eucharist – particularly suited to them.” He added that “what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.”
Recently I have been asking young adults who attend this form of the Holy Mass what attracts them to it. The most common response I received was “beauty;” the second was “a connection with the past.” The Mass is beautiful because it is an expression of what is true and good. We have heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that the eye is the window to the soul. A soul that is attuned to Christ will find and will see Christ there, will see Christ here.”
The ceremonial and ritual elements surrounding the Eucharist I liken to a frame of a beautiful work of art. The sacred mysteries, the Eucharist, and the other sacraments are like priceless masterpieces. You do not frame a Da Vinci by taking it to the local frame-by-night shop. Neither do you set a beautiful fine-cut diamond in a lump of clay, but rather in the most precious of metals carefully crafted. Such has the Church done throughout the ages with the sacred liturgy. Such is our celebration of the Mass. A frame not only enhances the beauty of that which it enframes but also protects it – from dust and damage, for example. The rules and regulations of the liturgy serve as a protection: a prudent restraint that leads us to a reverent celebration.
One thing that I can appreciate is the demands that the liturgy places on the sacred minister – it requires of him a holy discipline, an attention to detail; the memory of prayers and gestures must be maintained by review, daily celebration, and at times correction on the part of others. The effort that must be exerted shows that this is extremely important that the sacred matters.
A remarkable characteristic of this sacred ritual is its ability to leave a profound and lasting imprint on those who attend it, whether it is when we kneel to receive Holy Communion or bow down in prayer, or when we are surrounded by periods of sacred silence everything says: pray to God, connect with Him, make of yourself an offering to Him.
The young have said also that the Mass connects them to the past; there is a link, a chain of traditional memory which has been handed on to us that the young are connecting with. To loosely translate a quote by Goethe in his play Faustus: “What you have received as an inheritance, you must now work to make your own.” There is a sense of continuity, of connection with the past, that is desperately needed in these days when so much, including basic moral principles that are timeless are presented as either up for grabs or at least made questionable. For the young it seems the Mass is something tangible, something consistent and unchanged in a world that changes moment to moment.