Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Ite, Missa est" and the Last Mass of Father Jacques

For decades now, following the Prayer after Communion and a blessing, we have heard words like "the Mass is ended, go in peace" or "Go forth, the Mass is ended." The bizarre thing is that this final instruction from the celebrant translates a Latin command that says something else entirely: "Go: the Mass is."

Years ago I learned that this dismissal was moved to its current location from an earlier post after the homily, where it was directed to the catechumens who were not yet able to join in the priestly intercessions. "Go," they were told; "the central priestly offerings are beginning and you are not yet configured to Christ the Priest so as to make that offering. The Mass is."

With yesterday's murder at the foot of the altarof the elderly Father Jacques Hamel, we got a reminder that the Mass always "is." It is the sacrifice of the Lamb, "slain but standing" and making his offering before the Father. It is the complete gift of the one who "lays down his life freely; it is not taken from him." At any time, the gifts we offer at Mass (which always represent our own lives, our work, our world, the whole created order) can be visibly accepted by the Father who is "well pleased" with them.

Paul was not exaggerating when he said "I live now, no longer I: Christ lives in me." This is what Baptism equips us for: to be so configured to Christ that he becomes present in us, in all his mysteries, in every age of history. Our part is to correspond daily to the grace of this sacrament so that we daily grow in Christ-likeness and manifest Him like so many monstrances holding the Blessed Sacrament visibly high. Then, Blessed James Alberione wrote, "He lives in me; He thinks in me; He works in me; in me He loves the Father and souls."

Then, even when we die, no matter how we die, it is really Christ in us, completing his offering: "Bearing in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body" (2 Cor 4:10).

Because the Mass always is.

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