Holy Mass and Jesus’ sacrifice are truly one and the same
On Christmas Eve Mass three years ago, in a church jampacked with parishioners, the officiating Filipino priest got carried away by gliding on a hoverboard. For this he was suspended by Bishop Buenaventura M. Famadico of San Pablo Diocese.
Regrets. Remorse. What he did, the priest soon realized, was grossly inappropriate, bordering on a silly masquerade, or a foolish spectacle during the Holy Mass.
Very recently, in one São Geraldo Magela parish in the Archdiocese of Sorocaba, Brazil, the Catholic congregation cheered when the Sacred Host was flown by a DRONE from the entrance to the altar. But serious believers were the opposite of happy.
Non-Catholic friends have been asking repeatedly why so much fuss about the Eucharist. Why do these seemingly harmless incidents hit the headlines?
Wherever Pope Francis goes, it appears all activities are intentionally centered on the Holy Mass? Are all the 400,000 bishops and priests in every nook and corner of the globe doing the same? Why?
Fuss and awe! And much faith! Because whatever the historical Jesus merited and gained in Calvary 2,000 years ago, which is the Redemption of the entire humankind, is dispensed and made available in every Holy Mass that we celebrate. Really? Or symbolically?
Indian Zoroastrian turned Catholic priest Shroff Hezuk once revealed that “the Sacrifice of the Mass fascinated me without end… The Mass is the heart of my conversion and my priestly vocation” (Asia News, 2011).
In 2017, he baptized his own Zoroastrian mother, who decided to believe in the Real Presence of the Savior in the Holy Mass. Both of them are presently living in Ottawa, Canada.
In the same year, meanwhile, Archbishop of Montreal Christian Lépine raised some eyebrows when he gave Holy Communion to Canada’s notoriously pro-abortion Catholic prime minister. Conservative Catholics called it “sacrilegious.” But why?
Real Presence or just symbolic?
Non-Catholics also ask: Will God really obey the priest and make really present the divinity and humanity, soul and body of Jesus Christ, in the form of the Bread in the Holy Eucharist?
One New York Times poll revealed that about 70 percent of all American Catholics in the age group 18 to 44 believe the Eucharist is merely a “symbolic reminder” of Jesus. Sad. Very sad.
When Catholics themselves are saying that the Eucharist is not actually real but merely symbolic, then it’s not just a fuss but a gross miscomprehension of a key article of Catholic Faith. It’s something very serious.
And every year we watch a million Filipino devotees acting and behaving as if the Holy Eucharist is symbolic and the statue of the Black Nazarene is what matters most (or real). Again, a gross miscomprehension.
“Hoc est Corpus Meum”
Unleavened bread and grape wine are present moments before the Consecration. The cherubim and angels descend in a hurry from Heaven, kneel beside the altar, and ready themselves for a solemn worship.
When the priest says the consecratory prayer, Hoc est Corpus Meum, “This is My Body,” the bread becomes the living Body of Christ. Then he prays, “This is the Chalice of my Blood,” the grape wine becomes the precious Blood of our Blessed Lord.
Truly, really, and not just symbolically! The faithful supposedly should kneel down in awe, in submission, in latria (Greek word for adoration and worship dedicated only for God) because YHWH God – omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent – is indeed present in the form of the Bread and Wine!
“Faith that sees,” oculata fides, knows that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is Really Present at that very moment. On the Catholic heart can feel it. Saint Gregory the Great (AD 540-604) captured the mystery in these words:
“Who doubts that at the very hour of immolation, at that voice of the priest, the Heavens are opened and the choirs of angels are present at that mystery of Jesus Christ?”
The ordained priest, and only him, can make the Real Presence possible and no one else can accomplish that. No king, no genius, not even the will of a thousand angels, or the combined efforts of a whole nation, can substitute for the power of a priest’s words: “This is My Body…This is the Chalice of My Blood.”
God obeys the priest
Pope St. John Paul II once wrote:
If we feel moved before the Christmas crib, when we contemplate the Incarnation of the Word, what must we feel before the altar where, by the poor hands of the priest, Christ makes his Sacrifice present in time? In the here and now! We can only fall to our knees and silently adore this supreme mystery of faith (Letter to Priests, 2004).
Regardless of what the 70 percent of all American Catholics and millions of Filipino Catholics think, REAL PRESENCE is the opposite of what is symbolic and figurative. And what’s more amazing is that, on the level of faith, God obeys the priest during the Holy Mass, for by his words the Bread becomes the Body of Jesus.
Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano is the author of Pope Francis, the Catholic Bishop, and the Priest (2015 Catholic Mass Media Awards “Best Book in Theology”). Comments to [email protected]