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We Need to Come Back to Mass Now
When I was teaching at a high school, a student came up to me and asked, "Why do you Catholics stand, sit, kneel, stand, sit, kneel?" As Catholics, we know that the common gestures that we use for Mass correlate to the Liturgy:
…making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered."
(General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 30, 34; Sacred Congregation of Rites)
As children of God, His adopted sons and daughters, we have been created to "bend the knee" at the name of Jesus. We have been beautifully and wonderfully made by our Creator to bow down and worship Him in humble adoration with praise and exaltation. (CCC, 2097)
Recently, I found myself pondering the thought, "How many Catholics since early 2020 have not "bent a knee" at the name of Jesus because of the Coronavirus pandemic?" When I refer to worshiping on "bended knee", the reference is for those who are in good health and are not unable due to age or infirmity. When we participate in the Liturgy we come together in one place for the Eucharistic Assembly, where we all have our own active parts to play in the celebration. (CCC,134)
There is still even several years later so much sensitivity around the issue of whether it is safe to return to Mass, but we cannot remain live-stream Mass-goers forever. We are called to communion, and now more than ever in this time of turmoil and uncertainty in our world we need to be united together at the Table of our Lord. St. Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early Church Fathers, speaks eloquently of how our unity leads to concord and the harmonious love of Jesus Christ:
And do ye, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, ye may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus ye may always enjoy communion with God."
(Phillip Schaff, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1867, p. 74.)
I ask all of us to take a look at ourselves and think about where we are now with regards to living in a world with our new "normal;" a life that still consists with people choosing daily to wear masks and the frequent use of hand sanitizer. Are our children not back to in-person learning, and happy that they can have such an opportunity? Can we not delight in that we can once again participate in recreational activities such as going to the mall, eating or hanging out at a bar or restaurant, or visiting family and friends? What about travelling again? If we answer "yes," to any of those questions, or we have thought about other examples of how we are currently living our lives at the present time then why not ask ourselves, what about that which brings joy to our soul?
I was saddened to learn from a priest on #CatholicTwitter that one of his parishioners, after staying home during the pandemic, now feels that he no longer needs to go to Mass anymore, and never needed to go in the first place. Are we becoming complicit to this kind of attitude among our fellow Catholics? By our silence, are we encouraging others to accept the live-streamed Mass as our new "norm," and creating a whole new generation of Christmas and Easter-time Catholics?
There are some who may argue that they made it several years without going to Mass or receiving the Sacraments, and no longer believe that they need them anymore. That is the voice of the evil one tempting Catholics to feel comfortable without God and that they no longer need Him in the Sacraments. The truth is that it is the Sacraments that strengthen us in grace, help us to avoid sin and to win the battle against concupiscience. It is especially in the Eucharist where we enter into the most intimate relationship with Christ, and receive eternal life in Him.
He is the Bread come down from Heaven, Jesus Christ, Who lives in us as we remain in Him (Jn 6:51-58). The Catechism teaches us that the Eucharist is the "source and summit of the Christian life" (CCC, 1324; Lumen Gentium 11). The purpose of live-streamed Mass was to nourish our spiritual hunger at a time when it was not possible to actively participate in the Eucharistic celebration, but it was never meant to be a permanent substitution for active participation in the live Mass.
When we do not go to Mass and receive the Sacraments we are placing a target upon ourselves for Satan to take aim at us, and then do not have grace necessary to defend ourselves against attacks from him. We cannot win the battle against evil without God:
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
We are blessed as Catholics that we are able to offer a prayer of spiritual communion that unites us with Christ when we are unable to actively participate in the Mass, but it is only by receiving Holy Communion that we receive Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, as He sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. If we know and truly believe that the Eucharist is our Hidden Lord, then through hell or high water we should find a way to get to Christ in Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and receive Him in the Eucharist.
The Catechism reminds us that we physically and spiritually unite ourselves to Christ when we receive Holy Communion: as partakers in His Body and Blood we form one body. (CCC, 1331) We know that Christ is present everywhere, but not in the same way as He is present in the sacred species, when the bread and wine truly and really become the Precious Body and Blood of Christ.
The truth is that by live-streaming the Mass, we are not physically in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord. We can make all of the responses and gestures as a sign of reverence while we are live-streaming the Mass, when necessity calls for such, but it is simply not the same, and there is a HUGE difference. We are called as members of the "Mystical Body of Christ" to come together in the same way the Apostles came together at the Last Supper to receive the gift that Jesus gave to us; His very Flesh and Blood. We need to actually and physically take part in the Eucharistic celebration together in the assembly of the faithful to receive the many fruits for which Christ the Lord instituted the eucharistic sacrifice. (CIC, 899, §3)
How can we help our Catholic brethren to realize that we need the Eucharist as we need the air we breathe, especially now? It is by consuming His Flesh and drinking His Cup that we gain eternal life. We need to work together with our pastors and help our spiritual brothers and sisters to understand that Christ is waiting for them in His Sacrament of love. Let us strive to make it a priority in our lives to invite them back to Church where they can return Home to our Eucharistic Lord.
Adapted from the previously published article Returning to Mass - It’s Time at Ignitum Today by Christina M. Sorrentino
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