A Letter to the Laity on what Actually Happens at Mass in 2019 (and well always!)

To the Curious, Doubting, Lukewarm, or Unbelieving Catholic Laity,

When we attend Mass, we are entering a holy place in which a miracle takes place.  Not only are we present when the basic elements of bread and wine are transubstantiated to the body and blood of Christ, but those at Mass are transported in a mystical way to a heavenly banquet.  Though the reception of communion happens a few prayers after the Canon is complete, it is vital from a theological and catechetical perspective.  With Christ present with his church, the Bridegroom has come for His bride.

After commingling of the body and blood the Priest tells those present to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  This is the praise of the angels and those in Heaven as seen in Revelation 19.  In Revelation 19:9 and Angel told St. John. “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (NRSV).

At this point in Mass the priest is passing on this wedding announcement from Heaven.  Like a groom at a wedding, our Lord calls to us and wants to have an intimate relationship with his bride.  He does this by giving himself, his own body and blood, as a way to show his eternal commitment to us.  Like a bride we process down towards our groom to be united with him.

In the Eucharist we are united with Christ not only spiritually, but physically.  Being united with the flesh of Christ is the most personal thing we will be able to experience (Augustine 469).

The Old Testament book of Song of Songs has very vivid imagery between a man and wife symbolizes the love that Christ has for His church.  One passage that is particularly relevant to the Wedding Supper of the lamb is Song of Songs 1:2 which states, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (NRSV)!  This is exactly what St. Ambrose says happens during the reception of the Eucharist (Ambrose 354).

The second person of the blessed Trinity has forgiven us of our sin and unites himself with us with his very body.  The Wedding Supper of the Lamb is a taste of the heavenly worship that we will experience in eternity and unites us with the church suffering and church triumphant in heavenly praise.

Next time you are at Mass take that extra moment to thank Christ for the very gift of himself.  Take the time to realize that we are worshiping the King of the universe alongside those who have gone before us in the faith.

There is much more happening at Mass than meets the eye.  It is a place where a true miracle happens, ordinary bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.  Let us not merely go through the notions, but truly understand what is happening.

Do you want to transform the church?  It begins with understanding what is happening at Mass and who we are receiving in the Holy Eucharist.  I leave you with the following quote from St. Ambrose for further meditation:

Perhaps you will say “I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the body of Christ?”

And this is the point that remains for us to prove. What evidence shall we make use of?  Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

God bless you all!

Your brother in Christ,

William


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

Notes:

Augustine of Hippo. “Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John.” St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies. Ed. Philip Schaff. Trans. H. Browne and Joseph H. Myers. Vol. 7. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series.

Ambrose of Milan. “Two Books Concerning Repentance.” St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth. Vol. 10. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series.

 

 

Advertisements
Thank you for sharing!

3 Reasons Why St. Ambrose of Milan is Still Relevant Today!

Living in the 4th century A.D., St. Ambrose was bishop of Milan during a tumultuous era of Church history. His road to ordination was an interesting journey. After the sudden death of the current bishop of Milan in 374 A.D. and in the climate of the Arian heresy, Ambrose, an unbaptized believe in Christ, was a charismatic figure who appealed to people of all sides of the Arian debate. Baptized as a Christian in his mid-thirties, Ambrose soon after received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and shepherded the peoples of Milan of the reminder of his life. Today I wish to highlight 3 reasons why I believe St. Ambrose is still relevant to Christians in the 21st century.

1. “You catch more flies with Honey than you do with vinegar”: There exists a legend within the hagiography of Ambrose which tells of a bizarre encounter with bees. As an infant, it is purported that several bees hovered over the head of the saint as an infant. Upon flying off, in addition to leaving Ambrose unharmed honey was left behind on his head. Ambrose’s parents interpreted this an a divine sign and foretelling of his ability to eloquently speak and unite differing factions. For this reason, Ambrose became known as the patron saint of beekeepers. Bees and honey are common symbols associated with him. According to Mike Aquilina in The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers, “He was unanimously elected bishop, winning the votes of both Arians and the Catholics…an intellectual, he could move the movers and shakers of Latin culture. It was he who finally persuaded the stubborn Augustine to proceed to Baptism [I will expand in this later on!] “ (p. 166). Sweetness and kindness of speech is equally important to proclaiming truth. Ambrose found a balance between charity and truth. As result he was an effective teacher and administrator of the Catholic Church.

honey.jpg

2. Model of the Episcopate: Along with Ambrose’s ability to teach truth in a charitable manner, he remained steadfast as a guardian of the teaching of the Catholic Church—one of the most important functions of a bishop! Because of his sweetness of speech, Ambrose built up enough rapport with the secular leaders of his time that when the time came to stand his ground his words packed clout. Ambrose graciously, but sternly, declined Emperor Valentinian’s invitation to a Church Council that bishop believed the secular leader had no authority convening. The sainted bishop stated,

And how, O Emperor, are we to settle a matter on which you have already declared your judgment, and have even promulgated laws, so that it is not open to anyone to judge otherwise?…if anything has to be discussed I have learned to discuss it in Church, as those before he did. If a conference is to be held concerning the faith, there ought to be a gathering of bishops, as was done under Constantine, the prince of august memory, who did not promulgate any laws beforehand, but left the decision to the bishops…

st. ambrose

3. Master of the Master: According to R. Thornton in St. Ambrose: His Life, Times, and Teaching, St. Ambrose had a significant impact on arguably the most influential theologian in the history of the Catholic Church—St. Augustine of Hippo. In fact, Augustine makes a point to frequently mention the influence of Ambrose in his Confessions Book VI Chapters 1-8. “The bishop of Milan was at least the guide of the guide of the theology of the West,” stated Thornton (St. Ambrose: His Life, Times, and Teaching p. 125). To put it in modern lingo, St. Ambrose was the Qui-Gon Jinn to Augustine’s Obi-Wan Kenobi!!

Qui-Gon-Jinn-and-Obi-Wan-Kenobi-qui-gon-jinn-4207917-350-384.jpg

The bishop of Milan lived more than 1,600 years ago. Nevertheless, he is more relevant than ever. In the age of social media, our world needs holy men and women to demonstrate truth in a charitable way. Proclaiming truth without kindness will never convert unbelievers’ hearts. St. Ambrose is a reminder and role model for our society that charitable dialogue is possible. For me personally, I need daily reminders to wed truth with charity. Remembering St. Ambrose’s life provides me with a guide on how to interact peacefully in a secular world. Finally, the sainted bishop’s ability to network with a myriad of people is another example of how he is still applicable to our society of marketing, social media, and age of internet. The next time I notice an buzzing bee on a summer’s day I will be reminded of the sweetness of truth exemplified by Ambrose!

European-Honey-Bee

Thank you for sharing!