Respect and reverence required at Eucharist
Nicolas Poussin's Institution of the Eucharist. Colleen Roy writes that "how we act is a sign of what we believe, and eventually influences what we believe."
Last Christmas I put a comic book form of the New Testament in my son Andrew's stocking. When he pulled it out he diplomatically thanked us and then continued to search for his mandarin orange.
I didn't think much of it, but after a month or so of it sitting untouched on his book shelf, I began to wonder.
One afternoon I overheard him talking to his younger brother Nicolas. Andrew was telling him that he didn't think it was proper to have the Bible in comic form; it wasn't respectful of God's word. If he knew the word "trivialized" he might have said that it trivialized it.
Whether or not I totally agreed, I was reminded of myself at a younger and purer age when my Bible was treated something like the Canadian flag; never touching the ground and always given the place of prominence.
This past week my husband Scott and I were having a conversation with a good friend that made me remember this story about Andrew. Our friend was saying that our actions are signs of what we believe.
Obvious enough, right? How we act is a sign of what we believe, and eventually influences what we believe, and what we believe influences and directs our actions.
Now this could take all sorts of directions: political, cultural, ethical, but we were talking about the sacrifice of the Mass, the "Source and Summit" of all that Catholics believe, or at the least, assent to.
If Christ truly becomes present during the Consecration, if that odd little piece of flat bread truly becomes Him Who died for us: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, then the way we participate (a word horribly abused) in this sacrifice will reflect this belief. We will see and hear actions that reflect the solemnity of the Divine Sacrifice.
It's not something that I've thought of before, but the example of a priest on the altar during the consecration came up. Believing that each crumb and particle of the host is truly changed into Christ, he shows his respect and reverence by giving himself as few opportunities as possible to desecrate Our Lord.
This is why such attention is taken during the cleansing of the vessels, and why he takes such care with his hands before washing all particles from his fingers after Holy Communion.
I think this might also be why I'm noticing a resurgence of receiving Our Lord on the tongue, and why we teach our children to do so. It can feel difficult and awkward at first, but it simplifies so much, preventing any accidental spills, and it is an action that reflects what we teach our children to believe.
If a priest needs to wash his fingers after holding the Eucharist to avoid desecration, why would we risk walking out of church ourselves and desecrating Our Lord as we grab a donut, use the bathroom, or sneeze onto a hand that still carries consecrated particles?
Holy saints suffered martyrdom before they would see the Eucharist desecrated. I think about this sometimes, and ask myself questions. I don't always like my answers.
I want to believe. I want to come into the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle and know in my heart that it is truly Him Who waits there for me.
Sometimes it's hard: I'm tempted to chat with a friend in the pew or exit the sanctuary without a prayer of thanksgiving because there's someone out there I need to see.
Sometimes it's made hard for me; the music is a gay sing-along that makes it very difficult for me to believe that we are really before Christ on the cross.
Seriously, if we were standing before Christ as He hung bleeding and tormented on the cross, would we be singing folk songs and clap-alongs? I don't believe so, and 1900-years-worth of Catholics didn't either.
And so I am glad that Good Friday will soon come to us, come to me, and I pray that I will be given a gift of grace, the gift of faith, to see the unseeable, and to act accordingly.
From St. Francis of Assisi: "Kissing your feet, I implore you all, my brothers, and with the utmost affection I beseech you to show the greatest possible reverence and honour to the most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ"
"Consider your dignity, O brothers who are priests, and be holy because He is holy."
"It is a great misfortune and a miserable fault to have Him thus near you and to be thinking of anything else. Let the whole man be seized with dread; let the whole world tremble; let the heavens exult when Christ, the Son of the living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest.
"O amazing splendour and astounding condescension! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! The Master of the universe, God Himself and Son of God, humbles Himself so far as to hide Himself for our salvation under the feeble appearance of bread! See, brothers, the humility of God."
"Keep nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that He may possess you entirely, Who has given Himself wholly for you."