I was awestruck by the one excerpt he pulled out. If that doesn't make you want to run to Mass, I don't know what will. It is some of the most beautiful writing on the Liturgy I've seen. If there are any young men out there considering the priesthood, revisit these words below frequently.
You can catch the whole thing in this link, but if you are tempted to skip Father's post and the full document, which he is providing in Microsoft Word (downloadable), I give you that excerpt he provided. As you can see by the title of Father's text, the letter goes beyond the liturgy. Father has a wonderful lead in.
Benedict XVI’s nearly unnoticed Letter on St. John Chrysostom: reconciliation of Churches, liturgy, social justice, patristics
I am maintaining Fr. Z's emphases which are in bold:
St John’s faith in the mystery of the love that binds believers to Christ and to one another led him to express a profound reverence for the Eucharist, a reverence that he fostered in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, as is demonstrated by the fact that one of the richest expressions of Eastern liturgy bears his name to this day. St John understood that the Divine Liturgy situated the believer spiritually between his life on earth and the heavenly reality which was promised to him by the Lord. He expressed his awe at celebrating these sacred mysteries to St Basil the Great in these words: “For when you see the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, ... can you then think that you are still among men, standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway transported to heaven …?” These sacred rites, says St John, “are not only marvelous to behold, but transcendent in awe. There stands the priest … bringing down the Holy Spirit, and he prays at length … that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the minds of all and render them more resplendent than silver purified by fire. Who can despise this most awesome mystery? St John urged this same sense of reverence before the Eucharistic mystery on those who heard his preaching: “Reverence now this table from which we all are partakers, Christ, who was slain for us, the victim that is placed thereon.” John spoke movingly of the sacramental effects of Holy Communion upon believers. “Christ’s blood causes the image of our King to be fresh within us, produces unspeakable beauty, and does not permit the nobleness of our souls to waste away, but waters it continually, and nourishes it.” For this reason, St John, echoing the Holy Scriptures, insistently and frequently exhorted the faithful to approach the altar of the Lord worthily, “not lightly and … out of custom and form,” but with “sincerity and purity of soul”. He insisted that interior preparation for Holy Communion should include repentance for one’s sins and gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of our salvation. He thus urged the lay faithful to participate fully and devoutly in the rites of the Divine Liturgy and, with this same disposition, to receive Holy Communion. “Let us not, I beg you, slay ourselves by our irreverence, but with awe and purity draw near to it; and when you see it set before you, say to yourself: ‘Because of this Body am I no longer earth and ashes, no longer a prisoner, but free: because of this I hope for heaven, and to receive the good things therein, immortal life, the portion of angels, to converse with Christ’.”
When I read something like that, it removes all doubt from my mind that the Eucharist is meant to be more of a contemplative or interior experience, not something which manifests itself in "celebration" of the kind seen in many parishes today. Those words of St. John to St. Basil should lead us to get to Mass early, to sit quietly in preparation, and to know that Mass is a sacrifice. Above all, those words should lead us to want to be pure before we receive the Eucharist. Sacramental Confession should be frequent for all assisting at Mass.
I want to pull out one sentence in full for further reflection:
These sacred rites, says St John, “are not only marvelous to behold, but transcendent in awe. There stands the priest … bringing down the Holy Spirit, and he prays at length … that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the minds of all and render them more resplendent than silver purified by fire. Who can despise this most awesome mystery?
Wow! The Novus Ordo is a valid Mass, but I can't help think of that highlighted line and the Tridentine. It is in the Tridentine (and perhaps in the Divine Liturgy, as it is called, of other Eastern Catholic rites, and other Churches) that we see such depth of prayer, and length, in this regard. That is what attracted me so strongly to the Tridentine once I experienced it the first time, following along in the missal and seeing the humble words of the priest spoken on our behalf. I find it now difficult to be in a Novus Ordo because of what it lacks, but this in no way devalues the legitimacy or sacramental effectiveness of the New Mass. A sacrifice, in which Christ is the spotless, pure Victim takes place in both Masses, but it is the TLM which makes this visible to me - an ordinary lay person. Or, shall I say that it enables me to to see what St. John is describing. And, I might add, the TLM for whatever reason is driving me to want to be at church early, preparing with the many beautiful prayers offered in my 1962 missal.
1962 Missal - Motu Proprio Edition
For those of you at Grotto, Cathy in the Assumption Grotto Gift Shop is purchasing some of the new, Baronius Press motu proprio edition Missals (comes in white, black, and red), with foreword by Bishop Bruskewitz. They should be in, perhaps next week. My missal was lost at Grotto somewhere and I'm hoping it will turn up, but so far, I have not found it. My name is on the inside front cover. Cathy has two lost missals in the gift shop so if you have lost one, be sure to see her. Mine was not there. I prefer it be turned in to the rectory or sacristy if it is found.
New Series on the Mass
Yesterday on my day off, at the 7:30am High Mass which is held Monday thru Saturday at Grotto, I decided that I would begin yet another series (I have so many that need to be completed - oy vey). That series will be on the TLM and the words, with commentaries found in missals and in the booklet at Grotto. We have to understand what is taking place and these are well worth sharing in small bits and pieces for us to meditate on.
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