Week of 8/20/2017
Critical to growth in the Catholic Church is deepening reverence and awe of the Most Holy Eucharist. Last week we heard the Gospel of Christ walking on water. While an incredible miracle, it does not match the miracle that occurs every day at Holy Mass; simple bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Such a miracle, such a Gift that we not only observe but actually consume, demands not only full attention but a whole environment, a state of life that assist and compels the human person to transform their life.
Scripture is indisputable, despite modern day “scholars” who deny the miracle of the Eucharist. Christ specifically says: whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will have eternal life. Of course, that is contingent that one consumes the Holy Eucharist with love for God and freedom from mortal sin. Where Holy Mass is reverently celebrated, where more and more people worship in awe, come incredible graces of reconciliation, peace, strength and joy, not to mention explosive growth!
How have we enhanced Eucharistic reverence over the centuries? Crucial is the approach to Holy Communion itself. One must be free from mortal sin, have fasted for one hour, and be confident of a good disposition to receive Our Lord. To receive on the tongue is the norm and most expeditious way of reverencing the Lord; receiving on the hand is still a conditional, special permission from the Pope. If one receives in the hand one must be exceptionally careful. One hand on top of the other, never cupped, and immediately consumed after receiving. Any particle that falls on the hand is to be touched by the tongue and consumed. The more reverent we teach the youth to receive, the more we will facilitate a deeper love for Christ.
Another crucial means of enhancing reverence was through Church architecture. Different epochs have brought up different ways of expressing awe for God. The high vaulted ceilings of Gothic architecture expressed the immensity of God in the highest heavens. The beautiful artwork of the Renaissance and Baroque periods meant to stir a sense of beauty in the soul of man that the deep- est beauty is God Himself. We use incense to demonstrate prayers rising to God, the glory of God itself, and that we cannot perceive God face to face, so the smoke represents the veil yet between God and man still on earth. Candles recall Christ as the light of the world. The elegant altars represent the enormous dignity that must be given to Christ’s sacrifice represented at each Holy Mass. The altar is literally where heaven meets earth; where God is again “conceived” on the altar in the Flesh. The sanctuary lamp, the red lamp lit near the tabernacle, represents the light of Christ.
Another key structure at St. Theresa’s and other churches is the altar (communion) rail. It has aesthetic beauty but also catechetical and practical purpose. The sanctuary represents heaven, the congregation earth. Therefore, when the priest brings the Eucharist out of the sanctuary and distributes Communion, especially at the altar rail, it represents people coming to the edge of heaven, which they cannot enter yet, but still can receive the “bread from heaven.” In discussions with the bishop on increasing Eucharistic reverence, he agreed on a plan to restore the entire altar rail in front of the sanctuary here at St. Theresa’s, that will soon be executed. In order to further enhance profound understanding of the Eucharist, especially to youth, we will explain this more next week.
The stainedglass windows help in several ways. First, the Book of Revelation speaks of the walls of heaven giving off light from glorified persons filled with holiness; they also create a beautiful image that helps people to learn Scripture. Many medievals were illiterate; stained glass windows did (and still does!) assist with catechetical instruction. Also, pure beauty, such as the rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, simply draw the observer into a profound reflection on beauty and there ultimate, divine beauty. Dante portrayed heaven shaped as a beautiful rose.
God love you,
Fr. Brian Gannon