Week of 11/12/2017
Teaching children about the glory of the Mass is not easy, but the more we understand the beauty, the mystery, and the power of the Mass, the more we are irresistibly drawn towards wanting others to appreciate it and join us. Since the Mass is the highest form of prayer there is, and since it is borne from Our Lord’s infinite sacrifice on the Cross, it has a power and glory that would want to share with everyone!
How to do so, especially with children? A classic way is through the very clever architecture in the Church. Msgr. Bartholomew Skelly, pastor of St. Theresa’s from 19481967, built the magnificent church of St. Theresa’s in 1962. It has been labeled as Norman Gothic in its architectural design. It seats comfortably 1200+, and practically speaking renders great visual to virtually every spot in the Church, to have a clear view of the altar. Incorporated into the design are several key symbols important to Church history, that help explain the Mass especially to children
First, the vaulted ceiling represents the upside down view of a hull of a ship; the ancient symbol of Noah’s ark comes to mind as a prefiguration of Holy Mother Church. That is, the world is a stormy place, but stay within the “ship” that is the Church, and one will always be spiritually safe, though we can expect to get thrashed around! The beautiful stainedglass windows, with different biblical figures and saints, are reminders of the heavenly Jerusalem, where the glory of the saints light up the heavenly city. The sanctuary particularly gets an important emphasis. The Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish worship, focusing particularly on sacrifice to God. In the middle was the curtained off area where only the Jewish priests would go, to offer incense, replace the Bread of the Presence, sacred bread consumed only by the priests, and to come before the ark of the covenant which contained the ten commandments or the Word!
We can see the parallels in our own church of St. Theresa. The sanctuary comes from the Latin Sanctus, which means holy, and like its forbear the Jewish Temple, it represents heaven. The baldachino, the beautiful wooden crown supported by four marble columns, represents the Holy of Holies, where the simple bread is no longer just blessed, but is ontologically changed into the body of the Godman Jesus Christ. Also, the Ten Words, the commandments, which if Israel remains one with will help Israel remain strong, now become the Word made Flesh. If we truly remain one with Christ with our baptismal promises and keeping the commandments, we then obtain incredible strength through the Holy Eucharist, the Bread of Life. This sustains us for fighting evil.
Another important part of the architecture is the altar rail. As we announced back in September, the now newly finished altar rail also helps children and all of us understand the wonder of the Mass! It is not a barrier, but a threshold! A physical manifestation of the separation between us and heaven, it reminds us more deeply that the Eucharist is bread from heaven come down. As the “threshold” of Heaven it also magnifies the beauty of a bride and groom entering the threshold to ask God’s blessing upon their marriage. If one wishes, receiving Holy Communion at the rail means the act of reverence is the kneeling. One can also take a few moments to pause after Holy Communion. One can pray at any moment of any day at the threshold of heaven.
In all, teaching our children about the Mass is a serious but hopefully joyful duty that brings every- one closer to Christ. So much more, but let us cultivate the natural curiosity of children to ask and learn about the greatness of the Mass and its infinite value. The more we do, the more we truly love as God loves us.
God Love You, Fr. Brian Gannon