Here I am again in A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Edward Sri.
First: I am constantly amazed at what the Scriptures have to say to me as an individual. Vatican II explained,
"To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed hem in his task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."
A new word for me, theopneustos, which means God-breathed. What a marvelous image, God breathing in the minds of men so they could write what needed to be written. I used to just listen or phase out when the scripture was being read during Mass. Since I have been a Lector, I have had to study the words in order to read them with meaning. This has caused me to listen carefully to the words of Mass, and I discover at each Mass, God breathing his meaning in my ear. Sometimes I feel His presence in my mind.
Another new concept: I’ve always like the Hymn “Lord of the Dance,” but I really understood why “dance” was chosen. I’ve thought of the way some think of life or marriage or even work as a kind of dance – though in these cases the ‘dance’ wasn’t joyful, but required-if one were to win or at least keep from losing. Since God is Love and Joy follows Love, then His is a joyful dance. Thomas Howard wrote:
The universe, all creatures and things, all angels and saints, invite us, “Come Join the Dance.” The antiphons of the Mass are early training in the great choreography, in the great ringing antiphon before the eternal perichoressis, the “Dance” of the Persons of the Trinity. The seraphim know this; and in the liturgy we begin to be introduced into this blissful antiphonality. When we respond to the Psalm, we are taking or first steps in the Dance.
Here the Dance is the joyful praise of God; as when the choirs of angels sing in praise of God in the ongoing Mass of Heaven. Their joy becomes a song or a dance in praise as the saints, angels, and other creatures sing back and forth in their hymn and dance of joy. It is this back and forth chanting of psalms and antiphons that become the dance.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
To repeat in threes is to find completion. Holy Lord is to recite a name. Holy, Holy is the beginning of action. Holy, Holy, Holy, is praise – the Sanctus is praise – but also a description of the indescribable.
Lord, God of Hosts
Who are these hosts? Saint, choirs of angels, archangels, seraphim all singing the threefold praise of Holy.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
For me, living in the deep woods, the glory of God surrounds me: lakes, streams, oaks and pines each a glorious statement regardless of the seasons – have you ever seen a pint dusted in snow, or the copper oak leaves frosted in the midst of white – and the clouds, sunrises, sunsets, birds at a feeder, the antics of squirrels, the glory of Fall or the budding green in Spring. Even without storms, they suggest the grandeur and the power of God. So we sing praise - yet, what if like Isaiah we get a glimpse:
When angels sing, the foundations of the Temple shake and the room is filled with smoke.
He realizes his and our-unworthiness.
Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips…for my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of Hosts! Holy is His Name.
We, sinners as we are, are still unworthily; we still distrust the alien, the different one, and still aren’t ready to give our all for Love.
Anamnesis and the Passover Sacrifice
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
The purpose of this prayer is to be reminded at this part of the Mass to lift our hearts to God, to forget our worldly concerns, and focus. Focus is difficult for humans with business, home, family, monetary, and time constraints. Yet, we are asked to do that very thing, to forget who we are, what we have to do because “it is just and right.”
As St Cyprian explained:
When we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole
Heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything but the object only of its prayer. For this reason also the priest by way of preface before his prayer, prepares the minds of the brethren by saying, “Lift up your hearts,” so the people’s response, “We lift them before our Lord,” he may be reminded that he himself ought to think of nothing but our Lord.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem said much the same thing, but warning the Mass participants of the seriousness of this moment in the Mass:
“Lift up your hearts:” For in this sublime moment the heart should be lifted up to God, and not be allowed to descent to the earth and to earthly concerns. With all possible emphasis the sacrificing priest exhorts us in this hour to lay aside all the cares of this life, all domestic worries, and direct our hearts to God in heaven who hath so loved men…Let there be none among you, who shall confess with his lips: We have lifted up our hearts, and allow his thoughts to remain with the cares of this life."
What a difficult job to lift up our thoughts when, the cares of the world go out of their way to bring our thoughts to all we have to do, the problems we have yet to solve. If we can take these very tasks to do and problems to solve and lift them to the Lord, what a relief will come. He will take our burdens on himself as he took on our sins. And then, we should “give thanks to the Lord, our God.”
In the Jewish tradition, giving thanks is the one thing we can give to God that he doesn’t already have. As Philo said:
We affirm that the activity most characteristic of God is to give His blessings. But that most
fitting to creation is to give thanks; because that is the best it can offer him in return. For when creation tries to make any other return to God it finds that its gift already belongs to the Creator of the universe, no to the creature offering it. Since we now realize that to give due worship to God only one duty is incumbent upon us, that of giving thanks, we must carry it out in all times and in all places.
We have much to thank him for. Consider all you know and have, then consider what your life would be like if everything you had not thanked God for would be gone. What would you have left?
In the Passover, the Jews keep a memorial of an historical event, one where God saved them from death of their first born, slavery, and led them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. Each year, Jews re-live the event. Their prayers are spoken as though they and not just their answers were saved by God, “When You led me out of slavery. When You led me out of Egypt. When You rescued me,” though it was generations ago.
So in the Eucharist part of the Mass, we too re-live the last supper, knowing the bread and wine are really His body and blood “broken and poured out" on the cross for the Love of us. In the Catholic Catechism explains:
In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work are united with hose of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.
If for no other reason than the Eucharist, we should give Him thanks, for His great glory, and sing with the angels the Great Amen!