Kala Nila’s great post on the gift of tears really spoke to me; I’ve been known to shed a tear or two during Mass (don’t get my kids started on that subject). Hey, what’s odd about people tearing up when they find themselves face-to-face with the Creator of Heaven and earth present on the altar? The question isn’t “why do those people have tears running down their cheeks?” but rather “why don’t you have tears running down yours?” I realize that I am not the Lone Sniffler at Mass, but I have sometimes had to ask myself: Am I the only person who cries during the Offertory?
Perhaps an explanation is in order….
We Catholics pray the Lord’s Prayer many times during the day. When we pray the words “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re not just asking for a 20% off coupon to Panera Bread. We’re asking that God provide for our physical needs, yes, like the food we eat. But we also ask that God provide for our spiritual needs by giving us the Eucharist, the true Bread from Heaven. And we are asking that God’s will be done (the first petition in the Our Father) in and through us because that, too, is our bread. How so? Remember the incident in which the disciples urged Jesus to eat something, and He told them that He had food that they didn’t know about, saying, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work”? Thy will be done – give us this day our daily bread – this is what we pray. God confronts us each day with His holy will – that, too, is our daily bread. That fulfillment of His will is my offering that I place among the gifts. As the collection basket is passed, I offer back to Him not only a couple of dollars, but also my thoughts and actions, my prayers and devotions, my pains and my cares, my joys and sorrows; I mentally place them in the hands of those bearing the gifts up to the altar. I do that so that Jesus can make those things HIS – HIS thoughts and actions, HIS prayers and devotions, HIS pains and HIS cares, HIS joys and sorrows.
Can it be?
This is how the Incarnation continues to work itself out in our world; as you and I offer up our “daily bread” to be united with His sacrifice, Jesus continues to live and act in His body, the Church. This “bread,” our works, taken up to the altar, is then no longer ours. It is offered up by Jesus to the Father, Who, looking down, sees only Jesus and what He has done in this world:
We are on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine, for both are the sustenance of life; therefore in giving that which gives us life we are symbolically giving ourselves. Furthermore, wheat must suffer to become bread; grapes must pass through the wine-press to become wine. Hence both are representative of Christians who are called to suffer with Christ, that they may also reign with Him.
As the consecration of the Mass draws near our Lord is equivalently saying to us: “You, Mary; you, John; you, Peter; and you, Andrew – you, all of you – give Me your body; give Me your blood. Give Me your whole self! I can suffer no more. I have passed through My cross, I have filled up the sufferings of My physical body, but I have not filled up the sufferings wanting to My Mystical Body, in which you are. The Mass is the moment when each one of you may literally fulfill My injunction: ‘Take up your cross and follow Me.'”
On the cross our Blessed Lord was looking forward to you, hoping that one day you would be giving yourself to Him at the moment of consecration. Today, in the Mass, that hope our Blessed Lord entertained for you is fulfilled. When you assist at the Mass He expects you now actually to give Him yourself.
Then as the moment of consecration arrives, the priest in obedience to the words of our Lord, “Do this for a commemoration of me,” takes bread in his hands and says “This is my body”; and then over the chalice of wine says, “This is the chalice of my blood of the new and eternal testament.” He does not consecrate the bread and wine together, but separately. The separate consecration of the bread and wine is a symbolic representation of the separation of body and blood, and since the Crucifixion entailed that very mystery, Calvary is thus renewed on our altar. But Christ, as has been said, is not alone on our altar; we are with Him. Hence the words of consecration have a double sense; the primary signification of the words is: “This is the Body of Christ; this is the Blood of Christ;” but the secondary signification is “This is my body; this is my blood.”
Such is the purpose of life! To redeem ourselves in union with Christ; to apply His merits to our souls by being like Him in all things, even to His death on the Cross. He passed through His consecration on the Cross that we might now pass through ours in the Mass. There is nothing more tragic in all the world than wasted pain.
Think of how much suffering there is in hospitals, among the poor, and the bereaved. Think also of how much of that suffering goes to waste! How many of those lonesome, suffering, abandoned, crucified souls are saying with our Lord at the moment of consecration, “This is my body. Take it”? And yet that is what we all should be saying at that second:
“I give myself to God. Here is my body. Take it. Here is my blood. Take it. Here is my soul, my will, my energy, my strength, my property, my wealth-all that I have. It is yours. Take it! Consecrate it! Offer it! Offer it with Thyself to the heavenly Father in order that He, looking down on this great sacrifice, may see only Thee, His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. Transmute the poor bread of my life into thy divine life; thrill the wine of my wasted life into thy divine spirit; unite my broken heart with thy heart; change my cross into a crucifix. Let not my abandonment and my sorrow and my bereavement go to waste. Gather up the fragments, and as the drop of water is absorbed by the wine at the offertory of the mass, let my life be absorbed in thine; let my little cross be entwined with Thy great cross so that I may purchase the joys of everlasting happiness in union with Thee.”
“Consecrate these trials of my life which would go unrewarded unless united with Thee; transubstantiate me so that like bread which is now thy body, and wine which is now thy blood, I too may be wholly thine. I care not if the species remain, or that, like the bread and the wine I seem to all earthly eyes the same as before. My station in life, my routine duties, my work, my family – all these are but the species of my life which may remain unchanged; but the “substance” of my life, my soul, my mind, my will, my heart – transubstantiate them, transform them wholly into Thy service, so that through me all may know how sweet is the love of Christ. Amen.” Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen
See why I’m crying? I will never perform a greater act than this offering of myself to be united with Jesus!
And lest anybody call these tears “feminine,” allow me to present a manly man who actually prayed that he might be no stranger to the tissue box!
Grant me that visible sign of Thy love, a cleansing ever-flowing fountain of tears, that these tears may also bear witness to Thy love in me, that they may show, that they may tell, how much my soul doth love Thee: that in the too-great sweetness of Thy love it cannot withhold its tears. St. Augustine of Hippo
Go ahead. I’ll share the Kleenex.
On the memorial of St. Giuseppe Moscati
Deo omnis gloria!