“Seeing” the Mass

The Office of Readings has been going through the book of Hebrews which goes to length describing Jesus as a High Priest who mediates between man and God. We are told that Jesus unlike other priests has no need to offer sacrifices for himself and then for the people (Heb 7:27) and that if he were on earth, he would not be a priest like those prescribed by the law (Heb 84)

Okay what? At first it seemed the the Catholic priesthood and the priesthood of Christ were at odds with each other. Like how can a priest really be a priest if Jesus is the only true priest? What is the priest then if only Jesus actually has the priesthood of the New Covenant?  I have been thinking a lot about Jesus as our mediator and how a priest mediates and these questions bothered me for weeks.

I had to think about Jesus actually working through the priest, exercising his divine priesthood within him. And ultimately I will never understand the mystery of Christ’s priesthood. It is something the book of Hebrews can only hint at. It is something that comes from heaven and not earth. This Easter Vigil, I attended my friend Leo’s Anglican Ordinariate parish in Orlando. They are those Anglicans who entered the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

The priest in his white vestments strangely reminded me of the resurrected Christ. A newness filled the church which smelled of lilies and incense. The sanctuary lamp, once extinguished, was lit and it felt as sunrise after a long night. When emerging from the tomb, Jesus shed his light upon death. He gave our life a new meaning. Now was the priest to shed light on this meaning, let us glimpse our inheritance of immortality.

He said the consecration, turned “ad orientem” and bright light shone on his back. The image clicked. I immediately pictured Jesus Christ, standing before all the people of God, lifting up his own body and blood. He stood in between God the Father and the people, saying “Abba Father! Remember my sacrifice. See the nail marks in my hands and my pierced side. Remember and spare them.” God saw not the sins of the people but the wounds of his Son. I saw the priest, no longer existing as a man and instead the image of Christ mediating. The priesthood is realized in Christ himself. It is not the man’s priesthood but Christ’s. Not the man’s offering but Christ’s. It is Christ who acts. In this sense, I imagined that the priest “dies” at every Mass, no longer being of himself. As St. Paul said; “It is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me.”

In the haste of things, we almost forget the Mass is important, that yes a sacrifice happens there and yes, Christ is mediating. If possible, we should enter into the invisible realities of the Holy Mass, imagine how heaven reacts to the words of consecration and how God’s mercy is really opened up. What if you didn’t say you went to Mass but that you “saw” Mass? Coming means you were there whereas seeing denotes attention and enjoyment. And a million things will get in the way- guaranteed. The Devil wants nothing more than to cultivate disdain for the Holy Mass The world’s heavy weight threatens to pull us away from every sublime thought. The flesh will have us distracted by everything. The noise and bustle bogs us down. Worries and emotions suffocate. To be granted even one moment of enlightenment is a gift indeed, from the One who never stops giving.

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