In this article we propose some reflections on the Holy Mass starting from a precious booklet entitled “Vivere la Messa” (ed. S. Paolo, 2012) by Mons. Fulton Sheen,Bishop of the United States (1895-1979) who died in the concept of holiness
(in 2008 the cause of beatification was formally opened in Rome) in which a splendid parallel is made between the last seven words of Jesus on the Cross and the seven main parts of the Mass.
Our hope is to inspire a profound meditation on what should be the external attitudes and inner arrangements with which to attend Holy Mass and the respect with which these Divine Mysteries should be celebrated.
Obviously here we refer to the Holy Mass of St. Pius V (or Tridentine), the one celebrated until the liturgical reform of 1969 and which from this is distinguished not only by the Latin language, but by a whole series of rituals, gestures, silences, etc. that make it, in its solemnity and sacredness, certainly more faithful in expressing the primary meaning of the Holy Mass , that of the Sacrifice of Christ who, in a bloodless but real way, makes himself present on the altar for our salvation.
The “Holy Mass of all time” has nourished spiritually, for centuries, legions of faithful, generating thousands of Saints. Rite that, thanks also to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI (2007) received a new impulse for the benefit of souls and for the greater glory of God and that we suggest to know, especially to those who had never yet had the grace to attend it (at this link you can consult the list of places where it is habitually celebrated: http://blog.messainlatino.it/p/elenco-messe-antiche-in-italia.html).
But let us come to the deepening of the various parts of Holy Mass.
1)”Father forgive them…” – Confiteor. In the Confesso we ask forgiveness of our sins. Jesus certainly had no sins, but he asks forgiveness for our sins, the weight of which he carries upon him. Even in the extreme of suffering He justifies us before the Father: forgive them because they do not know what they do! This not being aware is what makes it possible to redeem man, unlike fallen angels who instead knew and knew God because they saw him… Jesus’ mask of pain reveals to us the ugliness of sin, the pains we have inflicted on him, and invites us to repent. He extends the power of His forgiveness to His priests in the confessional, the source of True Mercy.
2)”Today you will be with me in Paradise” – Offertory. . With these words, which Jesus addresses to the good thief crucified with him, while offering Himself to the Father as a great Host, Jesus unites to himself on the patena of the Cross the first small host offered in Mass. There are two merits of the good thief: knowing how to recognize and repent for his sins, and faith for recognizing Jesus as the Son of God. He does not ask to come down from the cross, but to be forgiven, he understood that true life is not this, but eternal life: by participating in the Cross, we can participate in the Resurrection! Bread and wine represent the substance of life: each of us, a little host, is called to offer our sufferings in order to participate in Christ’s redemptive mission and to complete, as St Paul says, what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings (certainly referring not to His physical body, which has already suffered everything, but to the mystical Body – the Church – to his members , each of us).
3)”Here’s your mother” – Sanctus. . Just as Jesus, the Victim par excellence, is Holy, we too must be saints in order to participate in the Sacrifice. How to do it? Jesus gives us the way: to put himself under the protection of His Mother. We are children of Mary: Jesus knew that without her we could not achieve holiness. At the foot of the Cross, Mary stood, ready for our service. This task is onerous: you too live the Passion. His Heart of Mother is broken, but he remains there and already intercedes for us: when Jesus dies, humanly he can do nothing more, but the Passion of Mary is not yet over. The centurion pierces the son’s rib, the water and the last drops of Blood are for her, they cover her and make her the Mediator of every Grace and Divine Mercy. That’s why it’s right to call her Co-Redeemer. Mary, once again renews Her Fiat to the Will of God who this time asks her to become the Mother of the crucifixors of her Son. And, at the foot of the Cross, she gives birth to us, this time in pain (unlike the virginal birth of Jesus), as Her children in the order of grace.
4)”Why did you abandon me?” Consecration. Sin is always separation from God. With this cry Jesus, in the hour of darkness, bringing man’s sin to himself, reaches the point of feeling the weight that the soul feels when it loses God. In the Passion there is the separation of blood from the Body of Christ. As is the case with Calvary, this is the case in Mass: this is my Body! This is my Blood! There is nothing more solemn on earth than consecration! It is a Divine act. The Priest acts “in Christi person“, but the only High Priest and sacrificial victim is Jesus Christ. Holy Mass is not a repetition or remembrance of a past fact: it is the only sacrifice of Calvary in which we are given to participate. On the Cross He waited for each of us and in Holy Mass this expectation is fulfilled. Each of us should also say to God: this is my body, my soul, my will, all myself: take it, consecrate it, offer it together with Your Son Jesus!
5)”Ho thirste” – Holy Communion. Jesus reaches the Communion of His Mass in this cry. He refuses what he is offered to drink because His is not thirsty for water, but for souls! Almighty God, sufficient for himself, thirsts for us! What a mystery! In St. Communion He wants to communicate his divine life to us. It is pure love, selfless: why when He asks us to be loved we offer him only vinegar and bitterness?
6)”Everything is accomplished” – Ite, Missa est . “No one has a greater love than this: to give their lives for their friends.” Love has completed His mission. What about us? We have this life to accomplish what we were created for. We must be persevering to the end as Jesus remained on the Cross to the end. So even the priest must remain on the altar until the end of Mass, he cannot go down. Unfortunately, due to the architecture of most modern Churches and the post-conciliar “new rite” that leaves many spaces to the “creativity” of individual priests, signs and gestures are often renounced that are very important because they refer to fundamental truths of our Faith and that we risk losing (think the altar and the Priest addressed to the Cross rather than to the people, the balustrade , to the way of receiving Holy Communion on its knees and in the mouth rather than on its feet and in the hands, to the vertical, solemn, austere architecture, with the cross-shaped plan of the ancient Churches compared to the flat and insignificant one of the modern ones, to the Gregorian and classical polyphonic chant compared to certain modern canzonettas, etc. the examples would be infinite …). It is no coincidence that Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that the crisis of the Church, today, derives precisely from the crisis of the Liturgy!
7)”Father, in Your hands …” – Last Gospel (prologue of St. John). Unfortunately, this part was even eliminated in the “new” post-liturgical reform rite of 1969, as well as the recitation, at the end of Holy Mass, of the so-called preci leonines that included the well-known prayer to St. Michael the Archangel that had been introduced precisely by Pope Leo XIII following the vision of demons attacking the Church, had after finishing celebrating Holy Mass in the Vatican chapel on October 13, 1883 and during which he heard the voice of God who allowed the devil to tempt the Church for a hundred years, even if he could not destroy it. The end of Holy Mass brings back to the beginning, to the Incarnation. Jesus returns to the Father who sent him, just as, once deposed by the Cross, He returns to his Mother’s arms, as on Christmas Day. High Priest, He leaves the altar of the Cross and returns to His “sacristy” of Paradise, from which he had come out to celebrate His Holy Mass in earthly life. Thus every man, born of God’s hands, will one day return to Him if he chooses to live for him and with him.
We are in this world to participate in Holy Mass, to offer our lives and to receive the merits of Jesus that allow us to save ourselves. Deus Vult!