In these times of pandemic, when many of us have been deprived of participating in the Holy Mass and others, unfortunately, have become accustomed to the "virtual Mass," I would like to remind you what really happens at this very special moment, according to the doctrine of the Church.
The Holy Mass can be divided into two major parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, having as its apex the transubstantiation, when the bread becomes the Body and the wine becomes the Blood of Jesus Christ and where we are invited to commune with this body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, becoming one flesh with Him, our divine Savior.
I would like to focus our reflection on the Eucharistic liturgy. As soon as it begins and the priest invites us to lift up our hearts, the so-called "communion of saints" begins, that is, the union of the Militant Church (we who are still here on this earth), the Penitent Church (the souls in Purgatory) and the Triumphant Church (the souls, the saints who are already in Heaven).
When we answer "we lift them up to the Lord," it is as if Heaven opens and we transport ourselves there, and then join the angels and saints to praise God, singing or saying: Holy, holy, holy ...
Immediately after, the priest begins the Eucharistic prayer, asking the Father to sanctify the offerings of bread and wine that are on the altar and that will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit. At this moment, upon hearing the bell, the faithful kneel down and are transported back in time to the place and moment of the Last Supper. Although our senses don't perceive it, this true "time travel" happens and, from that moment on, the priest is no longer the priest, but Jesus himself, and all the participants are really present in that sacred moment.
When Jesus, using the voice of the priest, says "This is my body," the host is really transformed into the body of Jesus and then we are no longer at the Last Supper, but at the foot of the Cross on Calvary. At that moment, we are witnesses to the sacrifice of infinite love that Jesus made for each of us by dying on the Cross.
If we pay attention to the gestures of the priest/Jesus we can capture a little more of the infinite beauty of that moment. Just as Jesus, on the cross, first bowed his head and then, surrendered his spirit, giving his last breath (John 18:1), the priest first bows over the host and then pronounces the words of consecration, the priest's breath being the same breath of Jesus, transforming the host into Body and the wine into Blood.
It is important to note that on the cross, the sacrifice was consummated by the blood being separated from the body of Christ physically, when the soldier used his spear and opened a wound in Jesus' side, from which blood and water gushed out. In the Holy Mass, the sacrifice is consummated by the blood being separated from the body of Christ sacramentally, so they are consecrated separately, first the body, then the blood.
Heaven, earth and purgatory at that moment are united, witnessing this gesture of incomparable love that redeemed all mankind. The sacrifice of the Son, to the Father, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity pouring torrents of love over all humanity. It is such a sublime moment, that if we could capture something with our senses, as some saints could, we would not be able to stop crying.
The liturgy continues with prayers for the faithful present, for the faithful deceased, for the Holy Church and its ministers, and that all may one day participate in eternal life with all the angels and saints who are still there, praising and glorifying the Holy Trinity.
Then comes the most awaited moment, when each one of us is invited to participate in this sacrifice of love, to become intimately united with Jesus, becoming one body with Him. It is an unfathomable mystery how God Himself wanted to unite Himself in this way with us, His sinful creatures. He gave Himself entirely to us, without reserve, and the best we can do to repay such a grace is to give ourselves entirely to Him.
Such a sublime moment should be followed by a deep thanksgiving on the part of each one of us. For about the next 15 minutes after we take Communion, Jesus is physically there with us, so we should make the most of this presence, giving ourselves to him, giving thanks for this moment and making our requests, especially to be faithful and loving children.
Let's see what some saints tell us about the Holy Mass:
"Know, O Christian, that more is deserved in listening devoutly to a single Mass than to distribute all one's riches to the poor and to wander the whole earth" (St. Bernard).
"Our Lord grants us everything we ask him for at Holy Mass: and what is more valuable is that he gives us still what we have not even thought of asking him for and which, nevertheless, is necessary for us" (St. Jerome).
"If we knew the value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass what zeal we would not have in attending it!" (St. John Vianney).
The Marvelous Value of the Holy Mass
"At the hour of death, the Masses you have attended will be your greatest consolation. Every Mass implores your forgiveness from divine justice. In every Mass you can lessen the temporal penalty due to your sins, and lessen it more or less according to your fervor. By attending Mass with devotion, you do the greatest honor to the holy humanity of Jesus Christ. He takes pity on many of your negligences and omissions. He forgives you for unconfessed venial sins that you have repented of. He diminishes Satan's hold on you. Suffrage the souls in purgatory the best way possible. The Mass preserves you from many dangers and misfortunes that would befall you. Every Mass diminishes your purgatory. Every Mass achieves a greater degree of glory for you in heaven. At Mass, you receive the priest's blessing, which Our Lord ratifies in heaven. You are blessed in your business and personal interests." (from The 15 Magnificent Prayers of Saint Bridget of Sweden)
After reflecting on the value of the Holy Mass, what more important commitment can you have in your day? Let's make an effort to participate as often as possible in Holy Mass, remembering that the so-called "virtual Mass" is not the same as the physical Mass, being only a moment of prayer and not having the power to transport us to Calvary, as it happens when we are physically present next to the priest.