Eucharistic Revival and The Lion of Judah
“He endured death as a Lamb; he devoured it as a Lion.” – St. Augustine
A Successful Eucharistic Revival Must Address Two Crises
There is a current crisis in the Church when it comes to a lack of faith in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. We are currently undergoing a three year national Eucharistic Revival to address this problem. The other crisis, which is related, is the decline of attendance at Mass by men. During this current year of the revival which focuses on the church parish, I offer suggestions to parish liturgical committees below which I believe will address both crises.
There’s an old saying, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. This means how you pray and worship shapes how and what you believe. This suggests that the belief in the Real Presence would be fortified and enhanced if we worship and pray as if it were true. That would mean that we demonstrate reverence and respect for the Eucharist by utilizing one of seven of the gifts received in Confirmation, Fear of the Lord (reverence and awe before God). Both, the lack of belief in the Real Presence and the decline in men attending Mass stem from this lack of reverence.
To recover a sense of awe and reverence, we first need to restore a balance between the two-fold character of the person of Jesus as Lion and as Lamb. By doing this, The Catholic Faith will appeal more to men and there will be an increase in reverence and respect for the Real Presence at Mass.
On the one hand, Jesus is the untamed Lion of Judah. On the other hand he is the tender, merciful Lamb of God. To his enemies he is like the Russel Crowe in the Gladiator, to repentant sinners he is like Mother Cabrini. Based on Scripture and Tradition, both personas are accurate.
Whether its religious education, parish catechetics or the liturgy, we Catholics seldom hear about the biblical and masculine Jesus as the Lion of Judah, Just Judge and Commander of angel armies. We would have to overcome a lot of bad catechesis and religious formation which has over-emphasized the mercy and love of Jesus for the last forty years. If I could boil down my whole experience of faith formation in my childhood CCD program it would be that God is Love. This is true, but woefully incomplete.
The Current Imbalance
As a man, sitting in the pews every Sunday, I find myself having to power through this imbalance of Christ in the Liturgy which tends to showcase his love and mercy as the Lamb of God, the suffering servant. Given that the Mass is the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God, for the atonement of our sins the emphasis on his mercy and meekness is expected. But the language of the prayers, the lyrics of the music and sometimes even the mannerisms of the presider, all give the Mass an effeminate vibe. This is a turn off for men, who by nature, want to worship God out of respect and awe for his power and might as well as his mercy and love. Sometimes at Mass, it feels like I’m stuck in a princess Disney movie especially when the choir, mostly elderly women, sing almost exclusively about the motherly love of God.
Two examples come to mind. There’s a song called, Table of Plenty. Here are the lyrics, ‘Come to the feast of heaven and earth, Come to the table of plenty. God will provide for all that we need here at the table of plenty. O come and sit at my table, where saints and sinners are friends I wait to welcome the lost and lonely to share the cup of my love…’ Sorry, but to the masculine ear that is cringeworthy. Here’s another one, called Canticle of the Sun, ‘Come, dance in the forest, come, play in the field and sing to the glory of the Lord…’. Commence eye rolling.
No, sorry ladies, in these times when the spiritual war is heating up and the devil is breathing down my neck , I don’t want to dance and play in an imaginary forest nor be a passive guest at the table of plenty. I want to be in awe of the power and ferocity of the God, our Lion who slayed his Enemy and ours. I identify with Mr. Beaver who said to Susan, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe?’
When we domesticate and declaw the Lion of Judah, we inevitably lose our sense of fear. Fear of the Lord is one of the gifts we received at our Confirmation. It does not mean fearing God as if he were a tyrannical stepfather who will exact punishment on his children. It actually just means having respect for his identity as the Creator while at the same time keeping in mind that we are merely creatures. Fear of the Lord is a reminder of who God is and who we are.
We genuflect before the Just Judge, the King out of reverence, wonder and awe. Fear of the Lord isn’t only the beginning of wisdom as scripture says, but it is vital if we want to recover a sense of reverence at Mass. The casual dress, the chatter before Mass, the half-hearted gestures, the early departure from Mass are all indications that we all could use more Fear of the Lord at Mass. Only until this happens, will we see men return and an overall increase in faith in the Real Presence.
The Scriptural Profile of Jesus the Lion
Simeon told Mary that Jesus, in a world full of lies, would be ‘A sign of Contradiction’. Jesus may love the people but he has a problem with their sins. After refusing to condemn her, he tells the sinner woman ‘go and sin no more’. The Pharisees dropped their stones and walked away in shame.
We know from reason alone that he must have been a self-assured, powerful and confident leader. Jesus earned the respect of 12 rough, rugged men who followed him as disciples and to give up their lives for him. They wouldn’t have done that if Jesus were wimpy. After performing miracles, the crowds, mostly men, responded with Fear of the Lord, “…and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid” (Mk.10:32).
Jesus commanded both men and angels. “The holy angels are in awe before him; he looms immense and august over everyone around him. God of the Angel Armies, who is like you, powerful and faithful from every angle? You put the arrogant ocean in its place and calm its waves when they turn unruly” (Psalm 89).
He taught with authority, ridiculing the Pharisees and rebuking demons. Jesus remained fearless before his accusers and before his executioners during his suffering and death. “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:15).
Men Respect The Just Judge
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that Jesus is the source of tender mercy, which I, as a sinner, depend on every day. But let’s also recall that he is the Just Judge who will exact retribution from the wicked,
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me’ “(Mt 25:41-43).
The book of Revelation has him covered in blood and charging on a steed with a sword drawn.
“His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:12-16).
Now that’s awesome and inspiring for men, like something a biker would have tattooed on his arm.
A major reason we developed into a civilization in the West is due to the taming of masculinity. The Church’s historical role in this endeavor cannot be overlooked. It was by highlighting the masculinity of Jesus that we first evangelized the barbarians. This respect for Jesus’ power acted as a bridge between toxic masculinity and toxic femininity. Mercy and love are a part of his story but when evangelizing men they came at the end of the lesson.
If we truly want a eucharistic revival to take hold, we must let the Lion of Judah out of his cage. When we worship with fear and awe our faith will rebound. Faith is caught not taught. Seeing a parish church full of young, rugged, muscular, blue-collar fathers genuflecting before the Eucharist out of respect would be a sure sign that the eucharistic revival has indeed succeeded. It would build the faith of younger men and boys who almost always follow the father in the area of religion.