Confession time. When I was in college, I needed to attend a class to update my lifeguarding certification. There was another young woman who needed to attend with me. I did not work with her but I knew of her because she was a lifeguard where my family swam. She knew that I was a lifeguard at a day camp, and asked me if I could drive her to the classes because she didn’t have a car. I agreed somewhat hesitantly.
You see, Cheryl (I have forgotten her real name) was your “typical” mean-girl collegian. She had a wonderful figure, wore makeup expertly, had a magnificent wardrobe, and could shake a stick at the boys who were falling at her feet. I thought she was conceitedly mean and the little I had to do with her, the better. I thought she looked down on me because I was full figured, somewhat awkward around boys, and a very good student. But, being a person of my word, I could “bear” driving her to and from lifeguarding certification class.
After the first session, I dropped Cheryl off at her house. Since it was dark, I waited in the driveway for her to open the door and enter her house. I did this because that was what my father did when he would drop off my friends at their houses. I always thought it was completely respectful and was quite proud of him for it!
After three weeks of this, when I picked Cheryl up for class, she shared, “I want to thank you for waiting for me to get into my house when you drop me off. All the guys that I have dated, not one of them has ever waited for me to get into the house. I have come to realize that your actions have shown me what true respect is all about. I thought you were arrogant and looked down at me because I struggle with academics. I was wrong about you.”
Her confession led to mine. After the 11 weeks of class, we became friends and I realized that my personal perceptions could be totally erroneous!
I am reminded of this as I continue my series on the Eucharist and my reflection on the book, 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. The third secret is: There is only one Mass.
All too often, I have heard folks say, “I love (or dislike) the way Father So-and-So says Mass.” Or, “I love (or dislike) the way such-and-such parish’s choir sings at Mass.” You would think that each celebration of the Mass is somehow different than all the others. This is not so!
Before I get into why this is not an accurate understanding, let’s do some preliminary explanations. Flynn declares, “The Church has always taught that God is unlimited, so He transcends time and space (along with matter and gravity). God sees everything – past, present, future – all at once. For God, everything is always present; God lives in the Eternal Now. … The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that Christ’s passion, death, resurrection, and ascension should not be viewed merely as separate events, but rather as one unique event, which the Church calls ‘the Paschal mystery.’ … The Catechism goes on to explain that, though the Paschal mystery is an actual event that did occur in our history, it differs from all other historical events because they happen once and ‘pass away, swallowed up in the past.’ … ‘All that Christ is – all that He did and suffered for men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.’ (CCC 1084) … This part of the miracle of the Mass, that it ‘not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated, not repeated’ (CCC 1104), as the Church ‘re-lives the great events of salvation history in the ‘today” of her liturgy’ (1095).”1
You might have to re-read the paragraph above again and ponder it.
Every time we attend the Eucharistic Liturgy, we are actually present at Calvary, at the empty tomb and on the Mount of the Ascension! All the angels and saints surround us, sing with us and worship with us. This was personally brought home to me many years ago when I actually came to understand what is meant by “lifting up our hearts” to the Lord, as said in the beginning of the Eucharistic prayers. For me, the “heart” is the core of my very being. I lift mine by being present to the heavenly host. At that moment, I spiritually ascend to heaven while God comes down to earth. This happens every single time Mass is celebrated. Every single time!
Cheryl taught me about the importance of perception. This notion of what happens at Mass has taught me a glimmer of the timelessness of eternity.
What about you?
1Flynn, Vinny. 7 Secrets of the Eucharist. MercySong, Inc., 2006. Pg. 41-44.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness