Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body of Christ. Catholic belief is that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross is made present on the altar in the celebration of the Eucharist, the celebration of the Mass. How may we gain some insight into this mystery?
I invite you to read the following from ‘A place apart’ by the Cistercian monk Basil Pennington. You may have to read it a dozen times – but stay with it!
“We tend to see and experience things in a linear fashion, one event succeeding another and passing into history. God dwells in an eternal “now.” All that ever was and will be is now present in him. If I were to try to express it in an image, I might say that while we see things stretched out in a line he sees them all piled up, one atop another, in a single point of time. And at the top of the heap is the greatest act of all creation, the focal act of all creation.
God is love. We are made to his image and likeness. We are all that we are to be, to the extent that we are love, lovers, sharing in the love of God become man’s in his Son. The greatest act of creation is the greatest act of love in creation, that act whereby the Son offered the Father the greatest thing in creation: his human life. Greater love than this no man has than to lay down his life. All our love has its meaning and fullness only to the extent it participates in his supreme act of love.
We can reach beyond time into God’s “now” to touch that supreme act at any time by our faith. But God himself in his tremendous mercy and love has given us a ritual act whereby that supreme act of love is brought into our time and made present whenever a priest places that ritual in memory of his Son. The Mass and Calvary are in no wise distinct. The one supreme act of love, abiding ever in the “now” of God, is made present on our table by this ritual act just as truly as it was present on the cross in the heart of the Son. This is the significance of the Mass, and we are invited to it daily.