In my long monastic life how often have I heard young men aspiring to become monks say, “I want to be myself”? And how often have I found myself saying to young men aspiring to become monks, “Be yourself”? The one thing I can say unreservedly about this need to be oneself is that man becomes his true self only on the way to the altar. God created man to be an offerer, a sacerdos, one who makes things over to God. God gave man all created things that they might become, in his sacerdotal hands, an offering of thanksgiving. Finally, God willed that this whole round world, created by him, should serve as man’s altar: a place from which man can reach into heaven to present there his sacrifice to God. Man becomes his true self, his best self, the self God intends him to be insofar as he recovers his own sacerdotal dignity and discovers in all things created matter for a holy oblation. Ultimate the search to become one’s true self leads one to the altar and to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Hence, the title of my talk: “The Mass — You Can’t Live Without It”.Part Two:
We refer to man as the homo sapiens: that is, one who tastes life, who experiences all things through his senses; who interprets what he has experiened, organises what he has interpreted, and finds meaning in what he has organised.
Man, however, is more than the homo sapiens. He is also the homo liturgicus, the homo hieraticus, the sacerdos. All that is good, beautiful, and true has been given into his hands. Delighting in what is good, true, and beautiful, man plays in the sight of the Most High. His play is, at once, both solemn and divine. It is an innocent play, bringing joy to the human heart and delighting the Heart of God. Thus is the word fulfilled in which Wisdom says, “I was at his side, a master-workman, my delight increasing with each day, as I made play before him all the while; made play in this world of dust, with the sons of Adam for my play-fellows” (Proverbs 8:30–31).
Man is, morever, the homo eucharisticus: the one creature uniquely capable of offering thanksgiving to God. All that he has received from God, he lifts up and gives back to God in thanksgiving. Being the homo eucharisticus, man sees the liturgical potential of all created things; he recognises their doxological finality — for all things attain that for which they were created by uttering something of the glory of God.
There is something deep in the soul that stirs to life when one hears the solemn cry from the altar, rising over the earth in the age–old intoning of the Sursum corda, “Hearts on high!” And again, Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro, “Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God”. One becomes one’s true self only by saying to this solemn invitation: Dignum et iustum est, “It is right and just”.
Becoming an Offering
The human vocation is eucharistic, priestly, and victimal; that is to say that man becomes his true self by giving thanks, by making the holy offering and, finally, by offering not only things to God, but by making the oblation of himself. The Latin word for victim is hostia, from which we derive the English word host, signifying the bread set apart for the Holy Sacrifice. In the Eastern Churches, the same bread set apart for the Holy Mysteries is called the lamb. By offering himself to God, man becomes a sacrificial victim, a hostia (host), an offering made over to God and identified with “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Apocalypse 13:8). (Read more.)
Pope Saint Pius X declares “active participation in the most holy mysteries (the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church (the Divine Office)” the primary and indispensable wellspring of the true Christian spirit. One can be neither fully human nor fully Catholic apart from the altar, the priesthood, and the Holy Sacrifice. “Active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church” is not a mere option for those who are so inclined, nor is it one school of “spirituality” among many in an ever–expanding and ever–changing array of fashions in piety; it is the “foremost and indispensable font” of the true Christian spirit, the universal and supremely effective means by which, following the motto of Pope Saint Pius X, all things can be “restored in Christ”. Instaurare omnia in Christo (Ephesians 1:10). No pious devotion, no system of meditation, and no ascetical endeavour — however praiseworthy these things may be in themselves — possess the efficacy and virtue of “active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church”.Share
The restoration of humanity to man — that is the recovery of his eucharistic, sacerdotal, and victimal vocation — is the beginning of the restoration all things in Christ. The finest flowerings of human culture are themselves the fruit of the cultus of latria, that is, of the sacrificial worship due to God alone. (Read more.)