Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Mass: As seen from heaven

On October 7, 2012 St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was declared a Doctor of the Church. She was the founding abbess of the Benedictine community in Bingen, Germany. As an abbess, she had a series of visions. In her sixth vision, called “Christ’s Sacrifice and the Church,” she was permitted to gaze at the Mass from the vantage point of heaven.

The value of this vision is that it gives us a peak behind the veil, as it were, into the Holy of Holies. Earthly in its outer garment and appearance, the Mass is eternal in essence. The mindfulness of its profound mysteries goes back to the first century. For instance, the Liturgy of St. James- which dates back to 60 A.D. –inspired awe and wonder among the early Christians as it pertained to the Sacred Mysteries. In fact, it has the priest earnestly praying before the altar, “God Almighty, Lord great in glory, who hast given to us an entrance into the Holy of Holies…we supplicate and invoke Your goodness, since we are fearful and trembling when about to stand at Your holy altar…”

This may strike the modern Catholic as odd because sometimes we have allowed our participation in the Mass to be mundane and routine. Still, the Mass, just as Scripture itself, is the work of God; the depths of which we can never plumb. However, with St. Hildegard of Bingen’s vision of the Mass, Catholics can begin to better appreciate what Christ brings to the soul at every celebration:

The Sixth Vision:

“And after these things I saw the Son of God hanging on the cross, and the aforementioned image of a woman coming forth like a bright radiance from the ancient counsel. By divine power she was led to Him, and raised herself upward so that she was sprinkled by the blood from His side; and thus, by the will of the Heavenly Father, she was joined with Him in happy betrothal and nobly dowered with His body and blood.

And I heard a voice from Heaven saying to Him: ‘May she, O Son, be your Bride for the restoration of My people; may she be a mother to them, regenerating souls through the salvation of the Spirit and water.’

And as that image grew in strength, I saw an altar, which she frequently approached, and there each time looked devotedly at her dowry and modestly showed it to the Heavenly Father and His angels. Hence, when a priest clad in sacred vestments approached that altar to celebrate the divine mysteries, I saw that a great calm light was brought to it from Heaven by angels and shone around the altar until the sacred was ended and the priest had withdrawn from it. And when the Gospel of peace had been recited and the offering to be consecrated had been placed upon the altar, and the priest sang the praise of Almighty God, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts,’ which began the mystery of the sacred rites, Heaven was suddenly opened and a fiery and inestimable brilliance descended over that offering and irradiated it completely with light, as the sun illumines anything its rays shine through. And thus, illuminating it, the brilliance bore it on high into the secret places of Heaven and then replaced it on the altar, as a person draws in a breadth and lets it out again; and thus the offering was made true flesh and true blood, although in human sight it looked like bread and wine.

And while I looked at these things, suddenly there appeared before my eyes as if in a mirror the symbols of the Nativity, Passion and burial, Resurrection and Ascension of our Savior, God’s Only-Begotten, as they happened to the Son of God while He was on earth. But when the priest sang the song of the innocent Lamb, ‘O Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,’ and prepared to take the Holy Communion himself, the fiery brilliance withdrew into Heaven; and as it closed I heard a voice from thence saying, ‘Eat and drink the body and blood of My Son to wipe out Eve’s transgression, so that you may be restored to the noble inheritance.’”

The divine glory embodied and expressed in the Mass gives us the answer why the Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ, is immortal. After all, the Eucharistic Host is the whole person of Christ as he existed throughout time and eternity. Through the offering of Him to God by the Church, souls were saved, demons routed, and a culture of life was built-up. And there is always a reason to hope because the Mass still is what it has always been. What it has done, by the power and majesty of God, it can do again!!