We are not able to grasp with our reason this wonderful action which takes place in the Holy Mass; we can only comprehend it by believing, believing!; let’s not let “our faith become knowledge”.
Let’s try to understand some individual parts of Holy Mass.
Long before the Second Vatican Council, it was pondered how to enable the faithful to actively participate in the most important part of the Mass, i.e., in the eucharistic prayer. At this time the priest alone recited the prayer to himself. It was only after the reform into the novus ordo that after the words of consecration (after the elevation) an exhortation is addressed to the faithful: “The mystery of faith”, and they make the acclamation “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again”. In this way the gathered faithful have an active part in the heart of the Holy Mass. The whole eucharistic prayer is directed to God the Father, whereas this acclamation is addressed to Jesus Christ. The people confess their faith in the presence of the One who died, who rose again and who is to come. It is an expression of faith in its most important truth, i.e., this acclamation is a summary of the Creed, with the difference that the Creed is a confession (“I believe . . . ”), and the words of the acclamation are directed to Jesus, and so are in the form of a prayer.
Here we’re reminded of the confession of Thomas the Apostle, Thomas the “doubter”, who after touching the wounds of Jesus, acclaimed: “My Lord and my God” (J 20:28). Saint Paul makes a similar confession, saying that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). The Roman Missal for use in English speaking countries has two other acclamations: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again”. It is near enough the same as in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (11:26); and “Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your cross and resurrection you have set us free”. Here again we have a style of direct prayer as in the first acclamation.
I’ll now quote a longer text on the subject of the Eucharist as a mystery of faith. It is from Adrienne von Speyr, a Swiss physician and mystic. She was accompanied in her spiritual path by Hans Urs von Balthazar (1905-1988), one of the most famous theologians of the 20th century. Mystics have deep encounters with Jesus during Holy Mass. For us, it’s so good that they share their experiences with us, although it is often not easy to understand or accept their message. Adrienne von Speyr writes thus:
The whole Eucharist is a pure mystery of faith. The Lord clearly gives it to the Church as a mystery. He doesn’t give it in such a way that it becomes knowledge. And even if we would see Him (Jesus) before us in a physical way, in Body and Blood, and if we could touch and embrace Him, we would still not see the inner, true essence of this physicality: its strength, its reach, its divine possibilities. Faith hangs between understanding and not understanding. A mystery as such (faith) cannot be comprehended. And yet it has to be grasped, believing that the Lord is present here in a physical way. After all, this faith is a condition for the Spirit of the Lord to work in the believer. His faith [of the participant] makes this work possible and cooperates in it himself. In the Eucharist, the ever-greater being of God enters the material of the world of the senses, in such a way that this Being wants to unite Himself with the faith [of humans], so that the ever greater mystery of the Eucharist be realised in the Church [and the heart of each believer]. And because the Eucharist, the shedding of blood, is always actual, the character of the mystery will also be current and never exhausted, so that faith can gradually turn into knowledge. So, faith itself is born in the Eucharist, again and again [. . .] it must rise each time, to be born of God”.
If some of you, dear brothers and sisters, don’t manage to commit much of this to memory – and the confession of this mystic is not easy to understand – then I will draw on this text and provide one conclusion: we are not able to (and don’t want to) grasp with our reason this wonderful action which is accomplished in Holy Mass; we can only comprehend it by believing, believing!; let’s not want our faith to “turn into knowledge”, as Adrienne writes.
Let’s believe that it is so – that God Himself in Jesus Christ comes to us! Let’s believe the fruits of this faith in our lives will make us happy!
The prayer of Saint Faustina (after Communion):O my Creator and Lord, You alone above all gifts give me Yourself and unite Yourself closely to Your miserable creature. Here our hearts understand each other without choosing words; here no one can interrupt our speech. What I talk with You, O Jesus, is our secret, which creatures will not know about, and Angels are not bold enough to ask about. They are a secret forgiveness about which only Jesus and I know – it is the mystery of His mercy, which embraces every individual soul. And although my adoration is so miserable and small, yet I am at peace, because I know, that You know it is sincere, although so inept (Diary 1692).