Welcome to Beautiful Light, a liturgical catechesis rooted in the Church’s mystagogical tradition. Mystagogy is an ancient form of catechesis that helps us go deeper into the mysteries we celebrate in the sacraments. Every week a new theme will help you focus on the graces available to you through the Mass as you prayerfully reflect on the content.
“Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you: by the same Spirit, graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration, that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.” Jesus is coming—and the Spirit is at work. The simple elements that lay visible upon the altar—tiny wafers of bread and a few simple drops of wine—will soon be substantially changed. Your heart is drawn up into this mysterious petitionary prayer as the priest lovingly suspends his open hands, palms down over the simple elements. In the inner stillness of your spirit, you sense the hidden presence of God, soon to be made manifest truly, sacramentally, in the Holy Eucharist. You sense that your own loving communion with the Trinity is also transforming you. Indeed, the Spirit of the Lord, dwelling in you, makes you holy…
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus submitted himself to Baptism, then came up out of the water, and the Holy Spirit lit upon him. Jesus began his public ministry by emphasizing the Sacrament of Baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, even so, I send you." When you imagine this rite, how does the Holy Spirit continue to provide the presence of Jesus in your life?
“The spiritual building up of the body of Christ is achieved through love. As Saint Peter says: Like living stones you are built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And there can be no more effective way to pray for this spiritual growth than for the Church, itself Christ’s body, to make the offering of his body and blood in the sacramental form of bread and wine. For the cup we drink is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ. Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, since we all share the same bread. And so we pray that, by the same grace which made the Church Christ’s body, all its members may remain firm in the unity of that body through the enduring bond of love.
“We are right to pray that this may be brought about in us through the gift of the one Spirit of the Father and the Son… The Holy Spirit, who is the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, produces in those to whom he gives the grace of divine adoption the same effect as he produced among those who, in the Acts of the Apostles, received the Holy Spirit. We are told that the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, because the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is one God, had created a single heart and soul in all those who believed. This is why St. Paul… says that this spiritual unity in the bond of peace must be carefully preserved.”
—Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe
Maybe you have heard people say that Mass is boring because the same words and actions happen day after day. The assumption is that if something is quietly repeated and there doesn't appear to be any change, then nothing happens. There seems to be an unwritten rule among some that spontaneity in worship is where God really moves rather than repetitive rituals. The problem with this perspective is that all of life is repetitive, from the sun rising and setting to the beating of the human heart. You could say that all of life beats a certain rhythm. When it comes to the heart, if there is no repetition, there is no life!
This is where the holy sacrifice of the Mass completely surprises those who take the time to understand what is really happening; for what is happening in the quiet reverence of Mass is, simply put, the most powerful transformation ever experienced on earth.
The Mass is about revelation and transformation on so many levels. However, everyone attending should be aware of a particular point in the Mass when everything is about to change: the epiclesis. The epiclesis is that moment in the Liturgy of the Eucharist where the priest lowers his outstretched hands, palms down, above the gifts of bread and wine.
As explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1105, the epiclesis (“invocation upon”) is the prayer in which the priest calls down the Holy Spirit, who is the Sanctifier, "so that the signs (or elements) of bread and wine may become the most treasured gift on earth, the Body and Blood of Jesus!" Imagine this, bread and wine become the life of the Trinity for us to consume. We get to consume the very grace of God!
Every sacrament has an epiclesis of sorts, as the Holy Spirit makes the human encounter with God possible. In the Mass, the epiclesis calls down the Holy Spirit upon the gifts, but there is a second movement of the Holy Spirit, and that is that we, the believers, would become a living offering to God; and deepen in our communion as the Body of Christ. It is this second movement that many people are unaware of.
Eucharistic Prayer III reveals this wonderful truth. The priest says, God, "grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ." We could say that we receive in the Eucharist what we are to become, the presence of God in a world desperately seeking truth and life!
The only person in the world who can transform, heal and empower broken people is the Lord Jesus Christ. Every time you observe the epiclesis, the priest's hands extended over the bread and wine, palms down, a bell should ring in your heart, a reminder that the world needs Jesus desperately and Christ is extending his life, and we are offering our life with Jesus for the salvation of the world and the glory of God! This is a wonderful way that we can more actively participate in the Mass.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the stabilizing experience given to mankind. Participation in the Mass adjusts our inner compass after a day or a week of battling the magnetic pull of entities contrary to God. People often leave Mass renewed and empowered and experience a certain lightness of being, which results from putting life in proper perspective!
The wise person takes what they have received in the Mass and puts it into practice in their daily living. In the epiclesis, bread and wine await the transformative action of the Holy Spirit, resulting in life and life more abundantly! And in the same way, by an act of the will, we offer ourselves to God and beg for transformation in our lives. Bread becomes the Body of Christ, and we are transformed and strengthened as the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church by the Body of Christ the Eucharist.
Beyond the joy and peace we receive from the Eucharist, mission awaits us; the world awaits what we have received. When we experience the epiclesis, our hearts must be open to the fact that what is happening right then in the Mass is destined to impact someone in our life, maybe family, neighbors, someone at work, or a random person at the coffee shop. But be sure of this; God fed you that you would be His body in the community.
As Christians, we must remember what Jesus said in Luke 12:48, "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” So, what is required of us after we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord? The easiest and most direct answer is that we are required to speak as the Lord speaks and do as the Lord does.
In short, we must imitate the one we receive into our bodies. To imitate the Lord goes beyond merely going through the motions; it entails thinking like the Lord, which involves our minds, and showing compassion to those who are crushed by the weight of everyday living; this involves the heart and lending our bodies to the Lord in the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter to travelers, visiting the sick and those imprisoned, and burying the dead. These are a few ways we can respond to this rite.
God revealed himself in salvation history in words and deeds, requiring us to respond to that revelation in kind. In other words, we respond to God with words and deeds. We don't make the decision to respond based on our comfort level; we make a complete gift of ourselves to the Lord, knowing that he has empowered us to go beyond what we would normally say and do.
Jesus is in you and continues his mission through you. You can do it; Jesus chose you; just remember to say "yes" when you witness the epiclesis in Mass, yes to the Eucharist, and yes to being transformed as the Mystical Body of Christ.
Through the Beautiful Light series, each week from April 13 to May 25, 2023, you'll be invited to go deeper into the mysteries of the Mass through four steps:
1. Meditating on a rite (or part) of the Mass;
2. Reading an excerpt from one of the Church Fathers related to the rite;
3. Engaging with a catechetical reflection on the rite of the Mass;
4. Considering how you can "Live Christ Today", bridging your experience of faith with your daily life of discipleship.