Mystagogy Series

Beautiful Light: A Paschal Mystagogy, Part VI—The Body of Christ

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.

Imagine the Rite

Words cannot express the deep experience of your spirit as you participate in Christ’s sacrifice. You become aware of your participation, in time, in the worship of eternity. You see the priest, you are aware of the assembly gathered, and of the angels and saints. Yet, even this is not enough. Now you join yourself earnestly in intercession—for the Pope, for your bishop, for the clergy, and for the whole Church around the world. You pray for a reunion of all the Father’s scattered children and for the dead. In this Mass, the love of the heart of Jesus is fully revealed—his sacrifice once and for all. You sense your own heart being drawn up into the very same desire of Jesus and realize that you, too, thirst for the complete and total communion Jesus promised, “that when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32).

Reflection Question

When you offer yourself in union with the offering that Jesus makes, whom do you offer it for? For loved ones, for the world, for our Heavenly Father? The next time you are at Mass, as you come into church and perhaps kneel in prayer, ask yourself whom you want to offer your prayers, your sacrifices, your offering for. Think of something or someone specific. Pray, “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son for this intention.” You will already be profoundly participating in the Holy Mass.

Two women hugging

Excerpt from the Church Fathers

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life… With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything... A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life…

A Catechetical Reflection on the Rite

Mass is the highest prayer. It is a participation in the conversation between the Son and the Father. The offering that happens at Mass expresses the deeper relationship between them, united in the Holy Spirit. Christ’s prayer is a “Here I am, I come to do your will” (cf. Heb. 10:6) to the Father. He offers his heart, his will, to the Father. He calls doing the Father’s will his food (Jn 4:34) and his chalice (Mt 26:39). Jesus’ “here I am” is something that you and I are meant to live, in constant communion with God and with each other, as a foretaste of heaven. In the intercessions during the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray, “make of us an eternal offering.”

Priests at Holy Mass

Petitions or Intercessions follow the offering. Once we make the offering, once we have given the Father everything, we ask him for things in return. Who is remembered in prayer at every Mass? Answer: Everyone. The saints get mentioned first: Mary, and now Joseph, are mentioned in each of the Eucharistic prayers, and in the First Eucharistic Prayer, more saints are mentioned, namely those of the first centuries who were canonized at the time the prayer became crystallized. We pray for the pope and for our bishops, in whom we are also implicated. We pray that “this sacrifice may advance the peace and salvation of all the world.” We even pray for the dead. Included are saints and sinners, living and dead, popes and pew sitters, men and women, little children and, really, the whole world. We are truly in the “communion of the saints”—communion with holy people and holy things at Mass. We are standing in the middle of the fellowship of heaven while praying on earth.

We pray through the intercession of the saints, but what do we pray for? We pray that God the Father would look upon, accept, bless, and make of our gifts and of us an offering. We pray for the advancement of peace, for confirmation in faith and charity, for mercy, fellowship, and pardon. We pray that God will listen to our prayers, gather us to himself, and give us kind admittance to his heavenly kingdom. We pray these petitions for ourselves and for those who are dear to us. We pray these prayers for the whole world.

Because of the relationship that he has established, Jesus calls us friends. He does good to those we pray for because of the relationship between us and him. Some things God wills to happen only when we ask. In this way, he incorporates us (literally, as drawn into his Body) as cooperators in his saving work. He includes us. Jesus works through us in the world and in those we pray for. During the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus tells us, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (Jn 16:23). He has said that if we love him, we will keep his commandments, and he calls us friends. Doing his will is an expression of the friendship between us. That friendship is also expressed in our asking things through him of his Father. And how much good is accomplished in the world by all the Masses said throughout the world... from the rising of the sun to its setting!

These intercessions point to a profound communion among different members of the Body. We ask that what has happened to the gifts of bread and wine, which have been transformed into the Body of Christ, will also happen to us. We want to become this Body, united in communion with Christ, his Mother, Saint Joseph, saints from all walks of life, popes and bishops, everyone present and absent, saints and sinners, living and dead. The Eucharist is entrusted to the Church; the Eucharist makes the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1396).

Hand holding the sacred Host

Living Christ Today

If we have found the beauty of weekly Mass attendance in our own lives, a very natural question arises about our loved ones who do not come to Mass regularly. This theology of the Mass above affords us the occasion to talk about how we bring them with us whenever we come to Mass. Because of our unique role as the Body of Christ in the world, we have a priestly role to play. We offer sacrifice on the world’s behalf. We mediate between God and the world. We intercede for those whom we represent at Mass. This truth means that while we can always invite and propose the Mass to others and witness to what the Mass has done for us, we can also lean into the fact that when we go to Mass, we bring those we think of with us. We can intercede for them.

As kingdom priests, we have a role to play. We intercede for the world and for our loved ones. We bring them into the offering to the Father, to giving him glory. The fruits of the Mass are communion with God, acceptance from the Father, blessings, a right ordering of the universe, and peace. We ask for these things as Christ’s Body offered to the Father and in Jesus’ name, and thus, the Father accepts and answers.

Why are Christians a blessing to the world? Because we intercede on the world’s behalf between the world and Almighty God. This is the prayer at Mass. The intercessions and the people surrounding the very heart of the Mass draw our attention to this.

As you walk through your day, try and collect all the people that you meet so that you can bring them with you (at least spiritually) to Mass. As you watch the news, and find all sorts of things to pray for, say a quick prayer then, but also add them to the weekly list of those things you will bring with you to Mass. You don’t have to write a literal list, but spiritually add them to your offering—even if you don’t remember every person and intention by name, you are carrying them all with you!

At Mass, bring with you all your stuff: sorrows, joys, failures, and successes. Bring your children, your parents, your living and your dead, and know that when you are at Mass, through the priestly role you play on their behalf, God will bless them. Most people will never know in this life the good your intercession will have obtained from God for them, but in the next life, God willing, they will!

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.

We also invite you to go even deeper by praying with our Eucharistic Prayer Companions for the Easter Season [English | Spanish] which connect every week to our Mystagogy series.