Mystagogy Series

Beautiful Light: A Paschal Mystagogy, Part II—Praise and Thanksgiving

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

“It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord …" You are standing attentive, united to the priest and the whole assembly gathered in this privileged moment of thanks and praise. Ah! You are at the threshold of Heaven, anxiously entering into a representation of the greatest deed of all history—the Passion and glory of Jesus, your Savior. As these familiar words wash over your heart, you close your eyes for a moment and become aware of your own heart beating, desiring more, desiring heaven. The gathered congregation in union with the priest couldn’t possibly be sufficient—the entire mystical body of Christ is present: angels and saints. You unite yourself to this heavenly worship as aloud you joyfully acclaim, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”

Reflection Question

Have you ever imagined yourself with the saints and angels at Mass? I often try to imagine my guardian angel and my beloved patron, Blessed Miguel Pro, worshipping next to me. The saints have given us a road map to holiness, and now they encourage us, love us, and walk with us. Who in Heaven is particularly with you at every Mass? Ask them to make themselves known (they will!) and to teach you how to offer praise and thanks to God.

The communion of saints

Excerpt from the Church Fathers

“Our thoughts in this present life should turn on the praise of God, because in the life to come we shall rejoice forever in praising God. We won’t be ready for that life of praise unless we train ourselves for it in this life now.

“So we praise God during our earthly life, and at the same time we lift up our petitions. Our praise is expressed with joy, our petitions with yearning. For we have been promised a glory we possess now only in part. Because the promise of glory was made by the Lord who keeps promises, we trust it and are glad; but since full possession is delayed, we long and yearn for it. It is good for us to persevere in longing until we receive what was promised. When yearning is over, praise alone will remain...

“We are praising God now, assembled as we are here in church; but when we go on our various ways again, it may seem as if we stop praising God. But if we do not cease to live a just life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from the path of justice. If you never turn aside from that path, your tongue may be silent, but your life will cry aloud, Alleluia! Praise the Lord!”

—Saint Augustine

Catechetical Reflection on the Rite

I know I am not alone in my yearning for God. In the quiet moments of the day, in the sufferings of life, even in my greatest joys, there is something missing. In the deepest recesses of my heart, I know there must be something more.

St. Augustine knew this longing well. After many years of living for this world, he finally admitted the truth that worldly prestige and pleasure were not enough. The journey was difficult—in the early years of his conversion, while praying for the grace to overcome his vices, he famously quipped, “but not yet.” However, St. Augustine’s longing for God eventually consumed and transformed him. He realized the One he longed for was waiting to give himself in the Eucharist, and the praise of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist marked the rest of his life.

Young woman folding hands in prayer

At each Mass as we prepare for this Eucharistic presence to once again grace our altars, the Church invites us to a song of longing and anticipation with all of Heaven. How moving it is that there is built into our liturgy a time of excitement, a time of singing and exultation at the thought of our hearts’ deepest desire becoming present. Many times we think of the thanksgiving that necessarily comes after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. I have found in my life that the excitement and anticipation before a time of encounter, a gratitude at what is about to take place, can make the encounter that much more meaningful.

When I was young, I always experienced an excited anticipation for holidays. The joy and (often impatient) longing at the prospect of seeing my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins grew until it was almost unbearable. When the day finally arrived, the drive felt like an eternity. As we got closer and closer, the excitement mounted. There were the familiar signs—the last stoplight before we arrived, a unique garage door as we pulled onto the final road, the turns and hills during those last few miles. I have a very vivid memory of traveling the last block to my grandmother’s house while singing at the top of my lungs and bouncing in my seat with my brothers in pure delight.  

I do not think this experience is uniquely my own. God has built into our very nature a yearning and anticipation for encountering Love, and this yearning necessarily leads to an excitement at the sure prospect of the encounter. During the preface of the Mass, we stand united with all of Heaven. In the person of Jesus Christ, the priest addresses the Father on behalf of Christ’s Body, the Church. These “signs” clue us into the fact that we are almost there. We bring all of our longings, all of our pain, all of our joys, and offer them to the Father in the sight of Heaven. And then, we sing our song of praise, longing, and delight at the gift the Father is about to give us—the Real Presence of his Son.

Living Christ Today

St. Augustine reminds us that the praise we offer during the Mass is a praise that should mark our entire lives. We learn how to praise God in the liturgy, but praise of God is not restricted to the liturgy. In fact, at the end of every Mass, we are literally sent out into the world. The love, gratitude, and praise that has marked our encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist must come with us, and even compels us, to go out into a world that is yearning for Christ as much as we are. Think of the disciples after they encounter the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Their eyes are opened to Christ’s presence as he breaks the bread, and then they immediately go to proclaim his Resurrection to the apostles (see Luke 24:13-35 ).

Painting of Jesus and the disciples on the Road to Emmaus

When we spend time with someone we love, there is an intimacy that grows with each encounter. The more we love someone, the more we think of them—words, phrases, jokes, songs, and places all bring memories of our loved ones. When we are physically distant, these memories bring our loved ones close to us with a mixture of gratitude, thanksgiving, and often a tinge of sadness and longing. We want to be with them, but their love has changed us in ways that cannot be taken away.

The love of God for us, and our love in response, is an even deeper reality. At every Mass, we have the opportunity to sacramentally receive Jesus Christ into our bodies. We have looked on his face and heard his voice in the Scriptures. The more we look on him, spend time with him, and receive him into our very being, the more we are transformed into his image and see his real presence in our lives. His love has quite literally united us to him, and when we realize this, we experience joy, gratitude, and longing for the one who loves us.

I am often struck by how sad people seem to be today. Whether I am at the grocery store, the post office, the gas station, or simply out on a walk, so many people I encounter look as if they have lost all hope. What would happen if I had the courage to walk up to them and tell them of the one whom they are longing for? How would lives change if I made an attempt to recognize and praise Jesus hidden within them as I praise and love Jesus in the Eucharist? What aspect of the love of Jesus would be waiting for me through them? These questions challenge, but they also stir the heart to excitement. We are made to give ourselves away in love and praise. Jesus taught us this on the cross, and in the Eucharist he makes this reality present for us at every Mass. What if we had the courage at every moment of our lives to do the same?

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. You can find past editions from this series here:  Part I—Sacrifice [English | Spanish].

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.