Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Great Mystery. . .

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus spoke once of the greatest of all mysteries "the Lord who made the whole universe would commend Himself to my hands [the hands of the priest]."  Of course, it is not only a great mystery but a most humbling act that those who distribute in their hands the very flesh of Christ as food and His blood as drink are completely unworthy of their service on the Lord's behalf.  No one but the dullest of all pastors would fail to consider this on Sunday morning.  It is this profound humility of God that is the occasion of both our greatest joy and our own cause for humility.  "Who am I that God should.." Exodus 3:11 and 1 Samuel 7:18.  That is the great mystery of the mass and the greatest of all graces that every pastor worth his salt should never lose sight of as he presides at the Lord's Table.

But it does not end there.  For as much as the Lord who made the whole universe would commend Himself to my hands, how much more so that He would give Himself to me as my food, His flesh for the life of the world and His blood that cleanses me from all sin?  That is the great mystery of the communicant who comes to kneel at the altar and who finds there God whose majesty is His humility for us and our salvation.  This humility generates its own humble response of faith.  At the heart of the faithful communion is always the awesome grace of God and our faith driven response:  “My Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say in a word and my boy will be healed.”  [Matthew 8:8] While this language may feel uncomfortably distant when juxtaposed to the incredible intimacy of Holy Communion, it is exactly the right perspective of faith that just before Christ comes to us we acknowledge the greatness of His grace that He visits the unworthy, saves the undeserving, forgives the sinner, makes His homes with us, and declares us what we are not -- worthy.  

In Holy Communion we receive something far more incredible than an impromptu dose of grace, but the visitation of our Lord, host and victim, whose meal it is and yet who gives Himself in food to us.  When priest/pastor and communicant lose sight of this divine paradox of the humility of God who gives Himself to us unworthy sinners, then the supper becomes mere snack, the symbolism more important than the substance, and the feeling more significant than Giver and Gift.  Pray, brothers and sisters, that this never happens.

Who am I that the Lord should come to me and come under the roof of my humanity and suffer and die in my place and now give me His flesh and blood as my true and essential food? 

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

O Lord, who art Thou, and who am I, that I should presume to place Thee in the foul sewer of my body and soul. A thousand years of tears would not suffice for once worthily receiving so noble a Sacrament. How much more am I unworthy, wretched man, who daily sin, continue without amendment, and approach in sin. Yet Thy mercy is infinitely greater than my misery. Therefore, trusting in Thy mercy I presume to approach.

What a wonder that the very Body and Blood we are unworthy to touch and consume is the very mediine that makes us righteous and worthy of His Presence!