I have attended Mass in probably 25 to 30 different Catholic churches over the past 35 years, including the Basilica in Rome when the Pope celebrated Mass. The churches have been in several different countries, as well as across the US. I’ve heard Mass in Spanish, Italian, the Queen’s English and, of course, American English. There have been probably 60 different celebrants, with voices that ranged from almost inaudible to booming movie-themed god-like.
Why am I telling you this? Because among all of these celebrants, there is only one that really vocally impressed on me the fact that Jesus Christ is present in the host. What did he do, you ask? Here it is:
When most celebrants of the Mass hold up the host just before Communion, they say “Behold the Lamb of God” in a manner much as they have spoken the rest of the Mass. It is a conversational sentence. It sounds like a standard prayer.
However, when this one particular priest (and I’m sorry I don’t even remember his name) held up the host, he proclaimed (not said) “BEHOLD!! (pause) “THE LAMB OF GOD!” (pause).
Take a minute and envision how he said those words.
The way he proclaimed the words drew everyone’s attention to the altar, whether they were previously paying attention or not. I was half expecting a light to shine down on the host from heaven. It was as if he was a court crier, announcing the entrance of the king – and he was, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He was declaring, in no uncertain terms, that Jesus Christ was present in the host.
As I reflected on the way he spoke, no, declared those words, I thought that, in some ways, it’s too bad that all celebrants don’t use that type of emphasis on those words. Many of us, occasionally or frequently, attend Mass but don’t attend to Mass.
We sit in the pews, absently reciting the prayers, half-listening to the homilies. We forget that we are celebrating Mass. Yes, it is a celebration, not just a requirement to be met or a box to be checked weekly. We don’t enter in to the full meaning of this great celebration: a time to reflect on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Yes, sometimes we have to be shaken out of our stupors and the distractions and problems of our everyday lives. Calling our attention to the fact that The Lamb Of God, Jesus Christ, is present during Mass may just help us to remember the truth.
By Norm LeDonne