Most Blessed Sacrament
FR. STEPHANO MANELLI
Imprimatur: 1973, Naples, Italy
Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross
Only in Heaven will we understand what a Divine marvel the Holy Mass is. No matter how much we force ourselves and no matter how holy and inspired we are, we cannot but stammer on this Divine work which transcends men and Angels.
One day Padre Pio of Pietrelcina had been asked, "Father, please explain the Holy Mass to us." "My children," replied Padre Pio, "how can I explain it to you? The Mass is infinite like Jesus ... ask an Angel what a Mass is and he will reply to you in truth, 'I understand what it is and why it is offered, but I do not, however, understand how much value it has.' One Angel, a thousand Angels, all of Heaven, know this and think like this."
St. Alphonsus of Liguori came to affirm, "God Himself cannot bring about an action more holy and greater than the celebration of one Holy Mass." Why? Because the Holy Mass is, one could say, the synthesis, because the Holy Mass can be said to sum up the Incarnation and Redemption and contains the Birth, Passion and the Death of Jesus, mysteries which God accomplished for our sakes. The second Vatican Council teaches, "At the Last Supper, the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus initiated the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood, in order to continue the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until His return." (Sacrosantum Concilium, The Constitution on the Liturgy, n. 47) St. Thomas Aquinas, in an enlightening passage, wrote, "The celebration of the Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the Cross."
For this reason,. St. Francis of Assisi said, "Man should tremble, the world should vibrate, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest."
Indeed, inasmuch as it renews the Sacrifice of Jesus' passion and death, the Holy Mass, even taken alone, is great enough to restrain Divine justice. St. Teresa of Jesus said to her daughters, "Without the Holy Mass what would become of us? All here below would perish, because that alone can hold back God's arm." Without it the Church certainly would not last and the world would become hopelessly lost. "It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do so without the Holy Mass," said Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. He was following St. Leonard of Port Maurice who had said, "I believe that if there were no Mass, the world would by now have sunk into the abyss under the weight of its wickedness. The Mass is the powerful support which sustains it."
Wonderful are the saving effects which every Sacrifice of the Mass produces in the souls of those who participate. It obtains sorrow and pardon for sins; it lessens the temporal punishment due to sins; it weakens the influence of Satan and the untamed impulses of our flesh; it strengthens the bonds of our union in the Body of Christ; it protects us from danger and disaster; it shortens the punishment of Purgatory; it obtains for us a higher degree of glory in Heaven. "No human tongue," said St. Laurence Justinian, "can enumerate the favors that trace back to the Sacrifice of the Mass. The sinner is reconciled with God; the just man becomes more upright; sins are wiped away; vices eliminated; virtue and merit gain growth and the devil's schemes are frustrated."
And so St. Leonard of Port Maurice did not tire of exhorting the crowds which listened to him, "O you deluded people, what are you doing? Why do you not hasten to the churches to hear as many Masses as you can? Why do you not imitate the Angels who, when a Holy Mass is celebrated, come down in squadrons from Paradise and take their stations about our altars in adoration to intercede for us?"
If it is true that we all have need of graces for this life and for the next, nothing can win them from God like the Holy Mass. St. Philip Neri used to say, "With prayer we ask graces from God; in the Holy Mass we constrain God to give them to us." The prayer offered during Holy Mass engages our whole priesthood, both the ministerial priesthood even apart from that of the individual priest at the altar and the common priesthood of all the faithful. In Holy Mass our prayer is united with Jesus' prayer of agony as He sacrifices HimSelf for us. In a special way during the Canon, which is the heart of the Mass, the prayer of all of us becomes also the prayer of Jesus, present amongst us. The two Mementoes of the Roman Canon during which the living and the dead are remembered, are precious moments for us to present our petitions. Also, in those supreme moments when Jesus in the priest's hands undergoes His Passion and Death, we can beg for our own needs and we can recommend both living and deceased persons who are dear to us. Let us take care to profit by this. The Saints held this to be very important, and when they recommended themselves to the prayers of priests, they asked them to remember them above all during the Canon.
It will particularly be at the hour of our death that the Masses we have devoutly heard will bring us our greatest consolation and hope, and one Mass heard during life will be more profitable than many Masses heard by others in our behalf after our death.
Our Lord told St. Gertrude, "You may be sure that regarding one who devoutly assists at Holy Mass, I will send him as many of My Saints to comfort him and protect him during the last moments of his life as there will have been Masses which he has heard well."
How consoling! The Holy Cure of Ars had reason to say, "If we knew the value of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, how much greater effort we would put forth in order to assist at it!" And St. Peter Julian Eymard exhorted, "Know, O Christian, that the Mass is the holiest act of Religion. You cannot do anything to glorify God more nor profit your soul more than devoutly assisting at It, and assisting as often as possible."
For this reason we must consider ourselves fortunate every time we have an opportunity to attend a Holy Mass; and in order not to lose the opportunity, we should never withhold ourselves because of some sacrifice, especially on Sundays and holy days.
Let us remember St. Maria Goretti, who, to go to Sunday Mass traveled on foot, a journey of 15 miles going and returning home. We should think of Santina Campana, who went to Mass while she had a high fever. Think of Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe, who offered Holy Mass when his health was in such pitiful condition that one of his brothers in religion had to support him at the altar so that he would not fall. And how many times Padre Pio of Pietrelcina celebrated Holy Mass while he was bleeding and had a fever!
In our own daily lives, we ought to rank the Holy Mass ahead of any other good; for, as St. Bernard says, "One merits more by devoutly assisting at a Holy Mass than by distributing all of his goods to the poor and traveling all over the world on pilgrimage." And it cannot be otherwise, because nothing in the world can have the infinite value of one Holy Mass.
We ought to prefer Holy Mass all the more to mere amusements that waste our time and bring no profit to our soul. St. Louis IX, King of France, attended several Masses every day. A minister of the government complained, remarking that he could devote that time to the affairs of the kingdom. The saintly king remarked, "If I spent twice the time in amusements, like hunting, no one would have any objection."
Let us be generous and willingly make sacrifices so as not to lose so great a good. St. Augustine said to his Christians, "The steps that one takes as he travels to hear Holy Mass are counted by an Angel; and then one will be given a high reward by God in this life and in eternity." The Cure of Ars adds, "How happy is that guardian Angel who accompanies a soul to Holy Mass!"
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