The Sacraments are to the Church what blood is to the body. We are a Sacramental Church. Since the Eucharist is the one which we can receive most often, since Holy Communion is central to our Faith, we will begin with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In order discover who we are we need to know where we have been. Our history has deep roots in the Jewish religion. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Blessed Mother were all Jews. For the first 150 years the Church experienced a Jewish/Christian reality. Folks observed the Sabbath beginning Friday evening until Saturday night, with all the precepts. However, they also celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Sunday, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. The foundation of Jewish roots brought mixed blessings because the Apostles were insisting that all who wanted to be Christians had to follow the Jewish practice of circumcision, dietary laws and Sabbath observance. The first Council of the Church was in Jerusalem with the big debate between St. Peter and St. Paul. St. Paul, who is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles argued that people did not have to embrace the Jewish religion in order to be Christian. We know that St. Paul won the argument, thank God. The People of “The Way” as the early Christians were called, were held in suspicion by the government and were persecuted, arrested and killed. Therefore, most of their gatherings were in secret. One of the places to hide was the cemetery. Either they gathered in someone’s home or in the catacombs—where the graves were, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
The graves made an excellent table. The remains of the person in the grave, usually a martyr, was mentioned by the Presbyter in the prayer. From the earliest times there has always been a connection between those who have gone before us in death and those of us still around. Together we form the Communion of Saints. “Saints” is the term that St. Paul used to address the people in his communities. Remember that when St. Paul wrote to the communities none of the Gospels had been written. However, St. Paul knew that we are all connected. He described the beautiful image of the Body of Christ. The eye needs the hand; the hand needs the finger; the head needs the feet. We need each other.
As respectful that we are to the Body of Christ on the Altar, we need to be respectful to each other. That is why we want to make an effort to get to Holy Mass early, in order to greet one another. We are not supposed to come on time; we are supposed to come with time, especially to gather. Some folks have complained, not here of course, but at other parishes—that they do not have quiet time to pray. Weekend Holy Masses are a public prayer of the Universal Church. If we want quiet time we need to stay home and shut the door. Here we come to pray together. Holy Mass begins with the opening hymn. There is a welcoming before Holy Mass of visitors, newcomers, deaths, weddings—all to remind us of our connectedness as the Body of Christ. At the opening hymn we are called to participate. Music is the opportunity to raise our thoughts and minds to God through song. “But I don’t sing well.” Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. There are always some loud cries at football games by people who can’t sing. Bring the same enthusiasm to Mass. “The one who sings prays twice.” Never heard of a soul being condemned to hell for trying to praise God. But maybe, just maybe, Purgatory is loaded with folks who never tried. Even a chorus of frogs sounds pleasing to God because He made them. God will never reject our prayer, regardless of how imperfect. The musicians, who put time and effort into their preparation, are not entertainers. They are here to support, to guide, to enrich our efforts.
Holy Mass is a beautiful dialogue between the Presbyter and the Congregation. There is no room for indifference. We are all important in the eyes of God. He is always listening.