All through St. Mark’s Gospel faith in Jesus Christ is the indispensible element for a miracle to happen. Bartimaeus had faith that Jesus could restore his sight. “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
The same faith is necessary to look beyond the bread and wine in order to see the Body and Blood of Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Our most precious inheritance becomes reality through sign and symbol during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Liturgy of the Word or the Readings from the Hebrew and New Testament are God’s microphone to us. God speaks directly to His people from the pages of the Lectionary. However, all the Readings are taken from the Bible. Then we stand for the Gospel. The Church identifies the four Gospels as the perfect revelation of who Jesus is and His message for us. After the homily there is a transition, usually with a hymn, with a gathering of offerings. In the ancient communities, people brought their crops, animals perhaps some currency. The Presbyter would gather the gifts and distribute them to the widows and orphans and others in need. Naturally his hands would get dirty. So before proceeding he would wash his hands. That’s where the “Lavabo” originated. The altar servers wash the hands of the priest as he says, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Once the gifts of bread and wine are placed on the Altar the celebrant recites some of the most ancient prayers taken from the Passover meal. The Berakhah or Berakhot prayers are to be said before a meal—Thanksgiving prayers which begin with the formula “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe…” We say, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation…” The words take us back to what Jesus said at the Last Supper—recognizing that all good gifts come from God, especially our food. When the celebrant finishes washing his hands the congregations stands. All are invited to pray that the Lord will accept the offering we have placed upon His Altar.
The Preface dialogue begins the Eucharistic Prayer. “The Lord be with you.” And you say, “And with Your Spirit.” Lift up your hearts.” And you say, “We lift them up to the Lord.” “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” And you say, “It is right and just.” And the celebrant agrees with you and say, “It is truly right and just that we are doing what we are doing—giving thanks to God today and always. The Preface dialogue goes way back to how Holy Mass use to begin.
The words of consecration are contained within the Eucharistic Prayer—words said only by the celebrant (and in a low voice when there are other priests present). Important to note that the congregation together with the Presbyter begin the Eucharistic Prayer and end the prayer by proclaiming “Amen”. Which is why we sing the Amen, in order to prolong a two-syllable word. A word that means, “I believe all that was said. I profess. I have faith to see beyond sign and symbol.” The Preface captures the essence of what is happening at Holy Mass because the Mass is bigger than just ourselves. We join with Angels and Archangels, Saints and heavenly hosts to sing the hymn that is perpetually being sung to the Father. “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.” In reality we are already seated at the heavenly banquet with our loved ones who have died and with all the angels doing what we were created to do—to praise God. The mystery of faith also expresses the nucleus of why we are here—because Christ has died, but He rose from the dead and we are waiting for His second coming. In the Tridentine Mass in Latin there was a lot of silence. Many people prayed the rosary or followed as best they could according to what the priest was doing. If you look at your old missals, after the elevation of the host we could say, quietly, “My Lord and My God.” The words were never meant to be spoken out loud. In the present Roman Missal those words are not present because importance is now given to the acclamation of faith, which is usually sung on the weekend. It’s not a sin to say them, but the moment is supposed to be for adoration.
Like Bartimaeus our prayer should be, “Master, I want to see.” We are still a young Church being born after only 2000 years. Much work lies ahead as we continue to unfold the pages of the Mystery of our Faith.