When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs broke open, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. Matthew 27:50-52
On my ministry team, we talk a lot about covenant and how the Jewish people all knew what this was and what was expected of them in covenant. We know too, throughout history, that other cultures have partaken in covenants with one another where the pact made with the group is a stronger bond than anything else. Covenant always requires a blood sacrifice. In the Catholic Mass, the new covenant celebrates the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. We have all been taught this but I am not sure many have any idea of what that actually means.
The first time we actually see a blood sacrifice in the bible is in the story of Adam and Eve.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).
Up until to this point Adam and Eve would not have known death. But here, with the Lord Himself clothing them in garments of skin, we know an animal was sacrificed. The Lord Himself was showing them how to worship. How to bring themselves back into union with Him. It required sacrifice.
Prior to the Lord clothing them, he had pronounced curses upon them. To the woman;
I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you (Genesis 3:16).
And to the man;
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:17-19).
One could read these statements and conclude that God is harsh and unloving, even though we know that God had given them the chance to repent, and instead of repenting they started blaming. But to our modern eyes, we misunderstand what God was doing here.
You see, God, is love. When the two of them listened to the serpent, it was an offense against love Himself, and an act borne of envy and pride. It was an act of death.
God, even in His curses upon them, was showing them how to love again. For the woman, her pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; this is not just in the physical act of labor, but in bearing them throughout her whole life, the connection she has to her child. The kind of love that is hard to understand because the bond is spiritual and lasting. The prayers of a mother for a child have more efficacy than any other prayer. Likewise, a wife submitting to her husband, because of love for him, these two things get her outside of herself and looking at the other. It also restores the authority God had given to Adam, but was never meant to be used to Lord it over her. Sure, we as humans have twisted this, but God here again, this “curse” was trying to teach us about Love, and in a spiritual view can be seen as a blessing.
For the man, God is reinstating his authority and his ability to provide for and protect the people in his care. And the hard work the man will have to do in order to achieve this, it gets him outside of himself to provide for his wife and his family. Anyone who has seen a man out of work sees the depression and anxiety it causes, men thrive when they can provide and protect. The toil of his hard work is not for himself, but for others. It too is a blessing, but too often we twist this as well.
The whole of everything God was trying to teach us, even in the curses He pronounced, was all about love. How to love. His sacrifice of the animal to clothe them, showed them how to commune with Him, and we see sacrifice in worship from this point forward. His Son was sent because man, of their own accord, couldn’t redeem themselves. Jesus was sent out of love. My friend Charlie recently explained it this way;
First, Christ is the Son of the Father – but not in the way of men. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. All three persons are one in being with each other (consubstantial) and are all eternal. Thus, while Jesus is truly the Son of God, the Father is the Father of God, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of God. So it is not that God sent His Son to be tortured and die; rather, the eternal God came, Himself, to be tortured and die by taking on our humanity in the person of the eternal Son.
This shows us the love of God. It has always been about love.
The Sacrifice of the Mass
So this brings me to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The worship we do on Sunday has inexhaustible fruits that are measured by our inward disposition. Jesus’ Sacrifice present at every mass holds the infinite opportunity for perfection and holiness to be poured out upon us, but the measure of the graces we receive is the measure of our faith and of our love. Faith is the prompt and complete donation of our entire selves to God, to His Will and service. Mass is actually a practice of the virtue of Justice. We give back to God love, getting outside of ourselves, for Him, which also leads us outside of ourselves for others. This is not a feeling, it is from the depths of our soul.
During the Holy Sacrifice, the Epiclesis prayer calls down the Holy Spirit, and the Anamnesis prayer reaching back in time to bring us the Sacrifice of Christ. This Sacrificial Act which was taught to us by God Himself shows us how to bring ourselves back in union with God. What greater union can we obtain than for the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ to be consumed into our very being; uniting both our body and soul to Jesus.
The Mass is where we give God His due through our participation in the Holy Sacrifice. We give God our love and he unites it with His own. As participators in the Holy Sacrifice, and not merely spectators, we give our very selves to God, offering our own lives, just as Jesus offered His life for the Father on the cross.
Too often the Liturgy gets humanized to be about us, and what we will get out of it. When it should be about Him and offering ourselves to Him as Sacrifice. When we do this we are more fully receive the gifts of his love that enable us to go out and love others as He did, with self sacrificing Love. Likewise, if we get too wrapped up in the legalism of the Mass and nitpick our fellow man to death on their posture, we also miss the point.
When we bring worldly matters to the Mass, like worldly equality or self-focused ideology, we miss the understanding that God’s equality is an equality of dignity, which highlights the fact that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. With this we are all equal in our dignity, which is how our Creator sees us, but we are uniquely different as well. In looking at our neighbor in this way, we begin to understand that differences in people are actually a gift. The differences in male and female, the different ways the Holy Spirit uses us, all of these things are gifts. Unfortunately, people on both sides of the spectrum are putting people in boxes of our own design with labels that alienate and will actually lead to hatred.
Heaven on Earth
The Mass is heaven on earth. We have the Latin term, Lex credendi, lex orandi, how we pray reveals what we believe. And vice versa; What we believe will dictate how we pray. When we worship and pray for love of Him and believe with all of our hearts, it spills over into the outside world. Jesus does not change when we worship, he is absolute truth and unchanging, we change when we worship, and when we believe in the Eucharist, which He is present in, He changes us. He is present whether we believe or not, but our belief, our prayer and our worship is how we become changed into what God wants us to be. I have stated before, God does not need the Liturgy, He is perfect. We need it to unite us to Him in the most Holy Eucharist. Receiving with faith in transubstantiation transforms us, it divinizes us.
I urge us all to go to Mass with a new outlook, by placing Christ truly at the center of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By letting go of our own desires and wants for what the Mass should or should not be and instead, with your whole heart, give God his due in worship; we should focus on Christ instead of the people around us, whom we cannot control. By participating in the sacrifice taking place through your own gift of self, offering up all your cares, all your worries to the one who has the power to save you. This is what will put Christ above all else and will allow us to truly love Him, as he leads us to view others the way that He does, which is in love.
The Mass has a specific rubric in which we are to follow. As with all things that our Holy Mother Church gives us, this was handed down to us as such in order for us to keep our eyes on Christ. Then, we will worship out of love of God and desire to give him his proper due, which is right and just. Intentional operation outside of the rubric comes from a spirit of rebellion and is not of God. Intentional operation in legalism is actually a spirit of control over others, and is not of God. Both of those spirits seek division. God unites, and when our interior understands this, we are better able to love others the way that God loves us. Everything a movement from our union with Christ at Mass into a union of the Body of Christ in the outside world.
The Veil is Torn
When the veil was torn in two when Jesus died, it not only opened heaven for us, but it also gave us the ability to see with spiritual eyes. The death and resurrection of Christ didn’t just raise the dead to heaven, it brought and brings heaven on earth when we embrace it. It enables us to see what God sees, and to love like he does. Unite yourself to Christ at Mass, receive what He wants to give you, and it will be you who is transformed from the inside out. You will become a light in the darkness and be a conduit of change in others.