Friday, August 25, 2023
Feast of King Saint Louis IX of France
Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ,
We are never alone! And that is never more true than at Mass. Welcome to Week 11 On the Road to Emmaus. Just like those first disciples on the road to Emmaus two thousand years ago, we too are beginning to recognize Our Risen Lord more and more in the opening of the scriptures and the breaking of the bread, both of which happen in every Mass.
We know that God is always present and that at Mass Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, makes his presence available to us by the change of the bread and wine into his Body and Blood. That is not all! At Mass we are surrounded by all the saints, including Mary and Joseph. Also present are our loved ones who are in heaven. The Letter to the Hebrews opens chapter twelve with these words: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Finally, there are the angels. They too are witnessing the renewal of Christ’s sacrifice of himself to the Father. We see this especially in the two angelic hymns we sign at Mass: the Gloria and the Sanctus or Holy, Holy.
The Prophet Isaiah had a vision of the Lord God in the Temple in Jerusalem; in this vision he saw angelic Seraphim, one of whom cried out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Isaiah records: “At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:4). We sing out these same words, these angelic words, as we prepare for the mighty presence of the Lord Jesus, coming in flesh and blood.
This great angelic hymn was used in Jewish worship and was soon part of the Christian practice as we see in the Book of Revelation: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come” (Revelation 4:8). What is happening is not just that the angels are present with us as we worship, but we are actually lifted to the heavenly realm to join with the angels as they continually worship God. This is really a meeting of heaven and earth here each Sunday around our parish altars.
Earlier in the Mass we sing another angelic hymn, the Gloria. After they completed their mission of announcing to the shepherds the nearby birth of the Messiah, a multitude of angels breaks out in praise: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
Of course, this hymn was expanded by the early Church. In particular, the praise was directed to the Father as well as to the Son, and finally “with the Holy Spirit” toward the end. Nonetheless, this hymn remains another indication of the heavenly nature of our Eucharistic celebration.
And that is my challenge to you this week: Pray the Gloria each day this week aloud with your household, perhaps after a meal together.
We are indeed not alone, especially at Mass. Let us join with all our living brothers and sisters as well as with all the angels and saints as the Lord Jesus offers himself to our Heavenly Father. Until next week, may God bless you all.
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing