How many Masses have you been to? It’s possible you have participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass hundreds or even thousands of times in your life. And do you remember certain Masses that were particularly beautiful? Maybe it was a special occasion like a wedding Mass, or in a special setting like a cathedral. Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ, host of St. Joseph’s Workshop recently had a special experience at Mass, but it wasn’t because of a special occasion or the beautiful surroundings.
Fr. Matthew explained that as a priest he has the privilege and responsibility to celebrate Mass every day. And a nice thing about being a priest is that he can celebrate Mass whenever he needs to, or whenever he can. He explained, “Sometimes, because of my travel schedule, because I need to celebrate Mass very early in the morning before I get on a plane, or something like that, the circumstances are a little humbler, a little simpler.”
He told of one time recently that he was celebrating Mass in his his community’s house chapel which, while beautiful, is a simple, humble space. Fr. Matthew said, “I was celebrating Mass, early in the morning. It was quiet. It was calm. … I had this awareness though, that I wanted to share with you. As I got to the consecration, I took the host and I prayed those words that Jesus left to us, that we down through the ages have prayed. ‘This is My Body’ and ‘This is My Blood.'”
“And as I was consecrating the Eucharist, I was realizing that here are these circumstances, so humble and simple compared to the majesty of, say, solemnities and solemn celebrations. There was no incense, there was no organ, there was no assembly packed inside of the pews, responding with the vigor that families and God’s holy people bring to that celebration. And yet, there I was, and those words made Jesus present on the altar. With those words, some magnificent transubstantiation, even with everything else unadorned, still took place.”
Fr. Matthew clarified that he especially likes all the ‘smells and the bells’ that accompany a rich liturgy. He loves incense and organ music and a beautiful church architecture. But it was in that simple, humble Mass that he remembered it isn’t the externals that make the Mass so beautiful, it is the presence of Jesus Himself.
“Isn’t it amazing that even in the humblest of circumstances, whether it’s a humble chapel, whether it’s maybe in the field, for those who are serving our country where they have a chaplain celebrating Mass for them in very, very austere circumstances. Or maybe it’s you praying your Rosary, feeling rather dry, not feeling all of those beautiful feelings that we like to have. And yet, in these various expressions of our faith, God makes Himself present.”
“God is there for you. And for me,” he said. “Even if all the external elements are simple and subdued, Jesus still becomes present. His love is made manifest yet again, and the sacrifice of Calvary is represented there. That, my friends, is amazing.”
Fr. Matthew acknowledged that this insight is not anything new. But oftentimes we fall into a routine in our celebration of the Mass, or we think about all the things that could be better about our liturgical experiences, and we forget about the power and the beauty of each celebration of Holy Mass.
“When you’re going to Mass recall how Jesus is present there,” he advised. “Whether we feel it or not. Whether we’re in our best place or not. Whether the external signs of that sacrament are celebrated in their best way possible or not. And what a great consolation that is! It’s one that you and I have to be attentive to. To recognize the objective presence of Jesus, made present there through the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead us to the Father. That is what our prayer life is all about. That’s what the sacramental life is all about. Bringing us into deeper communion with the Most Holy Trinity.”
Listen to the full reflection below: