The other morning I had the early Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the College. In the more ancient form, the priest turns to the people to show them the newly-consecrated Host. He says ecce Agnus Dei; ecce qui tollit peccata mundi (“behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who takes away the sins of the world”), just as he does in the Ordinary Form. But then, in the Extraordinary Form, priest and people say three times rather than just once, “Lord I am not worthy….” The effect is that all of us “behold” the Lamb three times longer than in the Ordinary Form. It permits us time to “behold,” to look more deeply, to “study his face,” rather than to simply glace up at him.
The other morning I held up the sacred Host to repeat those words with the people. A feeling of tenderness came to me. Feelings are undependable, but I think we should take what is true from them and discard what is not true. This feeling accorded with the truth of what I held in my hands; and so this blessed assurance, which deepened into an act of faith, came to me as I elevated the Host. “I believe, Jesus, that you are in my hands at this moment. You look at me, and I look at you. You clothe yourself in the simple and tender appearance of smooth bread, a little bit of unleavened manna between my thumb and forefinger. You look at me, you look at all of us, with tender love. I love you.”
It’s as simple as that. Holy Thursday, the Sacred Eucharist, the entire Judeo-Christian revelation which has determined human history on this planet, is as simple as that little white Host. Consider that the rule of law, free-market economies, the development of the arts and sciences—all stem from that day when God spoke to Abram in the Chaldean desert. God assured Moses that “I AM … here … for you.” He is here, for us, at every Mass. I can feel that presence of God, directing humanity, when I hold up the Lord of history, the lover of mankind, between thumb and forefinger in the Mass.
A blessed Holy Thursday to you all, a blessed Triduum, and Happy Easter.