THE MASS: I ate some old cheese and had a really weird dream.

A few nights ago I found some really strong cheese at the back of the fridge (probably left over from Christmas). I ate it, and then went to bed. I had the strangest dream…

I was in my Church – the church in which I was Baptised , made my First Holy Communion, Confirmation and got Married in. The church I like to go and sit in, right up next to the Tabernacle to pray. But today I was not sitting praying. Today I was standing. The Tabernacle was open and Jesus was standing just outside it, and I was standing right next to Him. We were looking out over the church.

Let me show you a picture of my church. I have put a big yellow circle round the Tabernacle to show where we were standing in the dream:

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This is the view we had from where we were standing:

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Then Jesus began to show me the history of my church from about 100 years ago. It was like watching a film in fast-forward. The first thing I noticed was a priest directly in front of us dressed in very beautiful ornate vestments. He was wearing a heavily embroidered beautiful sort of cloak thing I haven’t seen before. Anyway, he performed the consecration and then elevated the Host right in front of us – facing us, using the old high altar.  Then I looked at the congregation and I saw women with hats. I was aware of people being born, growing up and dying. And I could see people’s prayers coming up off of them – rising like steam and hovering above them filling the air.

Here is a picture of my church from a long, long time ago:

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Then as time was fast-forwarding I saw physical changes within the church. The high altar was no longer used. I saw the new altar being constructed and put into place about 15 meters away from us. Priests now said Mass facing the congregation instead of facing us. Vestments had become simpler with brighter colours, and the whole thing just seemed a bit less formal. Women no longer wore hats. I saw people wearing short-sleeved tops. People were being born, growing up and dying. There were now 2 atmospheres I could see within the congregation. One was reserved and quiet, uneasy yet still trusting in God. The other was loud and brash and domineering. In parts of the congregation, hearts were growing cold. I looked at Jesus. He wasn’t saying anything, He was just there, showing me all this.

Here is a picture of my church with the new altar put in. This is how I remember my church as a child.

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Then came more building work. Massive building work. The whole layout of the church was changing. The new altar was removed. The altar rails were removed. The Baldacchino was removed and sold to an American pop star (this actually happened in real life). The first 6 pews were removed. The top of the pulpit was removed. The whole sanctuary was brought forward about another 15 meters into the congregation.

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Now the priests was very far away from us. He was right there in the middle of the congregation. All eyes were on him. The congregation were smiling and laughing. People were on the sanctuary dressed in jeans and trainers receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and then distributing Him to others. Holiness had been replaced with a generalised social acceptance and a more day-to-day relaxed attitude. People were being born, growing up and dying. The congregation looked different. People were now coming into the church expecting to gain something for themselves rather than coming to give something to God. People had an expectation to be entertained. Some priests began to entertain. The people laughed and smiled. All eyes were on the priest.

Here is a picture of my church now:

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And as we stood there watching as time past I felt the congregation move further and further away from us. Peoples intention was good, but they were so distant – like the same way people look when they are watching TV and you are trying to talk to them. Distracted I suppose, but more than that. I think it would be more accurate to say that for these people, their parents were distracted but they are just vacant. Their attention seemed not to be able to get past the priest.

This is the view from the Tabernacle during Mass.

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They were happy enough but undernourished. Like how you feel when you have spent a whole week eating nothing but junk food. They did not understand what was happening during the Mass. Prayers no longer rose like steam from the congregation. There was just this deadness. Heaven was all around them but they could not see or feel it. They were blind and deaf to the supernatural. It felt like it really wouldn’t have mattered whether we were there or not because quite frankly, we were just being ignored.

And then it hit me. The horror of what had happened, what was happening. The result of choices and changes over several generations. Slow enough so you would not recognise it in real-time, but as clear as day if you watch it in fast-forward like we were doing. I looked at the congregation and then turned to Jesus, and with tears in my eyes and my voice filled with despair I whispered “They don’t know You’re here…”

Then I woke up.

“I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.”

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I had another conversation with my seminarian buddy… (I’m in black, he’s in red):

“I’m going to mass just now for what seems like the first time. Well, it is the first time since I actually became aware of where I am and what is happening on the altar. Actually I’m terrified. Say a little prayer for me! And thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that I am the ACTUAL crucifixion and the ACTUAL resurrection – not just a re-enactment of the last supper.

I was praying for you throughout Mass today. So…I’m dying to ask…how was your experience of Mass today then now that you know what’s really going on?!

Mass today… Just like we discussed, I put myself at the foot of the cross with mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and John. But I kept having to get up, sit down, get up, kneel down, get up….. And I kept having to respond to the priest which was interrupting my concentration.

I felt Jesus very clearly during the consecration enter my heart, and I was not afraid of being at the foot of the cross with the others – His Mother etc. and also my parents and the rest of the congregation. I understand now that there is no separation between the church militant and the church triumphant during Mass. None at all.

NONE at all! You’re absolutely right. Someone commented on the book of Revelation on your blog post – absolutely correct, the Lamb is adored for ever in the heavenly liturgy as one standing as if slain. This is WONDERFUL news Clare. Wonderful news. I would say, also, that the ‘having to respond’ thing is a frequent comment of those who go a bit deeper into the spirituality of the Mass – responding is somehow ‘inclusive’ on one level, but on another, it misses the point. I don’t think responding means you are participating more fully – in many cases, you participate less fully by responding because you don’t get the chance to pray.

…And then, as we were all standing there at the foot of the cross, contemplating this intimate declaration of love between God and mankind, alongside Christ’s grieving mother, someone taped me on the shoulder and with a big grin wanted to shake my hand!

Even WORSE!

It was totally out of place. I dropped to my knees instead. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to give the sign of peace again.

The way I look at it is this – I’d really rather not, but that’s because my understanding of the Mass is very different from those for whom the sign of peace is more significant. I suppose, I tend to do it on auto-pilot and I don’t move from the spot I’m in unless it would cause misunderstanding.

If you believe the Mass is a re-enactment of the last supper the sign of peace is great! It totally fits into place with what the disciples would have been doing – chatting and socialising round the dinner table. Before today I was a hugger and a kisser at the sign of peace! But now I cannot think of a more inappropriate gesture at that’d point in the Mass. What it achieves is to take ones attention away from the foot of the cross and instead directs it at each other. It’s nothing short of diabolical. At the most intimate part of the Mass – seconds before we receive the risen Jesus in holy Eucharist, the focus switches onto MAN. Surely it makes much more sense to have it at the beginning of Mass – the natural time to greet each other.

Seriously – if you are standing at the foot of the cross, would it be appropriate to smile and offer mother Mary a hand shake?!? When did people start doing this anyway? Who’s crazy idea was it? Whoever put this in place either did not understand what is happening at mass, or they deliberately wanted to move the focus away from Christ.

I don’t know where handshaking comes from. In the Roman Rite, the Kiss of Peace was done in two ways – at Solemn Masses between the clergy, in hierarchical order and soberly, whilst amongst the people a white disc called the ‘Pax Brede’ was passed around for each individual to kiss and hand on – they did not greet each other and certainly did not shake hands.

I’m going to have to look into this…”

The MASS: How could I possibly have been so dumb?

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I had a life changing conversation last night with a seminarian friend of mine. It was about the Mass. It went like this… (I’m in red, he’s in blue.)

Hey! I have just started my first parents newsletter on the Mass. I’m talking about the Last Supper and how that was the first Mass. What would be the one line you would want to get across?

If the Mass was meant to recreate Maundy Thursday, the Christian Holy Day would have been Thursday. But it’s not – it’s the day of the Resurrection – because Thursday gives the model for what happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ok say more to me…! explain it as you would to a 10 year old. So Mass is not a re enactment of the last supper? *Stumped at the first hurdle, Clare realises she is way out of her depth and knows nothing*

OK here goes (this is exactly as I’d say it to a 10 year old): Some people think that what we do at Mass is a bit like having a meal – a special meal – but still a meal. In some ways this is right, BUT it is the most special meal you can imagine. It is special because the person you love most in the world (Jesus, of course) is actually giving you himself as food. That sounds a bit gruesome doesn’t it? Well, that’s what’s special about Mass – Jesus gave us the way to eat his body and drink his blood in a non-gruesome way the night before he was raised up on a cross. This was called the Last Supper – or you could call it the First Mass! You see, the important thing is that Jesus died and was raised up again 3 days later. That’s what we have at Mass, not just a memory of something that happened in the past, but we’re actually there – we are there with Mary beside the cross, but also there 3 days later when Jesus rose from the dead. So to go back in time to the night BEFORE he died doesn’t make sense – why would we want to go back in time then? The most important bit hadn’t happened yet! Instead, on that night Jesus gave us the way, not to time travel, but to make present in our today what He did for us once and for all.

So Mass is not Maundy Thursday?

…no Mass is not Maundy Thursday! Maundy Thursday gives the model for the making present of Good Friday and Easter Sunday – the Paschal Mystery itself!

My head understands it technically, but my heart wont let it in. I’d die I think, if I let it in.

No you won’t! Let it in! Your heart is where it makes sense – your head – well, not so much!

I have enough problems coming to terms with the fact that He did that for me AT ALL – let alone to be present while it is happening! Man, this year is going to be an emotional roller-coaster

Yep.

So in a line…. At Mass, we are present at the crucifixion, and resurrection. I regard myself as being an extremely enthusiastic Catholic. If I don’t understand this then I can tell you right now – other people don’t understand this either. 

Strictly speaking, at Mass, we witness the sacrifice made once on the cross, it is made present for us in the Eucharistic species and we can see Him lifted up, whose sacrifice alone could atone for the sins of humanity. So yes, it is the way for us to witness Calvary – but Calvary is only efficacious because of the Resurrection, so we witness the sacrifice in view of the Resurrection – the Lord’s “Hour” is not just the Cross, but also the Empty Tomb and the Ascension.

You know the greatest fear I would have if I was a priest? That saying Mass would become anything other than mind-blowing.

To be honest – it has to be less than mind-blowing otherwise a priest wouldn’t be able to celebrate it. But that’s how wonderful He is to us – He makes himself small for us, touchable…edible.

It’s too much! seriously! I’m going to bed…

I’m shell shocked. I never knew this. I NEVER KNEW. At Mass, I am present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection! How come I don’t know this? Am I stupid? No. Did anyone ever teach me? No. NO ONE EVER TAUGHT ME. I was however wrongly taught that the Mass was just a re enactment of the last supper. I can’t remember who is was – it must have been at school. Who ever taught me was wrong. Who taught them?

I cried myself to sleep last night and then woke up at 4am filled with the same emotions. How many times in my life have I been present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection without even realising it? As a Catholic with contemplative tendencies this kills me. How has this spiritual information been withheld from me for 35 years? I’m so angry.

But I’m also terrified. How am I supposed to go to Mass now? It’s the crucifixion: I will be standing at the foot of the Cross alongside His grieving Mother Mary. It’s the resurrection: I will be running to discover the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene – but instead of Jesus saying “Do not touch Me…”  -(John 20: 17) He is telling me “Take and eat; this is my body.” – (Matthew 26:26).

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The secret jealousy I have felt towards Mary Magdalene all my life is now the cause of my utter humiliation. I have been at the actual crucifixion and resurrection with her pretty much EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for years and years without realising it. *Deep breath*

How is it possible to take this all in? I feel an overwhelming desire to go to confession.

THE MASS: 2015 – Will you take the Red Pill or Blue Pill?

Happy New Year 2015!!

What an Iconic film clip! I love that scene. It has so many parallels with our faith. Of course we are all slaves, born into the bondage of original sin. Our whole lives are a search for the truth.

The truth is of course that God exists, and He loves us. We know this because He sent His only son to die for us so that we may have a route to eternal life with Him. We celebrate this fact at every single Mass we go to.

I am so excited about learning more about the Mass. I really do not know very much at all at the moment because no-one has ever taught me – which I feel puts me in the perfect position to be sharing this journey with the rest of you. I bet that 90% of the readers of this blog know about as much as I do about the Mass (excluding of course the Priests who read this blog – and probably those lucky enough to be educated before 1965.)

I’m going to be using the CCC, the GIRM and the Roman Lectionary as reference points, and I am speaking behind the scenes to Priests about each blog post – just to make sure what I’m writing is correct. Of course it is not going to be a series of lectures – more a diary of my own understanding.

I will be looking at the different forms of the Mass: Novus Ordo, Tridentine, and also the Eastern rite, the Ordinatriate and the different religious orders: Dominican, Carmelite etc. I will be seeing how the Mass has changed over time, and how this has change the Mass. I will be discovering beauty and why this is important during Mass. And I will be discovering what is going in on in peoples minds and hearts during Mass, especially in the minds and hearts of our Priests. And many other things besides…

I’m very much looking forward to this, but there is also a part of me that is slightly hesitant. The Mass is the highest form of truth we have on earth. At the moment i’m quite comfortable in what I know and what I don’t know. I realise that there are some things I am going to be investigating that are not going to be easy to write about. I realise that by blogging about the Mass at all, I am stirring a hornets nest because people are very, very touchy about this subject.

I hope I do a good job. I choose the Red Pill…

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So… I went to my first Latin Mass, and felt something completely unexpected.

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I’ve been wanting to go to a proper Latin Mass for a long time now. When I say proper, I mean the priest has his back to the congregation 90% of the time.

This is of course how all Masses were before Vatican II. I’ve never really thought about that properly – ALL Masses were said this way up until the mid 1960’s. This is the only style of Mass my favourite Saints would have known.  For myself, being born 35 years ago today (yes, today, Dec 3rd IS my birthday!) the Novus Ordo Mass (Priest facing the congregation) has been the only Mass style I have ever known, and up until very recently I was under the impression that it was the only Mass that has ever existed.

When I heard about the thing called the Tridentine Mass I was fascinated. Why would the priest face away from the congregation? How bizarre! So I found a church near me that has a Latin Mass and I went along.

I got there early and found this particular church has Adoration and sings Gregorian chant for 30 mins preceding Mass. And i’m telling you – that chant was beautiful. I have only experienced silent Adoration – which I LOVE, so this was a completely new experience for me. But it totally worked. I really felt like these people were praising Jesus in the Eucharist in front of them. There was an atmosphere of joy and beauty and reverence. The air was so thick with incense you could barely see or breathe, and almost all the women were wearing mantilla’s. The age range was from new born to 90-ish. There was one lady with 4 small children who played happily in the pew.

When Mass began i was slightly nervous. I don’t know Latin. But i soon realised how much i did understand, and the bits i didn’t – well, i know the Mass so well anyway i had no problem understanding what was going on.

As far as the priest having his back to me goes… At first i found it a bit frustrating. I couldn’t see what he was doing for goodness sake! And then it began to dawn on me that I had become very accustomed to going to Mass to be ‘entertained’. Then it struck me that I automatically judge a priest on his ability to entertain me. How awful! I honestly believed the Mass to be a dialogue between the priest and the congregation (me no nutting!). Where does this put God?!

I am certainly not the only person to have thought like this. These two paragraphs explain it perfectly:

“The priest at the Latin mass looking at no one visible is praising, thanking, blessing. He is not a performer, the newcomers realize, gazing at a crowd above the footlights. He is not a professor, a lecturer, a nightclub host gesturing from a stage. He is someone facing the same direction as the people in the pews. He is humbly talking to the unseen God. A figure as powerless before the Almighty as anyone else.”

 “Some go to a Latin mass for the first time and watch as the priest at the altar stands with his back to them. With that simple turn they realize that the celebrant at this point in the liturgy is not addressing them. For the first time in their lives perhaps, they realize he is actually talking to God. He is praying.”

As the priest elevated the consecrated host (with his back to me) I realised that the Mass is addressing God. In fact it would be more accurate to say that the liturgy is our response to God’s call. The Tridentine Mass made it suddenly clear to me where the Holy Trinity is during Mass. I do think it is extremely important for the congregation to see what is happening on the altar and to hear the Eucharistic prayers as is done in the Norvus Ordo style Mass, but with that simple turn I learned more about the Mass in 1 second than I have in 35 years. I wish the priest would come around the front of the altar with his back to us when he elevates the host in the Norvus Ordo Mass. Just that brief moment says so much.

"No, don't panic, it's just incense..."

“No, don’t panic, it’s just incense…”

Another thing I realised is that the primary and most important aspect of a beautiful Mass does not rest on the style of Mass being said, but on the personal holiness of the priest saying it. I cant emphasise this enough. It makes all the difference. Holiness in a priest during Mass is something that is almost impossible to describe in words, but at the same time is almost tangible. A priests personal holiness (in my humble opinion) is the biggest evangelising tool he possesses. Homilies are great, pastoral kindness is great, but if people can look at him and see/sense God, THAT is the thing that will touch their souls most deeply.

The last and most surprising thing I felt was rebellion. I thought to myself “If this was me, 70 or 80 years ago, how would I feel? What would I be doing?” And the honest truth is that I would be writing little newsletters translating the Latin into English so that I could educate people as to what was being said at Mass! I guess that says more about my personality than anything else! But for the first time ever, I did feel a tiny pang of understanding towards older people who today, will look at me with such disdain as I wear my mantilla. Perhaps the good old days were not quite a rosy as I imagine them to be, although I do feel that at some point, the baby got thrown out with the bath water.

Hmmm. Lots to think about.

Sources:

https://thejesuitpost.org/2014/12/some-catholics/

When you crash into a nun’s car right after Mass.

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So, this happened.

I was reversing out of a parking space, looking over my left shoulder, and I didn’t leave myself enough room on the right hand side. Crunch.

My car is a 4×4 mega-tank and has suffered a small scratch. The car I hit however, has crumpled like a crisp packet.

Of course this happened right after Mass where the car park was full of people all covering their mouths with their hands and gasping and pointing.

I waited for the owner to come back and then apologised profusely whilst trying very hard not to cry (because I’m such a girl). We exchanged details and to my utter disbelief and horror I realise that this very sweet elderly lady is a prominent member of our very large parish, AND a nun, AND she is really good friends with my parents!

My Dad is going to kill me.” I told her. Once we had established who my Dad was, she then went on to tell me who I was, and how she had been hearing all about me! In fact we sat together last year at the reception of my parents Golden wedding anniversary. She remembers me because I was 8 months pregnant with Angelica at the time! She starts laughing. I start crying.

Don’t worry dear” she says “It’s the size of your wheels that caused the problem.

No…” I assured her “It’s the size of my brain.

At least you’ll have something to write about now eh?! ;)”

SHE READS MY BLOG!!!

Following on from my last post, where I expressed with utter false humility, how in my parish no-one would really bat an eyelid if I never showed up for Mass again, I think it is now fairly safe to say that EVERYONE in my parish is going to know exactly who I am. Great.

The Lord works in mysterious and humbling ways…

Transubstantiation in the words of an 8 year old.

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Yesterday at Mass my 8 year old proved to me that God reveals Himself to whom ever he chooses. I also learned that i cannot do the job of the Holy Spirit.

Watching the priest during the epiclesis he leant into me and whispered excitedly “Look Mummy! He’s going to do it! – Look! He did it!”  

Then on going up to receive communion he says to me “Mummy when i have Jesus in communion i feel different. It feels like i’m really special or something.”

I told him i was very pleased about this and that he was right in what he felt.

Now i have never really gone through the Mass with him with a fine tooth comb. Even into adulthood i wrongly thought the point of transubstantiation was when the priest elevates the host. It seems my son has grasped things much earlier than i did! Through his purity of heart, simplicity and trust, my 8 year old has demonstrated that he not only knows about the authority of the priesthood and the real presence, but truly understands it and (through the Eucharist) is having a relationship with Christ.

It’s so beautiful. He is so beautiful. I’m so happy for him.

“…for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” – Matthew 16:17