Active Participation? Be Like Mary and the Angels in Holy Mass

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a participation in the eternal liturgy of Heaven at which Christ is the celebrant. Prior to Christ’s death on the life-giving cross, Heaven was closed to humans. The Old Testament saints remained in the Limbo of the Fathers (“Abraham’s bosom”) until the death of Christ opened the gates of Heaven. This is why the Old Testament Temple had statues and images of angels within it, but no images of human beings. Now that Christ has bodily entered Heaven and escorted humans into Heaven, our temples or churches now contain statues and images of angels and human saints.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass allows us to participate in the mystical worship of the Holy Trinity. Any so-called theologian or liturgist who does not consider the Holy Mass as a sacrifice and a mystical participation in Heaven is not thinking with the mind or heart of the Holy Church. Saint Paul explains what Christ taught concerning this:

[22] But you are come to Mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, [23] And to the church of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, [24] And to Jesus the mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood which speaketh better than that of Abel. [25] See that you refuse him not that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke upon the earth, much more shall not we, that turn away from him that speaketh to us from heaven. (Heb 12:22-28)

The Holy Mass is the enfolding of the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and union with Him now in Heaven. Thus, we who are embodied here on earth must adapt to this mystical reality. The rubrics, music, architecture, and words of Holy Mother Church ensure that this reality (which is impossible to see without the eyes of faith) is illustrated through dignified signs.

The priest, we know, signifies Christ and acts in the person of Christ. What do the laity signify? The Eastern Cherubikon, or Cherubic Hymn, describes the Catholic faithful as “mystically representing the Cherubim”:

Οἱ τὰ Χερουβεὶμ μυστικῶς εἰκονίζοντες, 
καὶ τῇ ζωοποιῷ Τριάδι τὸν Τρισάγιον ὕμνον προσάδοντες, 
πᾶσαν νῦν βιοτικὴν ἀποθώμεθα μέριμναν, 
ὡς τὸν Βασιλέα τῶν ὅλων ὑποδεξόμενοι, 
ταῖς ἀγγελικαῖς ἀοράτως δορυφορούμενον τάξεσιν. Ἀλληλούϊα.
We who mystically represent the Cherubim,
and who sing to the Life-Giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn,
let us now lay aside all earthly cares
that we may receive the King of all,
escorted invisibly by the angelic orders. Alleluia

If we truly believe the words of this hymn (and the testimony of Saint Paul), then our participation in the Holy Mass will become profoundly angelic. Active participation does not mean moving around physically or carrying things around the sanctuary. Rather, active participation means being aflame with love in the presence of God. Cherubs, in the Old Testament, are not fat babies, but fierce beast-like protectors of God’s glory and sanctity. Mary was and is the greatest active participant of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because she co-offered it with her Son nearly 2,000 years ago at Golgotha. She did not speak or move. She united herself. In union with Jesus, she was perfectly actualized with love, reverence, and worship. I wish that I could see what she must have looked like on that dreadful day. Mary is higher than the cherubim and seraphim because she is also the sincere and wounded lover of the Holy Sacrifice.

If we really want to get serious about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the liturgy, then we need to scrap all the “liturgy workshops” of the last forty years and engage ourselves in Mariology. How can we be more like Mary at the Cross? How can we be more like Mary when we bear Christ in our bellies? How do the holy priests of the Catholic Church best enter into this mystery? To be Marian is to be liturgically sound.

I learned from a holy priest that it was the practice of Bl. Contardo Ferrini, a holy layman, to humbly pray Mary’s Magnificat as soon as he received Holy Communion at the altar rail. In this way, he made himself “active” in the mystery of the liturgy. The words of Our Lady’s canticle are in fact a perfect post-Communion thanksgiving and instill the humility that we need. Mary was, the saints confirm, the most humble creature that ever lived.

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