“As a man must be born before he can begin to lead his physical life, so he must be born to lead a Divine Life. That birth occurs in the Sacrament of Baptism. To survive, he must be nourished by Divine Life; that is done in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
For many years before I joined the Church, I spent my Saturday nights attending the Vigil Mass with my elderly friend, Vera.
She was like another mother to me and had come to live with me and my son in our home as he began attending college.
I was already a “generic” Protestant Christian; but I did not have a home church at the time. I had been baptized, had my “born again” and several other “evangelical” experiences.
Secure I was already “saved,” it did not bother me to take her to weekly Mass, from which we would usually venture out to dinner ( Red Lobster was her favorite) and a movie or some shopping. It was all in a Saturday night.
But a strange thing happened to me as I sat in the back, on the right side of the St. Pius X sanctuary on those Saturday nights. I began to develop a great longing to join the line of people going to the altar for Communion.
Every week that passed, the desire grew stronger and stronger.
I had always especially enjoyed the times in Protestant churches when a version of Communion was celebrated, usually at Easter.
But the more Masses I attended, the more I came to believe those times were too infrequent and pale fruit juice and cracker imitations of true Communion.
I could tell there was something deeper and more reverent occurring in those Mass Communions than I had ever experienced…and I wanted whatever “it” was.
When I finally was confirmed a Catholic in 2008 after nearly a year of required study and preparation, I found “it” to be an intimacy with Jesus I had not experienced before.
Partaking of the consecrated Host and wine was to literally take Jesus within me, sharing his lifeblood with my own, incorporating his body into mine.
I came to realize it is the closest I could be to him and still be here on earth.
Later study would bring me to a greater appreciation of the transformative moment on the altar when the priest lifts the Host and wine, intoning the words “Through him, and with him and in him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.”
Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, refers to this as “supercommunio,” or the high point of the Mass. It is a “supercharged” moment in his writings, where heaven and earth come together through the invocation of the priest so that Christ becomes bodily available to us – the moment just before his real presence comes to us through celebration of Communion.
As I said, that is a moment of intimacy for me unlike any other I experience. It is the concentrated and consecrated Christ in us.
I do not think, when he broke bread and wine and gave it to his disciples at the Last Supper, that Jesus ever meant us to partake in the occasional, fruit juice pale imitation of remembering him.
I believe he wanted us to remember him with the fullness of faith and the fullness of his presence, in that moment and all the moments in between.
This is the Mass. This is The Eucharist. This is the Superior Ideal.
“When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.”