"When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries."
- St. Josemaria Escriva
When I first came Home to the Church there was a certain set of comments that I would hear from time to time that troubled me. The way of thinking that went along with these comments was not limited to Catholics, but it bothered me the most coming from my new brothers and sisters in the Church.
There are many ways to express this attitude in words, but it came down to a basic belief that roughly goes something like this: “When I go to Mass I’m doing something good. I’m giving God the gift of my presence. I suffer through an hour of sitting and standing and kneeling (and may complain slightly about the kneeling) and have done my duty for the week, or month or year (or Easter and Christmas season, as so often is the case)…” Of course it was always worded in a much more sensible manner… but the underlying idea, which would I hope, sound ridiculous even to the speaker if stated outright, was that attending Mass was a gift that they were giving God, occasionally, which He ought to be rather grateful for, because that was all He could really expect from their otherwise busy schedule.
As a passionate, dewy-eyed convert, I wanted to shout from the top of a mountain: “but you’ve got it all wrong! That’s completely backwards! The Mass is God’s great gift to us! We should come before Him with grateful hearts for all that He has given us!”
Yet I could hardly articulate what I experienced as I approached the Eucharist, even to my husband. It was an overwhelming moment when all coherent thought came to a complete stop and my brain seemed to hum along in an ecstatic silence. These days, watching for tiny hands that may be ready to attempt to snatch the chalice, are something different, but the memory of those heady, early weeks will always be imprinted on my memory (and taking tiny children to Mass, while sometimes a struggle, offers its own joyful moments).
I doubted then that I could put the importance into words, but the years in between that have passed have at least convinced me to try:
The Mass is God’s gift to us, through which He pours out His grace. He offers Himself. And He offers this gift again and again. How can we not come forward rejoicing, to receive Him as frequently as possible, realizing that although our sins brought about His death, we have been forgiven?