Monday, July 07, 2014

Dom Mark Kirby's Conference: "The Mass: You Can't Live Without It"

Many of our readers may already be familiar with the beautiful and profound meditations of Dom Mark Kirby, O.S.B., Prior of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle (also known as Silverstream Priory) in Ireland, and author of the Vultus Christi blog.

On Saturday, July 5, 2014, Dom Mark gave a talk at the Evangelium Ireland Conference  for young people held at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, with the title "The Mass: You Can't Live Without It." He has now published it on Vultus Christi in two installments: Part I & Part II.

Here are some excerpts:
          In my long monastic life how often have I heard young men aspiring to become monks say, “I want to be myself”? And how often have I found myself saying to young men aspiring to become monks, “Be yourself”? The one thing I can say unreservedly about this need to be oneself is that man becomes his true self only on the way to the altar. God created man to be an offerer, a sacerdos, one who makes things over to God. God gave man all created things that they might become, in his sacerdotal hands, an offering of thanksgiving. Finally, God willed that this whole round world, created by him, should serve as man’s altar: a place from which man can reach into heaven to present there his sacrifice to God. Man becomes his true self, his best self, the self God intends him to be insofar as he recovers his own sacerdotal dignity and discovers in all things created matter for a holy oblation. Ultimate the search to become one’s true self leads one to the altar and to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
[ . . . ]
          Then came the tragedy of original sin. Satan, hating the liturgy of the earthly paradise, despising the royal priesthood of Adam and Eve, and disgusted by the consecration of all things created to the Creator, laid his plans to destroy the liturgical, to defile the sacerdotal, and to stop the sacrifice. Deceived by Satan, Adam and Eve fixed their gaze upon one thing and refused to give it up to God. Instead of making an offering to God of the good, the true, and the beautiful things given them, they took what was given them to be sacrificed and left untouched for God — the fruit of the tree — and, grasping it, clutched it to themselves. In that terrible moment they sinned against their sacerdotal dignity. The temple of the earthly paradise was defiled; their royal priesthood was perverted; the earth, designed by God to be an altar, became instead a tomb. The original sin was, it is clear, anti-eucharistic, anti-sacerdotal, and anti-liturgical. Thus was the great and glorious plan of God frustrated; thus did man stop being himself as God intended him to be.
[ . . . ]
          In some way, the history of the Chosen People is a history of altars. The building of multiple altars marks a movement toward the one altar of the the one God that, in the temple of Jerusalem, will be the sign of the one worship offered by God’s one people. The religious life of Israel revolves around the altar. The prophet Ezekiel describes in detail the temple altar and its fittings (cf. Ezechiel 43:13-17). While the Levites will be charged with ordering the service of God in a more general way, the Aaronic priesthood will be centered exclusively on the service of the altar (cf. Numbers 3:6-10 and 1 Chronicles 6:48-49).
[ . . . ]
          The consecration of the altar is the high point of the rite of the Dedication of a Church. The altar is anointed lavishly with Holy Chrism, making it a sign of Christ, the Anointed of the Father. The smoke of burning incense rises from the altar itself; it is the prayer of Christ and of the Church ascending to the Father in the sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit. The altar is clothed in holy vesture; more than merely functional or even festive table linens, the altar cloth signifies the splendor of the risen Christ in the midst of the Church. “The Lord has reigned; He is clothed with beauty” (Psalm 92:1). The illumination of the altar with candles evokes the gladsome radiance of Christ; all who look to the altar and all who approach it reflect something of the light of Christ. “Look towards Him” says the psalm, “and be radiant” (Psalm 33:6). Worked into the base of the altar, beneath the holy table itself, is a miniature sepulchre prepared for the relics of the saints. Thus does the altar signify Christ the Head’s indissoluble union with the members of His Mystical Body.
It would be really tempting to keep quoting this talk, but then there would be no incentive to check it out at Vultus Christi. Thank you, Dom Mark, for sharing this meditation with us.

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