Faith through Friendship and Communion

Happy feast day! In honour of today’s Feast of the Queenship of Mary, here follows a reflexion on the Mass and Holy Communion based on a vision of the Mass given to Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries of Fatima, on June 13, 1929. The description from her memoir, and the picture of the painting of the vision (above), I obtained from Holy Family School of Faith’s website.

A Vision of the Mass

In Sister Lucia’s memoirs she writes: Suddenly the whole chapel was illumined by a supernatural light, and above the altar appeared a cross of light, reaching to the ceiling. In a brighter light on the upper part of the cross, could be seen the face of a man and his body as far as the waist (God the Father), upon his breast was a dove also of light (the Holy Spirit) and nailed to the cross was the body of another man (Jesus). A little below the waist, I could see a chalice and a large host suspended in the air, on to which drops of blood were falling from the face of Jesus Crucified and from the wound in His side. These drops ran down on to the host and fell into the chalice. Beneath the right arm of the cross was Our Lady of Fatima, with her Immaculate Heart in her left hand…with a crown of thorns and flames. Under the left arm of the cross, large letters, as if of crystal-clear water which ran down upon the altar, formed these words: ‘Grace and Mercy.’

Much could be said, and infinitely more learned in meditation, concerning this vision. This is the beauty, the eternal glory made present at every Mass: The one great Sacrifice of Christ Jesus is made present: all the Father’s love in Him, all the graces of His Passion, Death, Resurrection and victory over death, His Ascension into Heaven as both Man and God, and the Gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost by which we share in the divine life, the peace and joy and self-giving love of the Trinity—all this is made present at Mass, offered for all those who would be baptised and receive this life of God. Every time we go to Mass, we receive this. Every time. Those of us who can receive, do we meditate on this love? Do we believe it? Do we give thanks for it, and respond to it by giving ourselves in return to Jesus at Mass, laying out all in the altar—our misery, poverty, sins, desires, virtues, our life—and then loving others as Jesus has loved us? Only one thing is necessary, Jesus told St. Martha: Himself, and time spent with Him. And if you do not believe this—whether you have doubts, you are weak in faith, or you simply are not convinced—what ails you? Take it to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Be honest with Him, tell Him all—and then listen, and wait for His response. And as you wait in silence—for in the silence of the heart, God speaks—meditate on these truths, and come to know their beauty intimately: For in them is revealed the self-giving love of the King of Mercy.

Sharing One’s Life and Joy

I want to share a more particular aspect of this vision according to the painting above. The heart of the Mass is communion, which comes from the Latin for ‘shared’. God shares with us His wisdom, love, and salvation in the Liturgy (the ‘work for the people’ by the Trinity), the liturgy of the Word and of the Eucharist. We respond in repentance, in listening, in petition, in thanksgiving, and above all in Holy Communion. At Mass, we offer God our poor hearts; and in Holy Communion at Mass, when we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Heart of Jesus from the Cross. The Mass is thus an exchange of hearts. At the heart of it is friendship, for, as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, love is friendship.1 God reveals His promise of life through the Gospel,2 which is shared in word and deed through friendship: From Jesus to the Apostles, and from them to us, and from us to others. The love of God, who is one God and mysteriously a communion of three Persons, is friendship. This is why the two greatest commandments are first to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

It is in light of this sharing, and in light of the presence of five persons in Sister Lucia’s vision, that I want to reflect. The five persons are the God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Mary the Mother of God, and Sister Lucia, who represents all of us sinners here on earth. I said that at the heart of the Mass, and indeed at the heart of the Christian faith, is friendship and communion. This is something dreadfully misunderstood by many Christians. We think that the faith is an impersonal contract that I have with God where I get to Heaven because I signed and He signed. This results in lukewarmness, spiritual and evangelical sterility, complacency, staleness, and joylessness. But Jesus said that eternal life is this: to know the Father, and to know the one whom He sent, Jesus Christ. (John 17:3) Yet St. Paul said that no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11), and that the Spirit of sonship prays through us to the Father (Romans 8:15). So being an adopted child of God through Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit is to participate in a communion, a sharing of God who is Love. For God the Father shares His own divine life, the grace of the Trinity, by giving the gift of His Son Jesus on the Cross; and through Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit, the Gift that contains all gifts, Who gives us Jesus through faith and Who transfigures us into Christ.3 And through whom did the apostles come to know God? Jesus sought them out, and built friendships with them. Some of them came to know Him only through the word of another, such as St. Nathaniel and St. Peter. St. Timothy learned faith through his mother and grandmother. And all of us know Jesus, the Word made flesh, because Mary accepted God’s word in faith, and bore Him unto the world. The theme here is faith through friendship: Knowledge of God received, shared, and lived out through friendship with God and with others. But first we must come to know God, and ever deepen this intimate knowledge and shared love in our own souls.

How is this seen in the painting above? Look again at their faces. A face is a symbol of recognition, of knowing a person. And we often read more in one’s face than in his words. So look at the line of sight, as I’ve demonstrated below.

Giving One’s Own Life

See how, to see Father face, the Holy Spirit, and the Son’s Face, one must look through the Eucharist—the Body and Blood of Jesus, with the appearance of bread and wine at the Last Supper, at every Mass, and in this vision. Jesus said, ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’ (John 14:9) And when the Jews asked Jesus what they must do to be doing the works of God, He told them: ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. . . . For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”’ (John 6:29, 40) And that we might see, believe, and receive eternal life in Communion with God, being known and knowing Him, being loved and loving Him, He gave us the Eucharist: ‘”I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”‘ (John 6:51-57) So St. Paul wrote: ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.’ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17) The Greek work here for ‘participation’ is ‘koinonia’, which also means ‘community’ and ‘communion’.

We Have an Advocate

See how Sr. Lucia gazes upon the Son’s Face through the face of Mary. The Father reveals Himself in the Son, and the Holy Spirit manifests the Son to us by conceiving Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Through her faith, Her humble and bold acceptance of the angel Gabriel’s word, She cooperated with the Holy Spirit to make the Son of God manifest in the flesh.4 It is through Her that He is revealed to all the world, first of all to the poor shepherds of Israel, the humble magi of the gentiles, and the prophets Simeon and Anna, who expected God’s mercy to come to them. God’s mercy did come, through the Holy Spirit and Mary. Thus when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visited her relative Elizabeth, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy at Mary’s greeting, and Elizabeth exclaimed by the Holy Spirit: ‘And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (Luke 1:43) So she echoed King David, when he came upon the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant (2 Samuel 6:9), which housed the very presence of God.5 Thus Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, and when we turn to Her, we come to know God. ‘[T]hrough Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ.’ (CCC 724, emphasis theirs)

The World Needs a Mother

Finally, Sr. Lucia’s heart can pass through the Immaculate Heart of Mary into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is in light of Mary’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, of Whom She is a most immaculate sign and sacrament: For the Holy Spirit, as we have seen, conceived the Word Incarnate and introduced Him unto the whole world by collaboration with the lowly Handmaiden. But Mary has been granted by God not only to be the Mother of His Son, but to be the Mother of the Church, and of all the living. For just before Jesus’ Death, ‘when He saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.’6 This word, ‘home’, is a poor translation of the Greek ‘idia’ (whence Freud’s ‘the Id’), which rather means oneself, and all that belongs to oneself. St. John, the beloved disciple, took Mary into himself, into his very soul, into all that was his, interior and exterior. He made Her his own Mother, and entrusted himself entirely to Her in imitation of Jesus his Lord and friend. For God the Father entrusted even His own Son to Mary, and in His incomprehensible providence made our salvation, promised in Genesis 3:15 and fulfilled in Jesus in Mary, entirely dependent on Her faithful assent to His will.7 As Eve was the mother of all the living, Mary became the New Eve, the spiritual Mother of all the living, the chosen instrument of the Holy Spirit to give eternal life to souls and lead them into communion with God. It is the Holy Spirit who does this through Mary’s perfect submission to His will.

The ancient devotion of consecration to Mary is to live in this truth by taking Her for our spiritual Mother, and living friendship and devotion to Her in imitation of Jesus. For Simeon prophesied to Her: ‘A sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.’ (Luke 2:35) When the Sacred Heart of Jesus was pierced on Calvary, whence flowed Blood and Water, then was Her Immaculate Heart pierced—for such is love of a mother for her son. She loves us with the same maternal love, the love the Holy Spirit has for each of us. We can go to Her with anything, trusting in this maternal love as Jesus did. By belonging to Her, by entrusting to Her our bodies, our souls, and all we care about, She and the Holy Spirit transform us into Jesus, drawing us deeper into communion and friendship with God, and making us into faithful apostles of Christ to go forth and lead others to God by friendship, by sharing of life and love in the power of God. The Wise Man beautifully describes the Holy Spirit, represented by Mary,8 in Wisdom chapters 7-9, of which follows a portion:

'Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepters and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem,
because all gold is but a little sand in her sight,
and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,
because her radiance never ceases.
All good things came to me along with her,
and in her hands uncounted wealth.
I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them;
but I did not know that she was their mother.
I learned without guile and I impart without grudging;
I do not hide her wealth,
for it is an unfailing treasure for men;
those who get it obtain friendship with God,
commended for the gifts that come from instruction.'
~Wisdom 7:7-14
  1. ST II-II, q. 23, a. 1
  2. 2 Timothy 1:10.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1082, 1108-1109.
  4. CCC, 724.
  5. There are further parallels in this text, such as the location where it took place, and that both the Ark and Mary remained in this location for three months after the respective encounters with David and Elizabeth.
  6. John 19:26-27.
  7. Luke 1:38.
  8. CCC, 721.

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