The reality of a visible and relational God went out the door after Adam and Eve broke their covenant with Him, and from there on the God of the Old Testament remained at a distance and far off from us. Even under the name of Adonia He seemed honestly sympathetic, but not very empathetic. There was a limit; we felt, as to how much YHWH could truly relate to us in a deeply personal way. That is to say, that as real as His love felt, it also rubbed us as sometimes being merely administrative and documented. God seemed have a keen interest in appearing to be visible to us, through material things; such as clouds, fire, and the Holy Ark of Covenant. Inasmuch as we felt that we could walk with YHWH, we did not always feel as if we could give Him a hug, and we knew for certain that we could not see His face (Cf. Exo. 33:18-20).
Then our long-distance relationship with God ended and took a dramatic turn for the best when He moved into His creation and was born of woman – taking on real human flesh and bones. From that point onward, we no longer needed to wonder in the back of our minds if God could truly relate to our human misery and suffering, because He came and truly dwelt amongst us. We no longer had to fear the judgment of an unjust judge who could not identify with being tempted, tested, or failing into sin, because He who came and conquered both sin and death on the Cross also dwells in us and delivers us from evil and He will also stand with all men and women before His Father at the judgment (who were obedient to His commands).
Outside of Catholicism, the story ends there. Jesus came, was crucified, ascended into Heaven, and will return at the end of the age. Go to any Protestant church and you might find a pretty white Cross with no nails or image of Jesus on it. There’s no Real Presence of Christ Jesus at communion if there is even a communion service at all. Even the church service itself isn’t centered on Jesus – it has more to do with a man preaching and a choir or praise team singing and a mime dancing and a flag team praising, than it actually has to do with a Present and Visible God in the midst of His people.
Catholicism is actually the first and last religion that truly believes in the reality of a Present and Visible God, and where that belief is actually brought to life is at the Sacrifice of the Mass. And it absolutely doesn’t matter what type of liturgy you participate in – whether Eastern or Western, Latin or Novus Ordo – the Real Presence of God is not only on display and becomes real food at Mass, but the entire liturgy itself is geared and directed towards bringing the most out of that Divine Encounter.
God meets His children at Mass through the Real Presence of His Son Jesus. Just as God encountered man and woman and began the process of healing His relationship with them through Christ becoming Flesh and Blood, so does He reenter that healing process again and again and again at every Mass – everyday – and in every part of the world, when Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of His Son steps out of eternity again to become the Holy Eucharist. This unique and Divine Encounter of a Present and Visible God doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world except at Catholic Mass. I think we take that for granted, and, simultaneously, it’s the world’s biggest and most unfortunate secret.
What we have in the Catholic Church is what every religion has dreamed of. Every religion wants their highest deity to dwell with them in some way – to actually be in their presence as they gather. What religion has ever come that said, ‘Yeah, we believe in you God, but we don’t want you with us right now as we worship and adore you’? Not a one! On the contrary, the reason why we gather to worship and adore Him is in hope that He would somehow gather with us – if not for help, then just for some sort of validation and confirmation and evidence that He is for us.
Some Protestant sects of Christianity have tried to satisfy this natural desire of religion through sensory evidence of a present God. Things such as congregants speaking in tongues, holding poisonous snakes, being slayed in the spirit, and ‘catching the Holy Ghost’ that makes people run around, jump, and gyrate, are some well-intentioned examples of the best that they can come up with to come nowhere close to what the Mass has to offer.
Whatever liturgy of the Mass you partake in, the main thing you come away with is that it was all about Jesus. From the prayers, to the readings, to our bodily participation, to the Holy Eucharist, to the dismissal, it is all directed towards Christ. The only time that it might, unfortunately, become about something other than Jesus is during the Priest’s homily. Again, this is in contrast with Protestant sects where it’s all about the preacher, his sermon, and his wife.
There’s nothing more refreshing than to leave a world that has become less and less about Jesus, and, just for a little while, enter into Sacred Space to have a Divine Encounter with our Lord in The New Covenant Passover Meal.
I know some Catholics want to get caught up on what type of liturgy it is and on what everyone around them is or isn’t doing, but they’re missing the main feature of the show by getting distracted with all that persnicketiness. If you happen to think that the Sacrifice of the Mass is about anything other than having a Divine Encounter with Jesus, then you’ve completely missed what the liturgy is trying to present, which is – God Visible to You!
4 PART SERIES ON ‘LOVING THE NOVUS ORDO MASS’:
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: Holy Things & Sacred Space
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: Presenting a Visible God
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: The Magnanimous Quad Presence of Christ Jesus
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: A True Dialogue of Persons
- Loving the Novus Ordo Mass: The Admirable Exchange Resolves Babel in the Mass