Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Steward of the Mass

In his excellent "Seven Secrets of the Eucharist", Vinnie Flynn cites Pope St. John Paul II in "Gift and Mystery", explaining that the priest is the 'steward of the mysteries of God... not the owner'. (p49)

He goes on to cite Pope John Paul II further:
"The priest receives from Christ the treasures of salvation ... to distribute them among the people to whom he is sent. ... No one may consider himself the 'owner' of these treasures..."
"Gift and Mystery" is John Paul the Great's reflection on his priesthood, and that, of course, fits well with Vinnie's reflection on the Eucharist. The priest is for the Eucharist. No priesthood, no Eucharist; and very possibly, no Eucharist, no priesthood. The Eucharist is the summit of the sacraments. It--He--is where they lead and from whom they draw their power.

The Mass, too, reaches its crescendo at the words of consecration. The Priest, then, is for the mass as well. He is not the Lord of the Mass, not the King. He is the steward.

When I hear that word, "steward", I think of the Steward of Gondor in The Lord Of The Rings. Like a priest trying to alter the mass, Denethor tries to alter the plan for Gondor. It is his city, he believes. He has worked for it. He has served it. He has earned his rule and can do as he likes.

But can he?

Gandalf warns and reminds him of his duty: "War is coming. The enemy is on your doorstep. As steward, you are charged with the defense of this city".

"You are charged with the defense of this city"--not its design, not its alteration, but its defense. If he fails to fulfill his proper duty, he will eventually prevent the return of the King. (If nothing else, the King cannot "return" to a city that isn't there, to a people that have been destroyed.)

If the priest fails in his duty as steward of the Mass, he could even prevent the return of Our King in the Eucharist. Even if it doesn't go that far, a focus on rule rather than stewardship will harm the people of the city-the parishioners. It will leave them open to harm, and it will harm the soul of the steward as well.

To Denethor, God sent the angelic Gandalf with a warning: "Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the king, Steward." And to the priest, God sends messangers like St John Paul II, warning them of their great duty--the great duty he shared in his priesthood--as steward and defender of the Mass.

What a blessing our good priests are, who defend the Holy Mass and without whom we could not receive our king in Holy Communion.

Image of a Roman Catholic Mass from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ecce_Agnus_Dei.jpg

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