The Reaching Soul
This holy day is a closure and a beginning. Today, we conclude the Octave of Pascha, known as Bright Week, and we enter into a new phase of this Feast of Feast, the forty days of Paschaltide. An ancient phrase declared, “Annus est Christus” (‘The Year is Christ’). The liturgical calendar walks us through every step needed for our sanctification. It is God-breathing in our human time, and Pascha, of all times, is the highest point along this journey. With this understanding, we can find profound direction in the prayers of our Holy Mass. Today’s mesage is an invitation into a refreshed life of peace and awe. Introit: “As new born babes, alleluia: desire the natural milk without guile. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Rejoice to God our helper: sing aloud to the God of Jacob.” The opening prayers of the Mass refer to all of us as new born infants. Pascha is a new birth for each Christian. It is the invitation into a new life. No longer chained to the anxiety of the world, we are free to live lives of gratitude and adoration. At the moment of bitterness and regret, we are called to lift our thoughts to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. We are invited, through all Paschaltide, to train our souls to meditate on the profound wonder of God. Collect: “Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we, who have celebrated the Paschal solemnity, may, by the assistance of thy divine grace, ever make the effects thereof manifest in our lives and actions. Through Christ our Lord.” We must not go through Lent and Pascha unchanged. As Lent strained us to recognize our mortality and repent from our sins, Pascha strains us to lift our eyes to heaven. This is a time for building the right kind of habits — yes, small, trivial habits scattered throughout the day — which nurture in our hearts deep appreciation for God who is All in All. Epistle: Lesson of the Epistle of Saint John the Apostle: “Dearly beloved: Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifieth, that Christ is the truth. And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony of God in himself. He that believeth not the Son, maketh him a liar: because he believeth not in the testimony which God hath testified of his Son.” What does it mean to believe in the Son? Belief is a state of the heart, soul, and body. Belief is one’s will to take actions. Belief is habits — deliberate decisions which form our inner person in order to live like the angels in unceasing obedience and praise. Sequence: “Alleluia, alleluia. On the day of my Resurrection, saith the Lord, I will go before you into Galilee. Alleluia.After eight days, the doors being shut, Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples, and said: Peace be with you.” Gospel: Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John: “At that time: When it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.” How beautiful are God’s ways. Jesus Christ continues to work on our souls immediately after harrowing hell. As a divine teacher, he trains Thomas’s soul to reach upwards. Christ could have revealed Himself in an infinite number of ways. He chooses to let Thomas reach out: “Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands.” We too must model Thomas in reaching out for God. St. Augustine urges us: "Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun…question the moon…Question all these things. They all answer you, "Here we are, look; we're beautiful!' Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable?” Do we have hearts of seeking? Do we reach out to find God in everything? How can we build the right kind of habits in our lifestyle that encourage this divine purpose? How can we arrange our schedules and motivations that we may embody truly these words of St. Augustine. Offertory: “An Angel of the Lord came down from heaven, and said to the women: He whom ye seek is risen, as he said, alleluia.” What a wonderful thought that heaven might say the same to us! Who do you seek? We are all born seeking, from every moment in every breath, we seek. Yet, do we all seek Him who has risen! The philosopher, Peter Kreeft, says this of seeking: “Finding him is heaven. Seeking him is heaven’s door. Not finding him is hell, and not seeking is the door to hell. The road to hell is not paved with good intentions but with no intentions, with ‘I don’t give a damn’ or ‘the hell with it’. The question ‘What do you want?’ is also the starting point of the Hindu way. It is the first thing a guru might say to a prospective disciple. Like Socrates’ and Jesus’ disciples, the guru’s disciples come looking for answers and instead get a question. To answer it they must go deeper into their hearts.” Seeking to align our hearts to Jesus Christ — seeking to awaken our hearts to his worship — this is the only ambition that will fulfill you. Secret Prayer: “Receive, we beseech thee, O Lord, the offerings and thy joyful Church: and as thou hast given occasion to this great joy, grant she may receive the fruits of that joy, which will never end. Through Christ our Lord.” May God grant that we order our lives, build our habits, in a way that opens us to that eternal Paschal Joy. Communion Proper: “Put forth thy hand, and mark the place of the nails, alleluia: and be not incredulous, but believe. Alleluia, alleluia.” In every Mass, immediately after receiving communion, the Church prays the “Communion Proper.” This prayer is always short and potent. In one sentence, the need in our heart is revealed. Today, we are urged to reach out to God. We have entered Paschaltide, the Grace is thick, do not lose this opportunity. Postcommunion Collect: “Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord our God, that the sacred mysteries thou hast given us to preserve the grace of our redemption, may be our present and future remedy. Through Christ our Lord.” Low Sunday concludes in earnest desperation. Grant that we carry the Pascha Joy in our hearts! Heaven reaches down to us like a physician with the life-giving medicine. It is pungeant and savory: Grant that the sacred mysteries of this feast be our present and future. There is no other remedy. There is nothing else for us to do. Christ is Risen!