Cascades of Jubilation
The Office of Lauds this morning was a torrent of undiluted praise. The Church gives us doxology upon doxology. She expresses her adoration in great cascades of jubilation. In some way, today’s Divine Office is a preview and foretaste of heaven. How is heaven described in the book of the Apocalypse? It is an immense and ceaseless liturgy of adoration. Angels and men together doxologize ceaselessly. In the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all created things become an utterance of glory. Eternity’s ceaseless doxology begins here on earth. If this is apparent anywhere, it should be so in a monastery.
The Doxological Life
In today’s First Reading Moses exemplifies the doxological life. He rises “early in the morning” (Ex 34:5). You recall what God had said to him: “Be ready to come up to Mount Sinai in the morning, and there thou shalt stand before me on the mountain top” (Ex 34:2). God asks for readiness in the morning. He bids us come up in the morning to Mount Sinai. He asks that we present ourselves to Him on the mountain top. How are we to understand God’s commands to Moses? Christ himself is our morning. You know Saint Ambrose’ marvelous hymn for the office of Lauds, Splendor Paternae Gloriae:
Thou Brightness of Thy Father’s Worth!
Who dost the light from Light bring forth;
Light of the light! light’s lustrous Spring!
Thou Day the day illumining.
If Christ Be Your Morning
For the soul who lives facing Christ it is always morning. For the soul who lives in the brightness of His Face it is always a new day. If Christ be your morning it is never too late to start afresh.
Christ the Mountain
God summons us to the mountain top. Christ Himself is our mountain. Christ is the high place from which earth touches heaven; Christ is the summit marked on earth by the imprint of heaven’s kiss. If your feet are set high on the rock that is Christ you are held very close to the Father’s heart, for Christ is the Son “who abides in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:18). “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn 14:11). “Stand before me on the mountain top” (Ex 34:5), says God. What is God saying if not, “Offer yourself to Me there through Christ, in Christ, and with Christ.” God’s three commands to Moses are fulfilled for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Christ the Sun of Justice
The Eucharist is the light of the Church’s day. Mother Marie-Adèle Garnier, the foundress of the Tyburn Benedictines in London, called the Mass “the Sun of her life.” Without the Eucharist we have neither warmth nor light. Without the Eucharist there is no new day, no morning, no possibility of starting afresh. That is why the Christian martyrs of Carthage when interrogated by Diocletian’s proconsul could only answer, Sine dominico non possumus, “Without Sunday,” that is without the day of the Eucharist, “we cannot go on.” So long as we have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we have a new day. So long as we remain faithful to the Eucharist we will have before our eyes Christ, “the Sun of justice who rises with healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2).
The Eucharist is the mountain top. Holy Mass is the descent of heaven to earth. It is the summit of the Church’s life; it is from the rock of the altar that the Church is ravished upward into the love of things invisible. In the Holy Sacrifice we are certain of standing in the presence of the Father; Christ, the Priest and Victim of every Mass, says, “Nobody can come to the Father, except through me” (Jn 14:6). The Father waits for us in the Mass even as He waited for Moses on the heights of Mount Sinai. He “comes down to meet us hidden in cloud” (Ex 34:5) that is, in the Holy Spirit, to reveal to us His Name and His mystery.
Stand Before Me
God calls us to the mountain in the morning that we might stand before Him. “There thou shalt stand before me” (Ex 34:2). We go to the mountain to be offered. We go to Christ our Altar to be offered upon Him. We go to Christ our Priest to be offered by Him. We go to Christ our Victim to be offered with Him.
The offering takes place under the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit who, “like a bright cloud” (Mt 17:5), covers the mountain. For this we pray in every Mass, asking to be assumed into heaven, begging God to command our quick transport “to his altar on high in the sight of his divine majesty” (Supplices te rogamus, Roman Canon). “There thou shalt stand before me” (Ex 34:5), says God. This is the posture of the sacrificing priest before the altar. Saint Paul explains it, saying, “And now brethren, I appeal to you by God’s mercies, to offer up your bodies as a living sacrifice, consecrated to God and worthy of his acceptance; this is the worship due from you as rational creatures” (Rom 12:1).
The Lord Comes Down
Only after Moses obeys the commands of God by rising early, by climbing the mountain, and by presenting himself there, does the Lord “come down to meet him, hidden in cloud and Moses stood with him there” (cf. Ex 34:5). “Thus the Lord passed by, and he cried out, It is the Lord God, the ruler of all things, the merciful, the gracious, slow to take vengeance, rich in kindness, faithful to his promises, true to his promise of mercy a thousand times over” (Ex 34:6-7).
This too is a mystic foreshadowing of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Holy Mass is the Lord passing before us. It is the Lord revealing himself merciful and gracious. In the Eucharist God makes himself known. In the Eucharist He comes down hidden in cloud to meet us. In the Eucharist He lays bare the merciful love of his heart a thousand times over.
How does Moses respond to God’s revelation of Himself? “And Moses making haste, bowed down prostrate unto the earth, and adored” (Ex 34:8). He adored. Adoration is the only response worthy of God’s self-revelation. For the believer it becomes the only response possible. Out of adoration flows all else. Only adoration allows us to take in the mystery of the Lord passing before us.
The text says that Moses “made haste, bowed down prostrate unto the earth, and adored” (Ex 34:8). Why does he make haste to adore? Adoration cannot be delayed. Adoration is urgent at every hour. “The hour is coming and now is,” says Our Lord to the Samaritan woman, “when true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For such the Father seeks to adore him” (Jn 4:23). We make haste in going to adoration because the desire of the Father precedes us there. We cannot arrive a moment too soon. The imperative of adoration once understood brooks no delays, admits of no excuses. “Martha went, and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: ‘The Master is come, and is calling for you.’ She, as soon as she heard this, rose quickly, and came to him” (Jn 11:28-29).
In bowing down prostrate with his face to the ground Moses discovers something about himself and about his people. “This is indeed a stiff-necked people” (Ex 34:9). In adoration we discover just how stiff-necked we are, how unbending we are, how proud, and how resistant to grace.
Adoration “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) leads to compunction. Compunction in turn leads to the prayer of contrition and to conversion of life: “Guilt of our sins do thou pardon,” says Moses, “and keep us for thy own” (Ex 34:9).
This then is the experience of Moses. It is ours as well. We know nonetheless that after the morning there is the rest of the day, that after the mountain’s height there is the descent into the plain, and that after the offering there is the sacrifice and the communion. In the Second Reading Saint Paul spells out the consequences of this for us: “Perfect your lives, listen to the appeal we make, think the same thoughts, keep peace among yourselves, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor 13:11-12). Thus does the Eucharistic life radiate from the morning Sacrifice into every hour of the day; from the mountain into every valley and plain; from the place of offering into every occasion for sacrifice and communion.
Presence of the Trinity
The word “Trinity” occurs nowhere in today’s Lectionary texts; it occurs nowhere in the Bible. The adorable Mystery is nonetheless wondrously present: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, revealed in the morning light, shining on the mountain, summoning us into the Eucharistic life of offering, sacrifice, and communion. “God so loved the world that he gave up his only-begotten Son” (Jn 3:16).
The gift of the only-begotten Son is renewed in Holy Mass. With the Body and Blood of the Son comes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Today’s Communion Antiphon is a ray of the morning light. Write it on the tablets of your memory. Let it accompany you from the mountaintop into every moment of the Eucharistic life. “To prove that you are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying out in us, Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6). And make haste! It is time to adore.