The Roman Missal indicates that the Votive Mass of the Holy Angels is suitable for Tuesdays when no other celebration of higher rank prevails. It is also customary, in some monasteries, to celebrate on ferial Tuesdays the Votive Mass of the Holy Face of Jesus, or that of Saint Benedict. There are special graces linked to the Votive Mass of the Holy Angels. I celebrate it often, and invite other priests to do so as well.
Bless the Lord, all you Angels of His: Angels of sovereign strength, that carry out HIs commandments, attentive to the voice of HIs Word. V. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is in me, bless HIs Holy Name.
The Mass opens with this splendid Introit: Psalm 102:2. The Angels are invited to bless God, to do the very thing for which they were “designed” by God and created. The Church, following the psalmist, addresses them as potentes virtute, “powerful in might,” or “of sovereign strength.” The Angels use all their strength, all their potential to carry out God’s commandments. They wait upon every word that the mouth of God utters and with no delay apply themselves to making it happen.
The Angelic Model of Eucharistic Adoration
What most strikes me in this Introit is that the Angels are described as ceaselessly listening to the Will of God and waiting upon “the voice of His Word,” that is upon the voice of Christ Jesus. Even for the Angels the Will of God is expressed through Christ. Gazing upon the splendour of His Face, the Angels listen for the sound of HIs voice. This, it seems to me sums up the attitude of any soul called to a life of Eucharistic adoration: to gaze upon the Face of Christ, and to listen to His voice.
In God’s Plan: Angels and Men
The Collect recognizes that God has wonderfully ordered both Angels and men in His perfect plan. It asks that we may be guarded on earth by the Angels who in heaven stand in readiness, waiting upon God.
The Epistle, taken from the Apocalypse of Saint John (5:11-14), pulls back the veil on the Divine Liturgy served in heaven. Saint John hears a multitude of angels crying with a great voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and might, and honour, and glory and blessing” (Apoc 5:12). Again, the Angelic adoration in heaven models and demonstrates the prayer of those called to abide in the presence of the Immolated Lamb, sacramentally present upon the altars of the Church on earth.
Gradual and Alleluia
The Gradual takes up the first verse of Psalm 148, sung daily at Lauds, while the Alleluiatic Verse borrows the text of the familiar antiphon sung at Vespers on Wednesday: “Under the gaze of Angels, I sing Thy praises; I will adore before Thy holy sanctuary and give praise to Thy Name.”
The Gospel (Jn 1:47-51) is Saint John’s mysterious account of the vocation of Nathanael, chosen for the last verse in which Our Lord says to him, “Believe me when I tell you this, you will see heaven opening, and the Angels of God going up and coming down upon the Son of Man” (Jn 1:51). Here Our Lord reveals His priestly mediatorship. The Angels, ascending, bear the praises, supplications, and offerings of men into the presence of God through Christ. Descending, they bear God’s blessings, graces, and mercies to men, through Christ. The Angels glory in the priestly mediation of Christ, their King. He is the new Ladder stretching between heaven and earth. Apart from Him nothing human enters heaven; apart from him nothing Divine reaches earth. This is borne out in the Preface of every Mass:
It is through Him that Thy majesty is praised by Angels, adored by Dominations, feared by Powers; through Him that the heavens and the celestial Virtues join with the blessed Seraphim in one glad hymn of praise.
The Offertory Antiphon is yet another glimpse into the heavenly liturgy. Saint John draws our attention to the Angel who, holding a golden thurible, stands before the altar of the temple. The Angelic Thurifer is given much incense (an indication of the measure of incense preferred in heaven?), and the smoke of its perfumes rises in the presence of God. At High Mass, when oblations, crucifix, altar, priest, and faithful are incensed, the text of this antiphon is, as it were, brought to life and made visible to all.
The Communion Antiphon names the nine Angelic Choirs, calling upon each choir in turn to bless the Lord, who, in the Sacrament of His Most Holy Body and Blood, feeds mortal men with Himself, the very Bread of Angels:
Angels, archangels, thrones and dominations, princedoms and powers, virtues of heaven, cherubim and seraphim, bless the Lord forever.
There is no greater joy for a Guardian Angel than to assist at the worthy Holy Communion of the soul in his charge. He accompanies that soul to the Holy Table; he thrills at the moment the Sacred Host touches his charge’s lips; he unites himself to his charge’s thanksgiving and remains close, very close, in adoration of the God who descends to abide in a tabernacle of sinful flesh, bring forgiveness, healing, and superabundant life.
Finally, the Postcommunion makes us ask that, despite our human frailty, we, who have been filled full with heavenly blessing, may, through the ministry of the Angels and Archangels, experience (the Latin text really says sentiamus, feel) the help given us by the enactment of the sacred rites.