We had a prayer group meeting on Sunday, and it was asked: What is the holiest moment of the Mass? Two popular answers were made: One, at the consecration. Two, at receiving Holy Communion. Technically, the first answer is the right one. It is very special to have the Holy Spirit come to us at our beckoning. Jesus gives the Church (via its valid priest serving The Priest) the ministry of calling down the Spirit for special graces, such as featured in the Sacraments. Because of the Spirit’s response and coming to us in the consecration prayer is so special (His dewfall or coming down to us in Mystery upon the gifts), we name that as The Holiest Moment of the Mass. Due to its importance, all the parishes I have been in assignment (but for one–where and when I was not the pastor) has had the altar servers ring chimes for the congregation’s notice and attention, while ushers are also instructed to still the church for that part of Mass of the Coming of the Spirit. Due to the Spirit’s arrival, the bread and wine on the altar go through transubstantiation in those prayers over the elements.
Of course, answering that “receiving the Eucharist is the most special moment” is not so bad an answer! It’s a correct response. Why? Because of the Spirit’s coming upon the gifts and making them holy, we will be able to later on receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion. That moment is quite precious, too–because it becomes our personal (individual) encounter of Our Lord.
The first encounter with the Spirit in Mass is the communal one. Let’s highlight it in this commentary, as we speak of a consecration prayer in these Dewfall blogs. The Spirit comes in the “epiclesis prayer” of Holy Mass. As the presider/priests at Mass uses Eucharistic Prayer II to call down the Spirit, we ask Him to be a Spiritual Dew, a divine touch of grace upon our bread and wine gifts, that we might receive Christ from those elements. Some churches put up a baldachino over the altar, to indicate that the Spirit will hover and come upon the gifts in that place. It is like a marble tent high over the main altar. A Holy Spirit symbol is on it. (I wonder if any one has given a permanent dewfall artistic rendering to a baldachino and altar below?). Immaculate Conception Basilica in Washington D.C. has one with a wondrous manna from Heaven decoration (representing the Exodus 16 connection). One in St. Mary’s (the Queen) church in Rockville Md. did inspire me quite a lot in liturgy, as I celebrated at least 300 Sunday and Holy Day Masses under it (in my first priest assignment, 1988-91). I just con-celebrated a Mass under it last Sunday, too, for a First Mass celebration at St. Mary’s for Fr. Mark Cusick, newly-ordained for Washington.
I think that baldachino there at St. Mary’s still gives a strong image of God’s Spirit as hovering and coming down to the altar. One time, for some special liturgy, we had decorative and ornamental grasses below St. Mary’s altar, which kind of suggested the sanctuary space was a dewfall area. The Spirit would come down and we would find miracles and life under that baldachino. The Spirit wants to unite us into Christ. As Jesus explained: “He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.”(John 16:14), so “ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)
Dewfalls and Dews are quite life-giving. We can expect them in certain circumstances and times and situations.
From the Last Supper, Jesus had taught His disciples to ask and expect His Ongoing Presence to be found with them daily (Daily Bread), as in gathering and breaking bread together in His Name. We could make a “dewfall of the Spirit” area and gathering place in the Real Presence of the Son. Certain circumstances and times and situations can be set for a Mass. (Ask-and-receive ‘fields’ for the Dew to fall.)
We were to told by the Savior to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” What is the “daily” in Daily bread? It is “epiousois.” The Super-Essential Supply in the Now-is-Salvation-experienced “time.” HE will be the Bread. Jesus did say: I AM the Living Bread. And, in bread and wine, like Jesus Himself offered in Holy Thursday’s Upper Room Supper, (much like Melchizedek and Abraham celebrated together with bread and wine a holy covenant)–now it was God and man to be at table. Jesus The God-man would call us to His Supper. The SPIRIT would offer the connection for the Church. HE would “fall” upon the gifts. How? Jesus said: “This is My Body…This is My Blood poured out… Do this in memory of Me.” The Last Supper memory could continue as Living Memorial, just as the apostles had. Being with a Living Lord.
He had showed them the Substance of His New Covenant. It was His Body and Blood, and the Spirit would consecrate bread and wine to become this graced daily bread. Jesus would consecrate men to represent His priesthood, and call forth the blessing. The apostles were the first priests of the Church. They could invite the Bread of Life to the Church’s altar and to then later be distributed to Christ’ Flock, the faithful.
How would we have such a graced encounter with God, in a meeting with a meal or physical touch with Him? In Mass. Sponsored by the Spirit. The Spirit would glorify The Son by providing for us to encounter Christ among us. As sacred bread for a pilgrim’s journey. As wine become Jesus blood of Peace and Mercy for our sins, which only He can heal away.
Standing with their priests of Christ’ Church (Body), His followers would plead for a New Exodus survival unto getting into the eternal gates of Heaven. Manna is a good Biblical illustration for a pilgrim of old (Moses’ time)–now become Eucharist, the New Manna. Dew is a good image of survival. The Holy Spirit led the people through the desert, and water was an element of survival. God had to be dew for them. He was Cloud, but also the water come to the ground to them through the night. The Water (the Dew) helped form the manna. The pilgrims were kept alive.
Jesus says: Eat this bread (drink/offer this cup) and you shall live forth, not die. (Spiritually stay alive.) Dew has given us the New Manna to stay alive in the soul, even past our physical expiration. The New Manna also identifies our bodies for glory, as people relying on God’s grace.
Numbers 11:9 says, “When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.” The Passover Pilgrims then ate what the Dewfall had provided (manna–the “what’s it?” food) and journeyed on. Could the New Covenant Camp be the Church in liturgy? Could the Eucharist be the New Manna–Jesus as Sacrament?
After Israel’s story of Exodus, then later in the prophet Hosea’s time, that good prophet speaks of survival and “Dew of God.”
“The Lord says: I will heal your backsliding, I will love you freely…I will be as the dew unto Israel, He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” (ch. 14:4-5).
Jesus says that to His Church today. We call for a Dewfall to be sent forth to a faithful people of His covenant, upon the gifts of bread and wine that Jesus Himself chose to be a living sign.
Back to the Survivor theme of the pilgrim….
I was glancing at a bestseller in a book store, it was a survivor story (something that is a popular genre right now). In it the man said that he had to learn to live of the land in his cut-off situation (crash site) and that survival depended upon him learning how to make a dew-catching device to gather enough fresh water to drink and wash upon himself, until his deliverance.
Interesting. I thought of it as a like situation of the Church.
The Church is on the crash site of our fallen state of sin and looming death. Yet we are wanting to live and survive.
The Church has a grace-catching manner in the Eucharist that Jesus said He’d provide, of course, having us totally rely on the Dew/Miracle Making Coming of the Spirit to make our gifts alive and fresh for spiritual benefit. If we participate in receiving the Miracle Bread (and Wine) of the Savior, then we live on.
The Church has to exercise Faith in God and trust in His mystery. Like Gideon waiting upon a miracle (and putting his fleece out to catch the dew), the Church waits upon the Lord at the altar, for His coming. (see Judges 6:36-40)
Send down Your Spirit, like the Dewfall, upon these gifts…
so begins the consecration prayer of Eucharistic Prayer 2.
What’s truly amazing is that Jesus empowered the Church to be in any position of asking for the Dewfall. That a Catholic priest can beckon the Spirit is totally awesome and behooving. It was a saint who once said: “If we might marvel at angels, then think of how the angels marvel at priests calling down the Spirit and how the angels marvel at the people at Mass receiving such grace from God. It is more wondrous than the Exodus, too, for they see to where these new pilgrims at heading–back home to God in Heaven.
The angels might also marvel at the Church today being much like the prophet Elijah, who encountered the Lord not in the mighty signs but in a still small voice. Like the Breath of the Spirit, to a miracle come upon a paten/ciboria and chalice/communion cup and bring the Body and Blood of Christ to the world, it all happens in such a sublime humble manner.
Much like Jesus’ Coming to Mary, and she said: Be it done unto me according to Your Word, O Lord. And Jesus came. born in her, by the Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit to us. Give us Jesus.
From Fr. John Barry (Papa John)