By Jesús Colina
ROME, APRIL 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Holy Mass is about love, reminds Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, prelate of Opus Dei, when asked for advice for those who are sometimes bored by the Eucharistic celebration.
Bishop Echevarría, who together with Bishop Alvaro del Portillo was the person closest to St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, has dedicated his latest book, “Living the Holy Mass,” to this sacrament.
Bishop Echevarría is a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes and the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature; he is a consultor for the Congregation for the Clergy and an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas. His book is an attempt to rediscover love for the Eucharist, “which must be the center of our life,” he explains in this interview with ZENIT.
ZENIT: What would you recommend to Catholics who say they are bored at Mass?
Bishop Echevarría: I would recommend that they participate with sincerity in the Mass, seeking and loving Jesus. In “The Way,” St. Josemaría wrote: “You say the Mass is long and, I add, because your love is short.”
Feelings must not be given too much importance: enthusiasm or apathy, desire or lack of it. The Mass is sacrifice: Christ gives himself out of love. It is an action of God and we cannot fully understand its grandeur, because of our limited condition as creatures. But we must make the effort, not only to be at Mass, but to live it in union with Christ and the Church.
ZENIT: When did you discover the mystery that the Eucharist conceals and reveals?
Bishop Echevarría: Thank God, I try to rediscover it every day: in the Liturgy of the Word — which helps to maintain conversation with God during the day — and in the Eucharistic liturgy. We should always be ever more astonished before this reality that surpasses us, but in which the Lord allows us to participate, better said, invites us to participate.
In the Mass, not only is a descendent communication of the redeeming gift of God fulfilled, but also an ascendant mediation, man’s offering of himself to God: his work, his sufferings, his griefs and his joys, everything is united to Christ — through him, with him and in him. I cannot be silent about the deep impact that St. Josemaría made on me when he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice, on contemplating his daily Eucharistic devotion.
It profoundly moves us to think that in the presentation of the gifts, the priest asks God to accept the bread and wine, which are “fruit of the earth (or of the vine) and the work of men.” Man can offer his work in any circumstance to God, but in the Mass, that offer reaches its full meaning and value, because Christ unites it to his sacrifice, which he offers to the Father for the salvation of men.
When the Mass is the center and root of the Christian’s day, when all his tasks are oriented to the Eucharistic sacrifice, it can be affirmed that his whole day is a Mass and that his place of work is an altar, where he gives himself fully to God as his beloved son.
ZENIT: In his pontificate, Benedict XVI is stimulating a rediscovery of the enormity of this sacrament. What has most caught your attention in the words and gestures of the Pope on the Eucharist?
Bishop Echevarría: Especially important, it seems to me at this time, is his insistence that the liturgy is God’s action and, as such, it is received in the continuity of the Church.
The Pope has written that the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself well celebrated. Therefore, the first duty of piety for the priest that celebrates or for the faithful that participate in the Mass is the attentive, devout observance of the liturgical prescriptions: the obedience of pietas.
Moreover, the Pope also insists that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church: God present on the altar, the close God, builds the Church, congregates the faithful and sends them to all men.
ZENIT: Something more personal. According to your memories, what was the Eucharist for St. Josemaría? What role did it have in his day?
Bishop Echevarría: I served Mass many times for St. Josemaría. At these times he would ask me to pray so that he would not get used to celebrating that very sublime and sacred act. In effect, I was able to verify something he once said: that he experienced the Mass as work — at times an extenuating effort, such was the intensity with which he lived it.
Throughout the day, he would recall the texts he had read, in particular the Gospel, and many times he commented on it, in a perfectly ordinary tone, as food for his spiritual and human life.
He was conscious of the fact that in the Mass the protagonist is Jesus Christ, not the minister, and that the faithful fulfillment of the prescriptions enables the priest to “disappear,” so that Jesus alone shines. Many people who attended his Mass — also in the difficult circumstances of the Spanish Civil War — commented later that his way of celebrating Mass had something that moved them profoundly, and that they felt invited to grow in their devotion to the Holy Sacrifice. I am convinced that what moved those who participated — those of us who participated — in his Mass was precisely that: that he let Christ appear and not his person.
[Translation by ZENIT]