Something happened to me while I was wearing my mask at Mass this past Sunday.
First, I would just like to state that, through this particular reflection, it’s not my intention to discuss mask-wearing where appropriate physical distancing isn’t maintainable in order to lessen the spread of the Covid19 virus. That’s not the point of this post at all. (If you want to get to the good stuff, to the delicious heart, then skip over this paragraph.) For me personally, when it comes to anything surrounding Covid 19, I need to take my serious underlying condition into consideration. The only public place that I go now is my parish church for Mass. Fellow parishioners have made a space for my wheelchair and my parents against the side wall, away from the main Communion line. I’m about 6 feet away from those who have received and are returning to their seats, but I choose to wear a mask out of an abundance of caution, since many people aren’t wearing masks. Needing someone’s assistance to take it off and put it on because of my disease-weakened hands, I keep it on for the whole Mass out of simplicity.
Because there are people not wearing masks, however, I did wonder if I was doing something wrong in wearing a mask just before I received Holy Communion on Sunday and having my mother replace it immediately as I closed my mouth. But then, as I closed my eyes, the prayerful words came to me — the words that I had been praying during those many, many weeks of staying at home to receive spiritual communion:
“Lord, as I cannot, at this moment, receive Thee beneath the sacramental veil….”
The sacramental veil…. The meaning of the sacramental veil is the mysterious and substantial reality of Christ’s presence beneath the appearance of bread and wine. At that moment in church, bodily present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, physically participating in the Eucharist, I was able to receive the Most Blessed Sacrament sacramentally, beneath the sacramental veil. But all of a sudden, I was mindful of the cloth draped over my mouth, my mouth wherein the Body of Christ was dwelling mysteriously and substantially, resting in Sacrament, in spirit and truth upon my tongue … and I was filled with a childlike happiness, a delighted giddiness, receiving my Lord beneath the sacramental veil. The play on words and meaning was both funny and profoundly holy all at once.
The tabernacle is veiled, for therein abides the Lord, and I, veiled, with my Lord within, was a tabernacle. I momentarily became a Holy of Holies, for behind this sacramental veil is found the God of All, present and real…
I was smiling, almost inwardly giggling like a child who has just had a wonderful secret revealed to her. Then I noticed that tears had pooled in my eyes and that my chin was quivering with a silent kind of happy weeping, which no one but God could see.
This made me think of every time that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ sacramentally — made me ponder the truth of every time that I have received and will receive God beneath the sacramental veil.…
Like a bride, I come veiled before the altar desiring, in innocence and humility, to receive the Beloved. The veil is pulled aside to receive the Lord and then returned again, the curtain being drawn because, even though we necessarily receive Holy Communion in community, each reception is a private encounter, an intimate union with the God of All. There is only the Lord and I in that moment of oneness beneath the sacramental veil. We, brothers and sisters in Christ, are all united in this oneness, we all participate and share in the one bread, the one body, and yet the Lord comes particularly to me … to you … in a private moment of holy love beyond compare.
This is true, of course, without any masks or physical veils, true whether our faces are physically covered or exposed. As Christ Resurrected and Glorified passed through solid walls for the sake of His disciples, we know that God’s loving, intimate presence knows no boundaries, no separation, not even sin will keep Him away. He is always willing to give Himself to us, completely and intimately, in profoundly infinite and personal ways, especially through the Sacraments — the most sublime of which is Holy Communion. May we, with the help of God, truly dispose ourselves to receive.
However it came about, I am grateful for the extra little gift of insight last Sunday. I believe that the Spirit unmasked for me one of the myriad facets of grace of the Most Holy Eucharist in that small moment, with both a sense of humor and a profound, tremulous sense of wonder and awe.
God is good.
Beneath the sacramental veil, my fellow Christians, receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and know that, by His mercifully substantial presence, by His grace, you are made holy: a precious sanctuary of divine love.
© 2020 Christina Chase
Feature Photo taken several weeks ago at my first time back to Mass, courtesy of my dad, © 2020 Dan Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.