As Christ the Lord was about to celebrate with the disciples the paschal supper at which he instituted the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, he commanded a large, furnished upper room be prepared. The Church has always judged that this command applied to herself whenever she decided about things related to places, rites, and texts for the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist.
The first words of a familiar book. The Roman Missal.
In Rocky Mount and Martinsville, Va., we have a roof over our heads, under which we can celebrate Holy Mass. The tears the world shed on Monday—they taught us not to take that for granted.
Notre Dame represents… the French nation? The Gothic style? The Middle Ages? I’ve been glued to the coverage as much as anyone. Two obvious facts have gone unsaid.
1. A church—any church, including Notre Dame de Paris–is for: the Mass. Before there even was a French nation; before The Hunchback hunched his back; before they carved the gargoyles or the magnificent arches–Jesus of Nazareth desired to celebrate the Passover with His disciples.
2. Second thing about Notre Dame: The countless masons, craftsman, artisans, and laborers who lived and died building the cathedral did not build it to represent Paris. Or France. Or even the Church. They built Notre Dame to represent heaven. Anyone who ever set foot in that building, even once, knows: They did a pretty darn good job of it.
A beautiful church is beautiful because it lifts you up towards heaven. This is related to Point #1. The Mass unites heaven and earth, in the Body and Blood of the Incarnate God. A church building exists to house the Mass; therefore, a church building serves as a visible threshold of invisible heaven.
Let’s not take our lovely, cozy, orderly, luminous little churches for granted. Let’s not take each other for granted. And let me put this as humbly as I can: Let’s not take me for granted.
I mean: feel free to take me for granted as the middle-aged man with bad eyes and black high-waters. But: I think the Notre Dame fire breaks our hearts like it does because it involves such catastrophic damage to a faithful witness to the Church’s march through the centuries. And the Church marches through the centuries on the backs of Her priests.
The thing that connects the Last Supper to now—a thin, black thread, stretching across millennia. The sacred priesthood.
Let’s not take that for granted. Christ promised that His Church would always have priests. But He never promised that Rocky Mount, Virginia, would have a priest. Or Martinsville, Virginia. The Rocky Mounts and Martinsvilles of China, or Afghanistan, or even Norway—they don’t have priests.
To us, this place is home. And that our home has a priest—that’s a miracle we shouldn’t take for granted.
The fact that the Lord chose me to be that priest—well, I can’t even begin to fathom that one.