Anyone who has spent significant time away from loved ones knows that connecting through a video call just isn’t the same. We want to touch them, hear the nuances in their voice, linger in their physical presence. Similarly, and more importantly, viewing Mass on television or via social media just isn’t the same as participating in person. While at times watching Mass is the only option available to us due to illness or other serious circumstances, it is good for us to remember that Jesus came to us in human form - in flesh and blood - so that we could more fully grasp the great love that God has for humanity. When we gather at the celebration of the Eucharist, we hear God’s word, feel the presence of Christ with one another, touch and taste the very Body and Blood of the Lord.
Where 2 or 3 Are Gathered
Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20) This is especially true when we come together at Mass. In the celebration of the Eucharist, we experience Christ’s presence together, are formed in word and sacrament, receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, and are sent forth in Christ’s mission of mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. In the Eucharist, we realize the true identity of the Church as the Body of Christ. In the Eucharist, we grow in communion with our Lord and one another, assured that Christ is with us.
“Just as the term ‘Church’ refers to the living temple, God’s People, the term ‘church’ also has been used to describe “the building in which the Christian community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive the sacraments, and celebrate the eucharist.”
The Word Became Flesh
We often only think about the Incarnation - God coming to us in human form in Jesus - at Christmas time. Yet, the Incarnation is significant all the time. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God understands our human experience and communicates to us through physical realities. In the sacraments, Christ’s presence is made known to us through the stuff of the earth - water, bread, wine, oil - and these are experienced through our senses - touch, taste, sight, smell. We must be physically present at Mass and in other sacramental celebrations to fully encounter Christ’s presence.
Become What You Are
In speaking about the Eucharist, St. Augustine said, “Believe what you see, see what you believe, and become what you are: the Body of Christ.” In sacramental Communion, we receive Christ’s real presence, Christ’s Body and Blood. While the graces received by participating at Mass are not solely received through sacramental Communion, the more perfect means of participating in the Eucharist include receiving Holy Communion when properly disposed. Our reception of sacramental Communion nourishes and strengthens us so that we may become more fully who we are as baptized Christians: members of Christ’s Body.
Things to think about:
- What do I appreciate most about my parish’s church building?
- What are the benefits I receive from physically going to Mass rather than only participating online?
- How do I encounter God in my virtual participation in Mass? How is God missing if I live only online?
- What keeps me from truly appreciating Christ’s real presence in the community of believers who gather in the church each Sunday?
This article is part of Together, an Archdiocese of Cincinnati initiative to catechize the faithful on the importance of Mass, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the value of Sunday, our obligation to worship, and the advantage of being together physically rather than virtually.