Eternal Mysteries Appearing Veiled Under Inauspicious Terms


"…[T]he Mass is very much like the events of the Gospel itself. That is, in those events we saw ternal mysteries veiled under the inauspicious terms, not only of our world, but of the most unlikely crannies of our world. Nazareth: the ultimate small town. A stable: dung and straw for the child born to the purple. Crucifixion: the worst that our malice could arrange. And yet in all of these the eye of faith sees glory. It finds at these points what T.S. Elliot called ‘the point of intersection of the timeless with time’."

"Likewise with the Mass. To all intents and purposes, it is 8:00 A.M/ on Tuesday, June 13, A.D. 304, or A.D. 1995, in Lyons or Peoria. But we have stepped, the way the shepherds did, into the precincts of the eternal. No straw, no dung, no braying ass, that does not belong here. Belong here? Surely the mystery is to be perceived in spite of all that noisome stuff?"

"No. Belongs here. This is where, and how, the Most High prepared and set the scene for his advent. Let the straw stay; let the straw be acclaimed even, since in it all straw is touched with the dignity of proffering something to the Most High. If the asses are what they truly are, made by this Most High, then their very dung testifies to the odd and cyclic harmony that characterizes his creation. The Incarnate One will not draw fastitious skirts away from this that marks his beloved asses. No: he will be found, quite helpless, right here"

– Thomas Howard, On Being Catholic, pp. 83-84

Comments 3

  1. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    This, BTW, was beautiful. I am reminded of a Lewis essay (I cannot find it online… nor remember the name of the essay) where he tackles the concept of real vs. immitation, and how it is not always easy or intuitive to tell the difference.

    Posted 21 Dec 2005 at 6:04 pm
  2. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    The aforementioned Lewis essay is entitled “Religion: Reality or Substitute?”, Christian Reflections, Eerdmans, 1967, pp. 37-43. The full text of the essay doesn’t appear to be available online, but the opening paragraph is exerpted here:

    “We are all quite familiar with this idea, that the old Jewish priesthood was a mere symbol and that Christianity is the reality which it symbolized. It is important, however, to notice what an astonishing, even impudent, claim it must have seemed as long as the temple at Jerusalem was still standing. In the temple you saw real sacrifice being offered – real animals really had their throats cut and their actual flesh and blood were used in the ritual; in Christian assemblies a ceremony with wine and bits of bread was conducted. It must have been all but impossible to resist the conviction that the Jewish service was the reality and the Christian one a mere substitute – wine is so obviously a substitute for blood and bread for flesh! Yet the Christians had the audacity to maintain that it was the other way round – that their innocuous little ritual meal in private houses was the real sacrifice and that all the slaughtering, incense, music, and shouting in the temple was merely the shadow.”

    Good stuff, Maynard!

    Posted 22 Dec 2005 at 2:23 am
  3. Rob wrote:

    Merry Christmas, F.D. to you, your wife, and your family!

    Posted 24 Dec 2005 at 1:02 pm

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