Circular Letter: Advent 2021

The Holy Mass as Communio

‘Advent’ means ‘coming’: Jesus is coming! With joyful expectation we await the liturgical commemoration of the Birth of Our Lord in the stable of Bethlehem, which not only calls to mind, but also makes present this Mystery of our faith. God loves to come to man, to dwell among men, to enter into an intimate sharing or fellowship with each individual person: koinonia in Greek, in Latin, communio. We can enjoy the coming of our God not only in the Christmas season, but also in every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that is, every day. This Advent, therefore, we want to prepare our hearts for the Birth of Jesus by participating more consciously in the Holy Mass, precisely under the dimension of communio or communion.

The Liturgy, especially the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is the preeminent meeting place of Christ with His Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1097). Here the faithful enter into Jesus’ dialogue with the Father, and their own personal dialogue with God as “sons in the Son”. For the Holy Mass is meant not only as a communal prayer, but even more as a personal encounter with God, an intimate colloquy between God and the soul. It is the renewal of the “covenant between the Lord and man” which is meant to “draw the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and set them on fire” (Vat. II, Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC], 10). Here God gives Himself entirely in the Son, and He awaits the soul’s response of love and adoration, of thanksgiving and praise. He desires thus to enter into communion with the soul through Christ in the Holy Spirit, a communion of the word, a communion of love, a communion of life.

At every Holy Mass, heaven is opened for us and we join in the praise and adoration of the Angels who stand night and day before the Throne of God singing unceasingly, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come…. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 4:8, 5:13; cf. SC 8). Through the perfection of their praise, the Holy Angels can lead us more deeply into this praise of God and loving communion with Him and His divine Son in the Sacred Liturgy. They lead us in particular in the four fundamental directions of the Opus Angelorum, which, as we shall see, are also fundamental dispositions by which we participate more fully in the Mass: the adoration of God and the Most Holy Sacrament, the contemplation of the word and salvific works of God, expiation for the salvation of souls and mission.

The Adoration of God

Regardless of which rite of the Church is celebrated, the Holy Mass is the mystical renewal and making present of Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Cross, His total and loving gift of Self to the Father for the salvation of mankind (cf. CCC 1364). Having become members of His Mystical Body at Baptism, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we adore Christ and at the same time participate in His Self-offering and glorification of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. CCC 1368). For “Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father” (SC 7). In this way, the Holy Mass is essentially the highest act of adoration of the Father by Christ and His Bride, the Church, from which grace flows unto the faithful “in the most efficacious possible way” (cf. SC 10).

In order to enter into this adoration of God and receive the abundance of grace offered in the Holy Sacrifice, however, “…it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain…. [They are to] take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects” (SC 11). Through the ministry of the Holy Angels, “the grace of the Holy Spirit seeks to awaken faith, conversion of heart, and adherence to the Father’s will. These dispositions are the precondition both for the reception of other graces conferred in the celebration itself and the fruits of new life which the celebration is intended to produce afterward” (CCC 1098). That is to say, the “chief element of divine worship must be interior” (Pius XII, Mediator Dei [MD] 24), with well-disposed hearts and attentive, conscious involvement of mind and heart. For this reason, too, we pray the Confiteor and the Kyrie at the very beginning of the Mass with heartfelt contrition even for our venial sins, so that “every trace of sin may be blotted out” and we may “rid [ourselves] personally of anything that might hinder its nutritive effect in [our] souls” (cf. MD 31, 100).

St. John Paul II considers our Blessed Mother to be the first to live this “Eucharistic attitude” when, carrying Jesus in her womb, she sang her Magnificat of praise and thanksgiving to God. “She praises God ‘through’ Jesus, but she also praises Him ‘in’ Jesus and ‘with’ Jesus. This is itself the true ‘Eucharistic attitude’” with which we are to participate in the Holy Mass (Ecclesia de Eucharistia [EdE], 58).

Communion of the Word and Contemplation

God nourishes us at Holy Mass first at the “table of the word”. In the proclamation of the word of God, “the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of the spiritual life” (Vat. II, Dei Verbum [DV] 21). In His word, God gives us in a certain sense His very Self. For Jesus, who is the Logos, that is, the WORD of God, “is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church” (SC 7). God speaks to us, enters into a hidden dialogue with our hearts, calls us, invites us. We do not need to have great thoughts, but an attitude of silence, of listening, of openness for what God wants to say to us in His word.

Through the mediation of the Holy Angels and our own effort to cooperate with their help in contemplating the word of God within the Liturgy and beyond it, “the Holy Spirit gives a spiritual understanding of the word of God to those who read or hear it, according to the dispositions of their hearts…. The Spirit puts both the faithful and the ministers into a living relationship with Christ, the Word and Image of the Father, so that they can live out the meaning of what they hear, contemplate, and do in the celebration” (CCC 1101). That is to say, when we receive the word of God with attention and faith, contemplate and interiorize it, then we experience a sort of communion of the word, which nourishes and strengthens us that we may accept and live out the will of God, and grow in faith and love and all the virtues. Through His word put faithfully into practice, our hearts are transformed more and more into the image of Christ and united with Him. “For the word of God is living and active” (Heb 4:12) and “it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

The liturgy of the word is ordered to increasing our faith and renewing our covenantal commitment to God. Therefore, on Sundays and solemnities, the Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Credo as our response to the word and teaching and as a personal renewal of our covenant relationship with God in “the obedience of faith” (Rom 13:26). By this faith, “man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will” (DV 5). Thus, we not only give our consent to the truths proclaimed, but also submit our whole self, our life, our future to God, thus entering into this communion with Him through His word. In this way, we are prepared to enter with proper dispositions into the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The Mass as Sacrifice and the Fundamental Direction of Expiation

As the Church teaches, the Holy Mass is essentially a sacrifice, the very same Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, made present and renewed on all the altars of the world at every moment. For at the Consecration, the bread and wine

become truly, really and substantially Christ’s own Body that is given up and His Blood that is shed. Thus, by virtue of the Consecration, the species of bread and wine re-present [sic] in a sacramental, unbloody manner, the bloody propitiatory sacrifice offered by Him on the Cross to His Father for the salvation of the world. Indeed, He alone, giving Himself as a propitiatory [i.e. expiatory] Victim in an act of supreme surrender and immolation, has reconciled humanity with the Father, solely through His sacrifice, “having cancelled the bond which stood against us.” (Col 2:14) (John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae [DC], 9)

Thus, the Mass is in essence the making-present of the expiatory Sacrifice of Christ for men of every generation, by which alone we are saved. “The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated, not repeated. It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in each celebration there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the unique Mystery present” (CCC 1104).

United with the offering of Christ, however, the Church as His Body and Bride is called to offer through the hands of the ministerial priest also her own spiritual oblation. We bring forth bread and wine, signifying not only the material creation, but also our substantial selves, body and soul. “The bread and wine become in a sense a symbol of all that the Eucharistic assembly brings on its own part as an offering to God and which it offers spiritually” (DC, 9). For “in order that the oblation by which the faithful offer the divine Victim in this Sacrifice to the heavenly Father may have its full effect, it is necessary that the people add something else, namely, the offering of themselves as a victim” (MD, 98).

Already at the offertory, together with our holy Angel we can lay all our “praise, sufferings, prayer, and work,” thanks and petitions, our whole being on the paten, that at the Consecration, through the ministry of the priest, they may be “united with those of Christ and with His total offering, and so acquire a new value.” (CCC 1368). In offering ourselves in and with Christ our Head, we, His Body, join our lowly efforts to His infinite merits that His graces may flow upon us, upon the Church and the world, and upon all for whom we intercede and expiate, especially the priests. Thus, by participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with this conscious intention, we can live most efficaciously our call in the Work to expiation.

Once again, St. John Paul II shows how Mary was the first to live this “sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist”, through her daily acceptance and offering up of the Cross foretold by Blessed Simeon in the Temple:

In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of “anticipated Eucharist” – one might say a “spiritual communion” – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in His Passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that Passion. (EdE, 56)

By our daily acceptance and offering of the little crosses of everyday life – this is our battleground and ‘spiritual altar’! – we too can “live” a Eucharistic spirituality. Our Guardian Angel especially can help us to recognize these little crosses as a call and invitation from Jesus to prove to Him our love, to say “yes” and offer them up in union with His great Cross. In this way, we can send many little greetings of love to Jesus hidden in the little white Host in the nearest Catholic Church.

Communion of Love

The expiatory sacrifice Jesus offered to the Father was out of love, a love first of all for the Father, but also for man. “Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water and the word” (Eph 5:25). This love was aimed at each individual soul. St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “He loved me to the extent of giving Himself, and not some other sacrifice, for me: ‘He loved us and washed us from our sins in His own Blood’ (Rev 1:5)” (Com. on Gal 5:20). At the same time, Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross was a revelation of the love of the Father for us, Who “spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us” (Rom 8:32). Love calls for love, and is the deepest meaning of the Christian vocation. “In fact, Christian life is expressed in the fulfilling of the greatest commandment, that is to say, in the love of God and neighbor, and this love finds its source in the Blessed Sacrament, which is commonly called the Sacrament of Love” (DC, 5). Consciously and knowingly being present at the Holy Sacrifice, which is the same Sacrifice of Calvary, we are given the gift and strength to love God in return, to enter into a communion of love with Him, and in Him, with all who are united in Christ. For in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, “…we not only know love; we ourselves begin to love. We enter, so to speak, upon the path of love and along this path make progress. Thanks to the Eucharist, the love that springs up within us from the Eucharist develops in us, becomes deeper and grows stronger” (DC, 5).

This love urges us to turn from our selfish desires and goals, and to live for God, to seek His will and to save immortal souls for Him.

We humbly pray that in the strength of this love by which Christ willed to die for us, we, by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, may be able to consider the world as crucified for us, and to be ourselves as crucified to the world…. Having received the gift of love, let us die to sin and live for God…. (Office of Readings, Monday, 28th Week of Ord. Time, St. Fulgentius of Ruspe)

To enter into an intimate union or communion of love, it is necessary to have two. God is always loving us and waiting to pour down His graces, but we are often distracted, indifferent, a bit too passive. If we are awake in faith, however, then we will remember that we are in the presence of “that great multitude which cries out: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the Throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Rev 7:10). The Eucharist is truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on earth. It is a glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem which pierces the clouds of our history and lights up our journey” (EdE 19). And “if, in the presence of this Mystery, [natural] reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love” (EdE 62).

Holy Communion and a Communion of Life

Because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Jesus’ sacrifice of love, it is also ordered to the union of Christ with the soul through Holy Communion (cf. CCC 1382). For the Lover or our souls seeks ever greater union with the beloved. “We receive the very One who offered Himself for us, we receive His Body which He gave up for us on the Cross and His Blood which He ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mt 26:28)” (EdE, 16). In Holy Communion, Jesus gives Himself wholly and invites us, “Abide in Me, and I in you” (Jn 15:4). Having purified us of our sins in His Blood, He makes this possible for us: ‘Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him’ (Jn 6:56).

To “abide” in Christ is to share in His divine life; it is a mutual indwelling, a communion of life, which begins at Baptism and is strengthened and nourished with every Holy Communion. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me” (Jn 6:57). “Through His own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, He offers life to men” (Vat. II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 5). Jesus Himself wants to live in us, to “divinize” us and realize all the mysteries of His divine life in us, as St. John Eudes writes so beautifully:

He wants to realize the mystery of His Incarnation in us, that of His birth and that of His hidden life, by forming Himself within us and being reborn in our souls through the holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, thereby bringing about that we lead a spiritual and interior life, which is “hidden with Him in God” (cf. Col 3:1). (cited in CCC 521).

“Jesus Himself reassures us that this union, which He compares to that of the life of the Trinity, is truly realized” (EdE, 16). He comes to us in the form of Bread in order to nourish the new life He has shared with us, to help us overcome our faults which obstruct our union with Him, and to transform us into a living image of Himself. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) writes:

The Savior, who knows that we are human beings and remain men who struggle with human weaknesses on a daily basis, comes to the aid of our humanity in a truly divine way. Just as the earthly body needs the daily bread, so also the divine life in us requires constant nourishing. ‘This is the living Bread that has come down from heaven.’ Whoever truly makes it his daily bread, in him the Christmas mystery, the Incarnation of the Word, takes place daily. And this is probably the surest way to maintain union with God continuously, to grow deeper and more steadfastly into the Mystical Body of Christ with each passing day.” (The Christmas Mystery, Herder 1988, pp. 61-62).

By cooperating with the grace of Christ, St. Paul died so completely to self for love of Jesus that he reached the perfection of this union of life with Him: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal 2:19-20).

This life which begins in Baptism and is nourished in Holy Communion is the same life which we will enjoy with God in heaven. Thus, “…those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first fruits of a future fullness which will embrace man in his totality” (EdE, 18). In Mary, the transformation of creation to which we are also called has already been realized. She is the sign of this future fullness of life and love toward which we strive in hope:

Gazing upon Mary, we come to know the transforming power present in the Eucharist. In her, we see the world renewed in love. Contemplating her who was assumed body and soul into heaven, we see opening up before us those “new heavens” and that “new earth” which will appear at the Second Coming of Christ. Here below, the Eucharist represents their pledge, and in a certain way, their anticipation: “Veni, Domine Iesu!” (Rev 22:20). (JPII, EdE, 62)


The Holy Eucharist is for us not only a communion of love and life with Christ, but also a call to participate in His mission. “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” (Order of the Mass, opt. 3). “As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21). Our first mission in the world is to glorify the Father and “by the mercies of God, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”, not to be conformed to this age but to be transformed into living images of Christ (cf. Rom 12:1-2) and to become witnesses of His light and hope in the darkness of our age.

The world of today, having embraced the “culture of death” through selfishness, is growing ever darker and blind to truth about God and His Love made Incarnate in Jesus. The world, which has fallen into sin, however, is called to enter into an eternal communion with Him through love, rather than running after pleasure, comfort and wealth. For Jesus, who is our “way”, lies shivering in the manger. The world strives after power, Jesus to the contrary teaches service. The world seeks self to the point of killing her own (inconvenient) children in the womb, while Jesus willingly takes death upon Himself in order to give this same world life eternal. To be witnesses of Christ in the world, to be “other Christs”, then, we must seek to deny ourselves and follow Him with body and soul. Mother Gabriele writes:

In Holy Communion, He enters into us and thus in a mysterious way becomes one with us. He enters with His Body into our bodies and can take possession of our body just as He possesses our soul. Therefore, every Holy Communion is the image of the Incarnation of the Lord and here, at the center of our being, the Lord places His Word: Come, follow ME!…We must follow the Lord along His way, and this way is not called: power—but to be poor and little, humble and pure; this way is not called: to rule—rather, to serve, to heal, to remain silent, to help, to wait, to obey, to sacrifice. It is a quiet, but extremely difficult path and only heroes can follow it to the end. For our burning love slowly wanes when the Lord remains mute, when no sensible consolation inflames our zeal. But that is where the true following of Christ begins.


…God loves you so much, that for your sake He abandons everything and you can do with Him whatever you want [in the Holy Eucharist]. Do you also love God so much, that He can do with you whatever He wants? This is following. (Children’s Letters, Corpus Christi 1958)

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus longs for us from the manger, He stretches out His little arms to embrace us, to draw us in, that He may transform us. Let us say ‘yes’ to His call in all the trials of daily life, in all the challenges of love, in all the misunderstandings, renunciations and sacrifices. Let us rest and commune in His Eucharistic love, even daily, that we may be His light of love and hope in the world, in our family and parish community. Through the Holy Angels, this light of love, though hidden and unrecognized by men, will shine even to the furthest ends of the world: Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 20:22).

Sr. Maria Basilea


The texts of the Circular Letters are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without written permission.

©2021 Opus Sanctorum Angelorum Inc.