A long time ago, when I was in Our Lady of Sorrows Grade School in St. Louis, MO, I tried out for the choir that sang at funerals. This was a way to get out of class, and the choir also had an annual picnic that was reputed to be lots of fun. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the mourners listening to the choir, I did not make the cut. Since then, to get even I have been singing LOUD. I may not sing well, but you will not ignore me!
One of the pieces I particularly relish singing at Mass is the “Behold the Lamb of God…” Not only is this a solo, but it is a great honor and privilege to be able to proclaim this. After all, it is based on the statement of John the Baptist (John 1:29), and according to Jesus “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist;” (MT 11:11). So this is no small thing.
When I stand at the altar, holding up the Body and Blood of Christ, and look out at all the faithful intent on the Blessed Sacrament, the solemnity and the importance of that moment always strikes me. Sometimes more than others, and at times profoundly. To be privileged to proclaim a mystery which is so central to the faith that all of us there are struggling to profess and to interiorize in our own beings, is very powerful.
I sing this with the microphone off. I like to put myself into it, almost like a cheer at a sporting event, and I sing it out with gusto. “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb!”
Indeed, how blest are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb! This is a wonderful privilege, not to be taken lightly. What we see in the outward physical appearance of this Sacrament is such a tiny, miniscule tip of the iceberg of the overwhelming reality in which we are invited to participate. The rather flimsy host, which is only bread by definition that you would never use for a sandwich or any actual meal, and the rather ordinary wine, reveal and hide such enormous and exquisite mysteries. But even if we bought the very best brioche from some fancy artisan bakery, and wine of the best premier cru, it would still be woefully inadequate to capture the dignity and worth of this Sacrament. It is surely part of the great condescension that the Almighty shows us in Jesus to be present to us in such mundane, ordinary and rather unimpressive elements. The danger then is to begin to take them for granted. Focusing on the mystery that these common things reveal helps us to appreciate them.
And also, perhaps, to sing out with gusto like we really mean it.