I’m not exactly a fine diner although I have been fortunate enough to eat in some very nice restaurants indeed, although I’m just as happy with pub grub or a sandwich on the go! And so it wasn’t a surprise that, on one occasion, when offered an Amuse-bouche in a restaurant I had no idea what it was! I soon discovered that it was a simple hors d’œuvre a gift from the chef’s selection served to prepare the guest for the meal and offer a glimpse of the chef’s style!
The Eucharist has been described as “a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.” Perhaps, to use that culinary phrase it’s a bit like an Amuse-bouche, a taster of what is to come. Perhaps not so much a glimpse of ‘the chef’s style’ but certainly a glimpse of what God has in store for us and how he relates to his people. “Many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” said Jesus (Matthew 8:11)
With angels and archangels
At Mass, we join in the song “of angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven” as we take to heart the words given in Isaiah: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of hosts.”
In the Gloria we sing the angels’ song as they announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.”
When we worship, we are very much in this world! A cold and draughty church building, the noise of police sirens and traffic outside, or the sounds of the natural world, all root us in the worldliness of what we are doing. After all, Jesus is God Incarnate who has lived among us, and remains with us still – and reveals himself through his creation.
“Ever since the creation of the world,” wrote St Paul, “his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20)
Through the things he has made, our eyes and hearts and whole lives are raised to heaven. St Paul said we can never be totally at home in this world for “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 3:20)
When Sacraments shall cease
We live in this world, strengthened by the Sacraments, yearning for that place, that heavenly city, “when Sacraments shall cease.” Our worship on earth is enriched and inspired by the worship of heaven, and it’s the worship of heaven in which we join.
Fr Griffith Arthur Jones, a former influential parish priest of S Mary’s in the late nineteenth century, wrote of the ceremonies and fabric of our worship on earth and relates them to the worship of heaven. We’ll let him have the last word.
“The Church is built of stones which shelter Christ’s Catholic Church …. In the sanctuary stands the altar, as in heaven (Rev 4:2; 6:9). In heaven, Christ is in the midst of the golden lampstands, clothed in a long robe to his feet (Rev 1:12,13; 6:4), and there incense is offered in his presence for ever and ever (Rev 8:3)
“On the altar stands the cross to indicate that all our trust, our hope and our faith are in Christ and his cross; and the only sacrifice which we can offer is that offered on Calvary. The candles…indicate that the light of faith will guide and illuminate us, if we draw near to the sacred mysteries.”