Venerable Bruno’s method: Exiting the pews

Note: Part 15 on a series on the Mass.  Read the first part here. For an overview of Venerable Bruno’s method, go here.  For a PDF of the method, click here.  For Fr. Tim Gallagher’s explanation of the steps, buy the book at his website or the Oblates’ bookstore.

Venerable Bruno Lanteri recommends these sentiments in his Spiritual Directory, “I will go forth from the altar as if breathing fire.”

Background: Extraordinary Form of the Mass
(Tridentine Mass)

Because Venerable Bruno wrote his preparation for the Tridentine Mass, it would be good to see what is going on at this point in the extraordinary form of the Mass.

After the blessing, the priest goes to the Gospel (left) side of the altar. A dialogue (“Dominus vobiscum.” “Et cum spiritu tuo.”) precedes the Last Gospel, the Prologue of the Gospel of John (John 1:1-14). During the proclamation, everyone genuflects at the words “Et Verbum caro factum est” (“And the Word was made flesh.”)  The response is “Deo gratis” (“Thanks be to God.”).

In a Low Mass, everyone kneels. The priest leads everyone the congregation through the Hail Mary thrice. Everyone prays the Hail, Holy Queen. The priest prays for the conversion of sinners and the exaltation of the Church. Everyone prays the Prayer to St. Michael. The priest leads thrice the invocation of the Sacred Heart (“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,” “have mercy on us.”).

In a Low or High Mass, the priest and servers then proceed from the altar.

Lesson: Can I live from the power of the Eucharist?

We have united in the Church’s offering of Jesus’ one sacrifice through the Eucharist. We were nourished spiritually by His Body and Blood.  Jesus abides in us.  The Eucharist changes us.  But do we live by that knowledge? Maybe the adage “out of sight, out of mind” plays out too often in our faith.  We have Jesus … so … what’s next?

Venerable Bruno Lanteri reminds us of the divine power we received.  He recommends that at leaving the altar, we should act as if we were breathing fire.  Breathing fire is applied to many in the Bible. 

  • God: David praises the Lord for rescuing him in a psalm, stating that devouring fire came from His mouth (2 Samuel 22; Psalm 18).
  • Mythical or heavenly creatures: God tells Job that the Leviathan has flaming torches coming from its mouth (Job 41:19). The angels’ horses in the Revelation spewed fire, smoke and sulphur from their mouths (Revelations 9:17-19).
  • Prophets: Elijah calls down fire three times: the contest against the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40) and twice against soldiers sent to arrest him (2 Kings 1:1-16).  God tells Jeremiah that His words will be like fire in the prophet’s mouth (Jeremiah 5:14).  The two witnesses of the Lord have fire coming from their mouths (Revelations 11:5).

These images are linked to moments of fear and danger. Saul pursued David. Elijah was about to be arrested. Jeremiah suffered punishment and rebukes for his prophecy. The two witnesses warded off those seeking to harm them. How many times were we afraid?  How many times we were too afraid to share God’s love and truth with others?

The apostles were scared, too.  They feared for their lives after Jesus’ death and even after the Resurrection. Fire also represents the Holy Spirit, who came down in tongues of fire on the Apostles at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit wiped away their fear. He empowered the Twelve and the other disciples to spread the Good News to farthest corners of the earth.  When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, he brings the rest of the Trinity (Father and Holy Spirit).  The Holy Spirit helps us accomplish many things. Do you realize that you have His power?

Venerable Bruno planned to pray the Benedicite (Daniel 3) while processing away from the altar. That prayer comes from the Book of Daniel. After the three young Israelite men were tossed into the furnace, God protected them from being burned. They praised God and urged all creatures to join in their praise. This prayer appears in Morning Prayer of Sunday Week 1 in the Liturgy of the Hours

Venerable Bruno reminds us of the transcendence and heavenly nature of the Mass. Divine power came down to change bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood, divine objects.  The priest handled divine things.  We in the congregation consumed divine things in Holy Communion.  When divine things enter into the world, the fear is that they will destroy all who touch it.  (Uzzah died after touching the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6).)  But in Mass, we weren’t destroyed by these divine things.  Rather, they transformed us into Christ to bring Him to others.

Don’t be afraid.  Live with the power of the Holy Spirit. Breathe fire.

Scripture passages for prayer:

  1. John 1:1-14: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
  2. Daniel 3: The three young men praise God in the white-hot furnace.
  3. Acts 2: The Holy Spirit comes down upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Twelve and the other disciples.
  4. Any of the passages above about fire coming from the mouths of God, mythical creatures or the prophets.

Reflection questions:

  1. How has the Eucharist strengthened you in your life?
  2. How has the Eucharist empowered you to share Jesus with others?
  3. Where are you called to bring the fire of God’s love today?

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