This year, St Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday.
That means that millions of Catholic will be spending at least part of their day at Mass, celebrating the oh-so-romantic First Sunday of Lent. (And perhaps, if you’re lucky, the Feast of St Cyril and St Methodios! Woot!)
But really, the combination of St Valentine’s Day and the Sunday Eucharist is kind of great. On the day when couples across the world are going all googly-eyed at their Significant Other, Catholics are trooping off to Mass to adore the God of Love.
All of this made me think about love and how we express love. It made me think about the five love languages. Specifically, it made me think about there are actually all five love languages in the Mass.
Yep, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Divine Love, is full of these love languages.
But let’s back up a little.
The Five Love Languages
Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts is a multi-gazillion bestseller with a simple but powerful premise.
We all express love and affection in different ways and we receive love in different ways. To make a relationship really work, you need to learn how to love someone in a way that they can easily recognise that love and receive it. You’ve got to speak their love language.
Chapman presents five love languages:
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
- Words of Affirmation
- Receiving Gifts
For example, my love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. Basically, give me a hug and tell me I’m amazing, beautiful, talented, wise, hilarious, and holier than Mother Teresa and JP2 combined, and I’m all yours. (That’s not too much to ask, is it?)
This also means I tend to give love with words and hugs too. But I need to remember that not every receives love like this. I need to think and plan (oh, that’s the killer) so I can help others out, prepare thoughtful gifts, and spend my precious free time just hanging out. For me, these are costly ways of showing love.
God’s Love Languages in the Mass
This post isn’t about my love languages though. It’s about God’s love languages.
God is love and He shows us His love in a million different ways. But the greatest act of love is the gift of Himself in the Word made flesh. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
We receive this gift of God’s own Son through the sacraments, particularly the Mass. It’s not a surprise then to discover that these five love languages are embedded in the Mass.
Acts of Service: The Divine Service
The Mass is the perfect Act of Service. In the Mass, Christ takes the lowest place and serves us. “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He gives us exactly what we need and with such humility! God comes to our altars in the form of bread and wine!
Attending Mass is also our Act of Service. Liturgy is literally the work of the people, the public service we offer to our Lord. It is a commitment on our part and yeah, sometimes we don’t want to, but we go and pray and offer our lives in service to the Most High. This act of service continues after the Mass too because the Eucharist also calls us to live out lives of service. St John Chrysostom said that “if you do not find Christ in the beggar at the church door, neither will you find him in the chalice.”
Quality Time: The Window to Eternal Time
The Mass is the best Quality Time. Jesus has given us Eternal Life and in the Eucharist, opens up the window into the eternal heavens. In the Mass, we transcend earthly time and join the choirs of angels in eternity! How’s that for Quality Time?
The Mass is also a great time with Jesus. It’s only through face-to-face, heart-to-heart communion that we really get to know someone and Jesus is no expectation. The Mass is the most perfect prayer and what is prayer but spending time with the one we love?
Physical Touch: The Kiss of Heaven
The Mass is the supernatural Physical Touch. At Mass, we witness the consecration of physical stuff, bread and wine, into Jesus Himself. We eat His Body and drink His blood; we consume our Lord as the Bread of Life and the Food of Angels. In the sacraments, God embraces our physicality and the Eucharist is the kiss of heaven and earth.
We also show our love for God through what we do with our bodies. We kneel, we stand, we cross ourselves. The Liturgy engages all our physical senses, our touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell. That’s why it’s so important to have a beautiful liturgy. It’s how many people experience the love of God, through the texture of their worn Rosary beads, the warm glow of beeswax candles, the sweet sting of the Precious Blood.
Words of Affirmation: The Inspired Word of Love
The Mass is the ultimate Word of Affirmation. In the Liturgy of the Word, we heard God’s word as He proclaims His love for us. He tells us the story of creation. He gives us the words to praise Him. He reveals the mysteries of His plan and explains how we should love. This is why proclaiming the Scriptures are utterly essential to the Mass. They are God’s love letter to us.
We also respond with words of love. We confess our sins, we sing praise to the Lord, we declare our faith in the Creed, in the Great Amen, in the all the prayers the priest prays to God on our behalf. The Liturgy is basically one giant “I love you, God!”
Receiving Gifts: The Eternal Sacrifice
Finally, the Mass is the supreme Gift. The Eucharist is the best gift God could give us because it’s Himself. We receive the Gift of Gifts!
The Mass is also the best we can give back to God. Why? Because it’s Himself, the highest good and source of all perfection. In the Mass, we unite ourselves to Jesus who alone can offer the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice of Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In the Mass, we symbolise this offering of ourselves in the Offertory (makes sense right?), when we bring up the gifts of simple bread and wine which represent our humanity.
The Perfect Act of Love
So there you have it.
The Eucharist is no ordinary act of love. It is the expression of God’s love for us and of ours for Him.
This is simply because it re-presents the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord for love of us. In the Mass, Christ comes to serve us, to spend time with us, to embrace us, to tell us He loves us, and to give Himself entirely to us.
In the Mass, we receive God.
We receive Love.