I genuflect at the foot of the altar as, one by one, I step up to an empty tomb and a table of sacrifice. Aufer a nobis, quaesumus, Domine, iniquitatis nostras, ut ad Sancta sanctorum puris meraemur mentibus introire. I will go into the altar of God, the God who was the joy of my youth, the God who, with the passing of the years has become so familiar and yet is so much more than me and my littleness. I bow over the linens which wrapped the dead body of the Saviour in the sepulcher, linens fragrant with spices, redolent of a man who no longer has need of them. Dare I put my lips to the wood of the Cross on which hung the Saviour of the world? Shall I give Him the kiss of the betrayer or that of a friend? Will He kiss my soul with the kisses of His love, is my wedding garment ready for this feast of which I will never be worthy even though I be invited? Munda cor meum ac labia mea, omnipotens Deus, qui labia Isaiae prophetae calculo mundasti ignito. Where is the burning coal of the angel to purify me? Have I embraced that fire, or do I still fear the fire which burns yet does not consume?
Oramus te Domine, per merita sanctorum tuorum, quorum reliquiae hic sunt. Unworthy though I am, I dare to put the sign of love over my lips as they touch the sight of sacrifice. The sacrifice of My LORD and My God, whose blood commingles with that of those who were washed in His blood.
I stand at the head of an army, an army dressed as in battle array. Behind are the soldiers of the Church Militant, soldiers whose arms are justice and truth, whose only fortification for the battle with the Enemy is the chrism of virtue and the strength that comes from our God. They are behind me, and they look to me as their Captain in the fight. My rusty armor, the chinks in my helmet shame me. But God has chosen me to lead them, and as I straighten up from the altar with the dignity of priest and son of God, I gather courage to fight and to lead them.
But just as Peter looked down at the water and feared, I see at beneath the altar a lake of fire. There are countless souls who are submerged in water and fire at the same time. Is this Hell? The Angel who will take this sacrifice to the Father standing at my side whispers, No. These are those who are being purified. A scene terrifying and wondrous to behold. What pain is theirs to have every choice read before them again, to see how they could have loved, but did not! But the joy which resounds from their purification, as the water of their baptism which had once cleansed them turned into a fire which set them alight with perfect love. They are faceless, they wait for their body to be restored to them and to behold the face of the Lamb once slain for them.
My heart fails me. Will I then see hell like the three children of Fatima, or so many holy men and women before me? No. The Angel knows too well that I am a child and cannot take such a vision, and so he blindfolds me to that scene, but opens for me quite another one.
At the foot of the Cross, which is now gloriously empty, I hear the singing behind me. Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festem celebrantes sub honore Sanctorum omnium. The earthly choir with anticipation sings of their own entrance into the heavenly kingdom. The excitement is palpable, my strength comes back. I lift up my eyes on the top of the mount of Calvary, or is it the Mount of Olives, or is it Mount Tabor? It does not matter. I am here, in the Presence. The veil over my eyes makes me see as in a glass darkly, but what I see, and what I hear – it makes me want to rip off the veil and run towards it. But I cannot, not yet. Not now.
Cherubim et seraphim. Apostolorum chorus. Laudabilis numerus. Sancta confitetur Ecclesia. Te martyrum candidatus, laudat exercitus. All I can see is white, the blinding vision of dazzling beauty. No face can be made out, for there are no faces yet to be had. They to await the resurrection of the body. All I can hear is silence. There is no need for word in this space. There is no want of song in this place. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus goes up as a hymn beyond the telling and hearing of mortal man. I cannot yet hear that sound which is beyond my ken.
I turn my back on the vision, for one brief moment, to look at my soldiers. Dominus vobiscum, I say. The LORD is with us, for from the summit of the earthly mountain where heaven meets earth in the Mass, I have seen a little bit of His glory. Amen. Alleluia!