The Requiem Mass for Gene La Rue
I will go unto the altar of God * Even unto the God
of my joy and gladness.
There are many things that one might say about Gene La Rue, many things which ought to be said. Because like all of us he wore many different hats. But unlike many of us he was extraordinary in doing ordinary things: being a husband, a father, a friend. He also looked extraordinarily good on the back of a horse. For many years he was the treasurer of this parish, a thankless task, if ever there was one. He entered AA in his late 70s, something almost unheard of. But I can only really speak of him as I knew him best: serving at the altar. It might not have been the most important thing he did but he certainly gave the impression that it was. In fact it was important enough to him to give it up, when it was necessary to give it up. That is the sort of thing which is a measure of man, a measure of his conformity to Christ.
I cannot begin to imagine how many times a priest said to Gene “I will go unto the altar of God” and he responded “Even unto the God of my joy and gladness.” At every Mass before the liturgical tailors got their scissors out. Psalm 43 is part of the old preparation of priest and servers at the foot of the altar. I do not know that it was the only bit of scripture that Gene knew by heart. No doubt given his faithfulness in attending Mass, he knew many more. But it is the one that I know he knew by heart. No card necessary for the oldest server in the parish. It was something that he had ‘read, marked, learned and inwardly digested” as the Prayer Book says.
It may be that serving at the altar is a good way to lose your religion but it is no fault of the script but only ‘the unruly wills and affections of sinful men.” Psalm 43 is designed to correct the problem.
I will go unto the altar of God
Even unto the God of my joy and gladness
A psalm for restless souls looking for rest in God. More especially for those who know that in this life the only rest is in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. It is a fine thing to recognize that it is only in God that we will find joy and gladness. But the question remains “where will we find this God?” Gene knew and we know. The God who by a word creates all things by a word transforms bread and wine into His Body and Blood: “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood.” And if he can do that can he not “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself”.
The joy and gladness of the altar of God is not only the reality of His presence but the power of that Presence to transform us. Our enemies, sin and death are laid low and our wounds are healed. All that anytime a priest and people gather at the altar and speak that Word over bread and wine.
Send out thy light and thy truth that they may lead me and bring me to thy holy hill and thy dwelling.
The way to God is long and often hard primarily because it is so difficult to see the way things actually are. The world, the flesh and devil have been defeated by God and rejected by us. But these enemies do not give up easily. The world with its insistence that our reputations, our success, our standing are really what matters. The devil with his persistent lies and distortions. The flesh, our own egos, which are wounded and dream the nightmare of self-subsistence, independence, everyman for himself.
But when the host is elevated at Mass what is in the hands of the priest is “the way, the truth and the light”. We can never see all that is there but we can know that we shall never see at all without who is there. He illuminates all things, clarifies all things, and leads us through the darkness to the light of God and heaven. All we can say is “My Lord and My God.”
Why art thou so heavy, O my soul* why art thou go disquieted
within me ?
Why then all these tears? Just because the Gospel is no inoculation against pain and suffering and loss. The risen and glorified Body of Jesus is here but it is a Body which still bears the wounds of His death. The New Testament makes no attempt to deny the reality of the death of Jesus. We cannot attempt to deny the reality of the death of those we love. It is through the passion and death of Jesus that we are saved and we too must pass through death to eternal life. The tears of the Blessed Mother, the sword which pierces her heart, our tears and the sword through our hearts are not optional. But it is not sorrow which knows no end.
Put thy trust in God for I will yet give him thanks who is the help of my countenance and my God.
The Christian religion is not “pie in the sky by and by”. The Eucharist itself is evidence
that here and now we begin to experience the joy and gladness of our salvation. But we are always in the position of ‘already and not yet.” The attitude of Advent is, as Cardinal Newman said, a permanent disposition for Christians. But as St. Paul says in the Epistle to the Philippians, from which I have already quoted:
Uur citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.
So we go again unto the altar of God, not without Gene but with him, for there we shall find yet again: