What St. Therese can teach deacons about the chalice

Last year, I posted an item by Taylor Marshall on the unique relationship between deacons and the chalice, in which he noted:

Deacons in all rites and traditions, East and West, are associated with the chalice in the liturgy. Deacons literally “hold the Mystery of Faith” at the minor elevation of the Holy Mass. Whether or not Saint Paul intended to denote the Eucharistic chalice by the words “mystery of faith” in 1 Tim 3:8-9, I suspect that the subsequent tradition had a gut feeling that deacons, the mystery of faith, and the chalice go together as an intact unity.

This morning, I found another connection that might be drawn in Heather King’s beautiful book “Shirt of Flame,” her meditation on St. Therese of Lisieux.  Heather quotes the following from Fr. Ron Rolheiser:

[Therese’s] mission became that of “noticing the unnoticed drops of blood flowing out of the wounds of Christ.”  Thus, in the essential metaphor that undergirds her “little way” she writes:

“One Sunday, looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I was struck by the blood flowing from one of his divine hands.  I felt a pang of great sorrow when thinking this blood was falling on the gorund without anyone’s hastening to gather it up.  I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive its dew.  Oh, I don’t want this precious blood to be lost.  I shall spend my life gathering it up for the good of souls.  To live from love is to dry Your Face. “

What Therese means by this metaphor is quite complex…but suffice it here to say the core of Therese’s spirituality is not as much doing little hidden things for Christ as it is noticing the unnoticed drops of blood within the body of Christ, that is, noticing and valuing fully the unique and precious quality of other people’s stories, tears, pains and joys.

To this, Heather adds:

To let our own flames burn hot, then, requires a radical re-ordering of our time, energy, activities, attention and orientation of heart.  To let our flames burn hot requires asking: What is our stance toward “the least of these”?  How much effort do we direct toward cultivating a prayer life?  How hard do we try to wish our enemies well, to root out and let go of our resentments, to practice kindness, gentleness, humility?  How do we spend our days?  How many hours do we fritter away gossiping, complaining, delighting in others’ misfortunes, mindlessly trolling the Internet, trying to win pointless political arguments?

It strikes me that one of the fundamental privileges of diakonia is to do just what young St. Therese yearned to do: to collect the Precious Blood, to value every drop and, by extension, to  elevate “the unique and precious quality of other people’s stories, tears, pains and joys.”  This is what we do at every Mass.

It is not just the Mystery of Faith — it is the joy of our calling, fulfilled there at the altar and in our ministry to the world!


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