I once read that the definition of time is "the measurement of the movement of particles through space." We measure the earth's rotation around the sun to arrive at our concepts of days, weeks, months, years, minutes, seconds, etc.
God, however, is timeless. We know this instinctively, and logic confirms it. God, the creator of all things, the originator of our time, is omnipotent, omnipresent, and is not confined by the time in which we live. He cannot be defined or limited to the powers of the planets as we are. Even for us, time is not absolute. Einstein demonstrated this for us in his theory of relativity. Time is, in a simplistic sense, a function of where you are in the universe. You can't pin down God. He is everywhere and nowhere.
If you haven't read Einstein's Theory of Relativity in its entirety, by the way, I recommend slogging through it. I once had a small book that contained it and made the mistake of lending it. I will have to get another to read it again. My mind couldn't contain all of it, but I found it spiritually enlightening.
One day, while meditating on the timelessness of God, I realized that the moment the priest confects the Eucharist is the moment when God, in his timelessness, intersects the time of our world. This is what is meant when we are told that we are participating in the sacrifice of Jesus and not recreating the sacrifice that we feel was completed "a long time ago." We are not crucifying Jesus over and over again. We are participating in the one and only sacrifice of Jesus. It is hard for most of us to grasp this because we are limited by time and our minds are ordered in a linear fashion because of that immersion in time.
The incredible meeting of the timelessness of God with the time-bound souls on earth which IS the confection of the Eucharist is not some magical hocus pocus that anyone could do if they only had the right words and performed the right movements. It isn't witchcraft or a skill that one can develop. If anyone other than a validly ordained priest in the line of apostolic succession were to imitate every action that was performed during the sacrifice of the mass, the body and blood of Christ would not be present. Why?
The power to confect the Eucharist is transmitted to a priest through the apostolic succession that extends back to Jesus himself. Jesus created the church and gave authority and power to the apostles. He created the hierarchy by naming Simon Cephas, "the rock", which was later translated to "Peter," and saying that on that rock he would build his church. It is interesting to note that Cephas was not a proper name until Jesus gave it to him, so his moniker would be quite striking during his lifetime. This word, the logos, Chephas' name, was meant to convey Jesus' intention that he would be the head of the church by being its foundation. On him, Jesus' church would be built and even the gates of hell could not stand against it.
When Jesus appeared to the apostles after His resurrection, he first said, "Peace be with you," then identified himself by showing them the wounds in his hand and his side. Then he said, "Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you." His church was already formed, with the 12 disciples, one of whom was named as the leader, the foundation of the church. The teachings had already been given to them, but something else was needed. They had to "graduate" in a sense and carry Jesus' teachings out into the world, so he sent them out as the Father had sent Him out. This sending of the Apostles into the world was Jesus' confirmation of their authority and a continuation of the mercy of the Lord in sending Jesus among us to begin with.
Then, Jesus breathed on them and said, "receive the Holy Spirit." So, they had first, their marching orders; second, their bona fides; and third, a new life in the Holy Spirit. In addition, Jesus told them, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." In those days, it was clearly understood that only God could forgive sins, yet Jesus had transmitted this capacity to the apostles. The apostles were to stand, teach and speak "in persona Christi," on behalf of Christ.
The Catholic Church has an unbroken line of spiritual transmission from the time Jesus breathed upon the Apostles until today. The power and authority that was given to the apostles is the same power and authority that is transmitted to a Catholic priest when he becomes ordained. In our minds, the power has come "full circle," returning to the altar to confect the Eucharist, but in reality that power is the exact same power transmitted to the apostles. It is not some old, dusty memory of something that happened once, a long time ago.
When I attend the Divine Liturgy, I often remind myself that nowhere else can I receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
If I think about the timelessness of the Lord at the moment the Eucharist is confected, I picture the congregation rising up to meet the Holy One while he comes down to meet us. The angels and saints glory in that moment, and there is music and singing like nothing we have ever heard, I am sure. When I am paying proper attention, I am more than a little moved and in awe. I try to hold onto that mystery in my mind while it is occurring and leave my heart completely open to the limitless Lord with whom we are making the most extraordinary contact.
Jesus himself ordained this miraculous contact between us, this stunning experience of unity and salvation. He said, "Whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood has no life within himself." Some people think we are just eating crackers and drinking wine.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory to Him forever.
Silver Rose Parnell