The schoolchildren here are working on a writing project about heaven. The organizer--who reads this blog--has been working with various grades, helping them come up with essays, poems or whatever creative things they can. It's all about sparking their imagination.
So he asked me if I'd be willing to address it in a homily, and I think it's okay if I do a homily once in a while about heaven! So, for the younger children, I did so yesterday at Mass.
The first reading was Isaiah addressing the "princes of Sodom and Gommorah" -- delicate stuff for kids there! -- calling them to repentance; the Gospel included a criticism from our Lord of the scribes and pharisees who lay burdens on people but don't help them.
Anyway, I talked about the ways heaven is different from our life here...there was a reference to the sword in the Isaiah reading...we have violence and conflict here, but not in heaven; we have heavy burdens of work and care here, but not in heaven, and so I went.
Then I talked about how our church is designed to help us understand heaven. I pointed out the windows, how they showed saving events, and saints and angels--but our attention is not focused on them, they are around us, like our friends, but the focus we all have is forward--toward the altar and toward the Lord; toward the Cross and Resurrection, which becomes present at the altar and we share in communion.
Well, I confess I did think about saying something about Mass ad orientem, but I went on long enough, so I stopped there.
After the post-communion prayer, I did add a few words; I shouldn't normally, but I think for Mass with children, it is allowed to provide some explanatory comments at certain places. I said the following (as best I can recall):
"I told you a few minutes ago how Mass is like heaven, and everything leads to holy communion. Well, the moment right after we receive holy communion? That is heaven! If we don't realize that, may God help us realize it. Now, Mass comes to an end, and we go back out into the cold; but someday, it will never end."
There it is: that's the whole issue in all the disputes and attempts to get the liturgy right: the Mass is to be like heaven, and it matters supremely whether the celebration of the Divine Liturgy actually accomplishes that. The choice of music matters. The demeanor of the priest matters, as does that of everyone in church; everything matters.