Sometimes lasting for as long as an hour and thirty minutes, his Mass from the time of the Consecration onwards reenacts in an exceptionally vivid manner the drama of Calvary, revealing to all eyes one who was both priest and victim. Watching him, it seemed that altar for it often happened that Padre Pio held mystic colloquy with an unseen Presence who spoke with him face to face. It was said that at this point the great bargains were struck with God for the souls of men. It was only during Mass that he removed the half gloves that he wore to cover the wounds in his hands which, together with those in his feet and side, at this point became especially painful. Time stood still as once again were passed the hours of Christ’s agony in the Garden.
“Could you not watch one hour with me”, Christ had asked his apostles when, one by one, they fell asleep at the only time when He most needed them. They did not then realize, as we do today, that falling asleep and later on by their desertion of Him during His trial and last hours on the Cross they were, in fact, absenting themselves from the greatest act of adoration whereof this world holds record: the Passion and death of Our Lady and Saviour Jesus. From the point of view of the source, the Man-God, there is not, of course, a difference between this act and that of his obedience to Mary at Nazareth – they were human and divine acts offered to the Father. At the same time, according to our human standards, Our Lord Jesus Himself has said: “Greater love than this has no man, than that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15 : 13). All this and more besides was part of the pain of Padre Pio during Mass. His sufferings and crucifixion during the daily renewal of Christ’s sacrifice brought to life the whole theology of the Mass and made those privileged to witness his Mass more deeply aware of the reality of sin and the infinitude of God’s redeeming mercy.
From the Consecration to his communion with Christ’s Body and Blood Padre Pio would be seen to pause, often for long periods: in rapid succession there would pass across his face the inner vibrations of a soul shaken to its depths by the memory of the Passion: ecstatic contemplation, pain, tears of joy and tears of mystery, vehement prayers and supplications, radiance and wretchedness… it was all there, as it must have been when Christ himself underwent His Passion two thousand years before. At last the Holy Sacrifice is seen to be what it truly is – a work of consuming love, the love of God for men.
There is no need of words anymore. Blood becomes eloquent. “My Blood”, says Jesus, “that will be poured out for a multitude for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26 : 28). Padre Pio’s Mass was a study in sacrifice, revealing to the world that Christ’s death is the effective sacrifice of expiation, that is, of purification and consecration to God. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, the Lamb is Christ, the paschal sacrifice, the one who was to come, the complete embodiment of all the prophecies. Gathered around that altar, around that chalice, it was as if the whole universe were listening to this priest plead for souls, joining with him in his prayer of love and praise, or simply watching him relive the crucifixion and Calvary as he contemplated the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus. Love and adoration light up his face and his eyes open wide in the wonderment and beauty of the divine embrace.
God floods his soul, ennobling it, increasing in him the charity that extends to all and strengthening him to greater gifts of suffering and grace. Padre Pio’s Mass was always the high point of the day in San Giovanni Rotondo, a time of immense grace and extraordinary conversions. Many who watched his Mass also shared his tears at the sight of his bloodied hands when he raised the sacred Host and the chalice at the elevation.
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