Today is the feast of Saints Philip and James (the Lesser), Apostles. Their tomb is in the crypt of the Basilica of the Holy Twelve Apostles (Santi Dodici Apostoli), which is next door to where I live.
With all due respect to St. James the Less, I will focus on St. Philip in this brief “thought”.
In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (also known as the “Old Latin Mass”), the priest is to gaze upon the consecrated Host during the prayer of the Our Father. I try to maintain this practice also in the Ordinary Form (newer form), which is what I celebrate most of the time, even though it gives no instruction in this regard. But you are probably already thinking about what your priest does in that moment – that is, if you have noticed before: many priests look up, whether somewhat skyward or at least towards the congregation. After all, we are all praying together: Our Father. And the Father is up there (*points up*).
Why, then, might the priest look instead upon the Host during that prayer?
The answer that many spiritual authors have given has to do with a scene from the gospel. Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”. And Jesus says to him in reply, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9).
The priest was to look upon the Host because Christ was truly present after the consecration, and so he was looking upon Christ. He who has seen Christ has seen the Father.
A lovely bit of old-time spirituality, that. And something to think about. When I am in the pew, I tend to close my eyes for the Our Father, and perhaps you do the same – or look up, or whatever. But it might happen that you are at Mass some time when you can actually see the Host at that moment (maybe in a smaller daily Mass chapel), and so you might look upon It also while you pray the Our Father, thinking about what Philip said and how Christ responded to him.
Here is a photo of the tomb of Saints Philip and James, where I prayed for you all this afternoon:
And here is a photo of the main sanctuary of the Basilica (effectively above their tomb), with various relics of the saints exposed on the daily altar (in the front) and the old high altar (in the back). The large painting above depicts the martyrdom of the two saints, but take note: they were not martyred at the same time and in the same place, so it is not to be “read” in that way.
Saints Philip and James, pray for us!