I have been asked why do we do things differently at the end of Communion time; why I purify the vessels while everyone is still present. Because we are trying to teach by our actions. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is one of the most important teachings of the Church. And yet it is often not taken seriously by many Catholics. In fact, recent surveys in the United States show that 45-50% of Catholics do not know the Church's teaching on the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Overall, over a third of Catholics do not believe in this teaching. This is why we want to show due reverence to the Lord's True Presence. Purifying the vessels at the altar, as you see me do every Sunday, is one way that we emphasize this truth beyond just our words. We walk the walk. I recently received a message from someone who found a deeper insight into this practice. It is based off reflection of the Mass, particularly how we can draw analogies to the Gospel stories through what we do at Mass; for example, the readings and homily are like Jesus' preaching ministry: He is still teaching us today. Below is the e-mail I received from one of your fellow parishioners.
"I used to get restless when you purified the sacred vessels after communion during the 9:30 Sunday Mass. It takes a while and I lost focus. Then I had a thought, which came from reading the visionary Maria Valtorta. As you carefully collect the bits of the Precious Body and drops of the Precious Blood and rinse the vessels with water, it recalls the image of Our Lady holding the Body of her Son, which has been taken down from the cross. With her tears and her veil, she cleansed the Lord's Blood from his lifeless Body. I don't get restless any more."
I realize that there are many parishes that do not purify during Mass, but rather choose to do so afterwards. You may have guests who have never witnessed this event and can use this opportunity to emphasize the teaching about the Lord's True Presence in the Eucharist. Explain that this indeed does happen at every Mass around the world (or else the priest is in trouble!), even if we don't see it after Communion.
If you are traveling for Christmas, pay attention the differences and reflect on what it teaches us. Perhaps the new environment can offer you some profound insights into the beauty of the Mass. If I don't get to greet you personally, have a wonderful start to the Christmas season. Until then, Happy Advent!
Saint Thérèse, the little flower, pray for us!