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The interior of St. Margaret’s church has an oddly spare quality — the huge central dome gives the impression of an old-fashioned Catholic church, the sort that might be swarming with statues and stained glass. However, all but one of the windows here are clear, and a series of small panels illustrating church history make up the bulk of the adornment. The newly built church relies on a multitude of varied planes for visual drama. One of these is a sort of false wall, formed by three arches, between the tabernacle at the very back of the Sanctuary and the general body of the church. The tabernacle is still the Sanctuary’s focal point, standing at the top of the axis formed by the long, narrow platform extending out into the congregation (the altar anchors the opposite end), but because of the arches, it is set apart — reserved.

The tabernacle houses the consecrated Host, the Communion wafers honored this past Sunday, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. On this day, said Father Wallace at the beginning of Mass, “We acknowledge, we celebrate, we remember that Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us His body, gave us His blood, gave us everything that He is to keep us alive.” He prayed to Christ that the “sacrament of your body and blood” would “help us to experience the salvation You won for us and the peace of the kingdom where You live with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

The reading from Deuteronomy quoted Moses reminding the people that God had fed them manna, “a food unknown to you and your fathers,” during their sojourn in the desert. In the Gospel, Jesus alluded to this, saying that He himself was “the living bread that came down from heaven...unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.... Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.”

Wallace’s homily acknowledged the confusion such a claim might inspire. “When someone who does not know or understand our Catholic Christian faith hears us speaking about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ, they unfortunately hear only the voice of Calvary and Good Friday. They interpret ‘flesh and blood’ only through the brutality of the cross. But not us: we see the language of Good Friday, but we see that language in light of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Christ’s bodily resurrection changed everything.... He still offers Himself to His Father on our behalf through every fragment of His resurrected and glorious body.... Death and decay cannot touch it; time cannot constrain it; space cannot confine it. When we speak the language of eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ, we do so with words proper to our dual citizenship, both of heaven and of earth. The language of eating and drinking is proper to what we naturally do out of obedience to Christ, who told us to take and eat, but our language about Christ’s body and blood is the new language of heaven, where He is present in a true, real, and substantial way....

“At this altar,” he continued, “heaven and earth are intimately united. The Christ of heaven and of earth is present, whole and entire.... We do not simply touch the risen Lord; we also taste...the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ.”

The Solemnity received no special liturgical treatment, but even the standard liturgical treatment was a solemn affair. The organ and cantor drew forth echoing responses from the congregation, some in Latin. Throughout the Mass, Wallace’s motions — and those of the acolytes, lectors, and other ministers — were slow and precise. The preparation of the altar was not unlike the setting of a table — bowls, cups, napkins — but the manner of the setting indicated the uncommon character of the meal.

Deliberate pauses made the motions more noticeable — Wallace’s eyes turned toward heaven as he blessed God for providing the bread and wine. His hands were palm-to-palm at chest level and then outward as he prayed on behalf of the congregation. Finally, the elevation of the Host after the consecration formed a proper tableau: Wallace, motionless; motionless, too, the acolytes kneeling around the altar, except for the tolling of a bell and the waving of a thurifer, the smoke trailing up toward the white circle in Wallace’s raised hands.

“Lord Jesus Christ,” intoned Wallace at the close of Mass, “You give us your body and blood as a sign that even now, we share your life.”

What happens when we die?

“Heaven or hell, or you get stuck in between for a while,” said Wallace.

St. Margaret’s
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Address: 4300 Oceanside Boulevard, Oceanside, 760-941-5560
Founded locally: 1977
Senior pastor: Cávana Wallace
Congregation size: 2000 families
Staff size: 6
Sunday school enrollment: n/a
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: no
Dress: semiformal
Diversity: diverse — Caucasian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander
Sunday worship: 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 6 p.m. (Latin)
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Website: Oceanside4Christ.com

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