At the same time, this teaching is echoed down through the ages in the experience of the Christian faithful. As I was shocked by the intellectual and personal discovery of the beauty of the truth of the Eucharist, so Ukrainian Christians love to tell the story of how their ancestors “discovered” the liturgy. In the year 988, Prince Vladimir of Kiev, upon converting to the Gospel, sent emissaries to Constantinople, the capital city of Eastern Christendom. There they witnessed the divine liturgy in the cathedral of Holy Wisdom, the grandest church of the East. After experiencing the chant, the incense, the icons – but above all, the Presence – the emissaries sent word to the prince: “We did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth. Never have we seen such beauty. . . . We cannot describe it, but this much we can say: there God dwells among mankind.”
If we want to see what Prince Vladimir’s emissaries saw, we must see not only the truth of the Eucharist, but the beauty of that truth, the beauty of the Mass, the beauty of heaven on earth.
And what better place than Rome? And what better time than Holy Week!