Skip to comments.The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - A Primer for Clueless Catholics (Part 1)
Posted on 10/19/2005 10:14:04 AM PDT by NYer
Do not be ashamed. It is not your fault. There are answers --- good answers --- for all the questions this short list brings up.
You were never taught.
It is really that simple. No one took the time to sit down and talk with you about what is the most important event in your life --- and it occurs every 7 days. In fact, whatever else you do during the other 167 hours of the week (job, school, charity --- in fact, every other responsibility, necessity, or good work) however good, kind, lofty, noble, pales in significance to the Mass.
Before you go further in this brief study --- and it is a study that we invite you to --- of the single most important thing in your life, we must make a promise to you first: it will not be dry or boring, nor will it be fraught with meaningless pieties. You will understand what the Mass is, why it is holy, and why you must be there. This is our promise to you.
It will not be "socially correct", sanitized to sensitivities, or keeping in step with the passing fads that blow through the pews and across the Altars as so many shifting winds following that elusive mantra of "what is in vogue". There is perpetuity in the Church, and unchangeable elements of the Mass. Hopefully, we will enable you to see beyond the Mass so often presented as entertainment, hosted by an entertainer, to the deep and very sacred reality within it.
"The Mass", as we most often call it, is really short for, "The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass".
Linger a moment on those 7 words, for they contain quite nearly everything that you will need to know in order to understand why you go to Church, or why you ought to.
The Mass, first and foremost, is a Sacrifice. Not a figurative sacrifice, not a mere remembrance of something done long ago, and not a metaphor. It is a real sacrifice. At Mass you are witnessing --- even participating in --- a sacrifice, very real and very present.
Does that surprise you?
We do not hear very much about this --- but unless we understand this most fundamental, this absolutely central aspect of the Mass, nothing else makes sense. Our lack of understanding the Mass as a Sacrifice contributes to most of the confusion that surrounds our going and being there.
But what is the nature of this Sacrifice, and how is it enacted. Who does the sacrificing and who or what is sacrificed? How do we ourselves participate in it?
Tomorrow we will begin to understand.
What we have learned today:
The Mass is a Sacrifice.
I'll be the first to admit that at one time in my life, despite the Baltimore Catechism and a pre-VCII catholic school education, I had no idea what was happening during the Mass. Thanks to many in this forum, I have been illuminated. This is a great article and tomorrow I will post part 2. Enjoy! No fighting!
There probably won't be much fighting among Catholics on this topic. However, if a non-Catholic crashes the thread, like has happened in the past.... You know what I'm getting at. ;-)
I strongly recommend two excellent books which explain the Mass. They are Scott Hahn's " The Lamb's Supper" and Thomas Howard's " If Your Mind Wonders During Mass"
An excellent blog with many discussions about the Mass is Pontifications. Sorry I do not have the web address for it.
Thank you for posting this. Perfect timing, my nephew (who is also my godchild), recently started college and I am informed that he has not been going to Mass. I will send this to him immediately. Could you ping me when you post Part II? Thank you.
You tryin' to insin-oo-ate somethin'??
Why I've got half a mind ta...........
"It will not be "socially correct", sanitized to sensitivities, or keeping in step with the passing fads that blow through the pews and across the Altars as so many shifting winds following that elusive mantra of "what is in vogue". There is perpetuity in the Church, and unchangeable elements of the Mass. Hopefully, we will enable you to see beyond the Mass so often presented as entertainment, hosted by an entertainer, to the deep and very sacred reality within it."
"The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Altar. When acting in this way you have prayed the Holy Mass."
"Don't pray at Holy Mass, but Pray the Holy Mass"
Pope Saint Pius the 10th
This is an 8 part series which will be posted each day. I'll add your name to the Ping List.
Thank you! 'At the Lamb's Supper' is an excellent book; Dr. Hahn's first experience attending the Mass was truly moving.
Scott Hahn¹s The Lamb's Supper - The Mass as Heaven on Earth.
Foreword by Fr. Benedict Groeschel.
Part One - The Gift of the Mass
Hahn begins by describing the first mass he ever attended.
"There I stood, a man incognito, a Protestant minister in plainclothers, slipping into the back of a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness my first Mass. Curiosity had driven me there, and I still didn't feel sure that it was healthy curiosity. Studying the writings of the earliest Christians, I'd found countless references to "the liturgy," "the Eucharist," "the sacrifice." For those first Christians, the Bible - the book I loved above all - was incomprehensible apart from the event that today's Catholics called "the Mass."
"I wanted to understand the early Christians; yet I'd had no experience of liturgy. So I persuaded myself to go and see, as a sort of academic exercise, but vowing all along that I would neither kneel nor take part in idolatry."
I took my seat in the shadows, in a pew at the very back of that basement chapel. Before me were a goodly number of worshipers, men and women of all ages. Their genuflections impressed me, as did their apparent concentration in prayer. Then a bell rang, and they all stood as the priest emerged from a door beside the altar.
Unsure of myself, I remained seated. For years, as an evangelical Calvinist, I'd been trained to believe that the Mass was the ultimate sacrilege a human could commit. The Mass, I had been taught, was a ritual that purported to "resacrifice Jesus Christ." So I would remain an observer. I would stay seated, with my Bible open beside me.
As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn't just beside me. It was before me - in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, "Hey, can I explain what's happening from Scripture? This is great!" Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: "This is My body . . . This is the cup of My blood."
Then I felt all my doubt drain away. As I saw the priest raise that white host, I felt a prayer surge from my heart in a whisper: "My Lord and my God. That's really you!"
I was what you might call a basket case from that point. I couldn't imagine a greater excitement than what those words had worked upon me. Yet the experience was intensified just a moment later, when I heard the congregation recite: "Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God," and the priest respond, "This is the Lamb of God . . ." as he raised the host. In less than a minute, the phrase "Lamb of God" had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. I was at the marriage feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb. I wasn't ready for this, though - I was at Mass!
I mean just what I said..it is most ,most beautiful, I love it!
Keep em coming Nyer!
Hey. Pyro, can I crash? :)
Or any crucifix at all! That's against the GIRM and I battled with my former pastor to have, at least the processional cross displayed during Mass. I tried to rally the parishioners with a petition but they "liked it the way it is". Our Maronite Church has a beautiful, classical Crucifix directly behind the altar, with spotlights shining on it :-). The Tabernacle is to the left and the Book of the Gospels to the right - all illuminated with spotlights. It is heaven on earth.
This is an excellent article, an excellent 'primer' of sorts. I attended Catholic school just as Vatican II was trickling down to rural areas like mine. I remember making my First Holy Communion kneeling at the altar rail. And the boys in my 3rd grade class, over half volunteered to be altar boys, which meant learning Latin. Just a few years later, altar rails and Latin, gone, Folk groups replacing organ music. We learned from the nuns about the Mass, and then there were changes in the teachings, and then changes of the changes, which left many that I know not understanding at all or confused, despite our early years with the nuns. It's great to have this refresher course. I'm bookmarking this to share and can't wait for part 2. Thanks, NYer!
" It is really that simple. No one took the time to sit down and talk with you about what is the most important event in your life --- and it occurs every 7 days. In fact, whatever else you do during the other 167 hours of the week (job, school, charity --- in fact, every other responsibility, necessity, or good work) however good, kind, lofty, noble, pales in significance to the Mass"
Ditto .... though I was a few years ahead of you. However your point is well taken. As I commented on another thread, in our pre VCII classes, we were told that only the priest could touch the Consecrated host. That concept was burned into our brains with a branding iron! Post VCII, when they switched to communion in the hand, suddenly ladies with painted nails and dripping with jewelry were dipping their claws into the communion cups. I NEVER adjusted and, frighteningly found myself beginning to question the Real Presence of Christ, once this change occured. But God is merciful! He delivered me from this plague of overly perfumed men handing out communion to a very devout and humble priest and a Church where communion is by intinction and only placed on the tongue by the priest.
Hang in there! With B-16 at the helm, expect to see changes soon. The Holy Spirit has heard our cries and raised Ratzinger up as successor to St. Peter. I have great faith and confidence in him.