Back to Basics #1
A few weeks ago, I promised that I would dive into the Precepts of the Church, the basic elements of the “rule of life” for a disciple of Jesus Christ in His Catholic Church.
The first of those precepts is the most important: To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
So often I’ve heard people say that they never “get anything out of the Mass,” so why is it under the penalty of grave sin to miss it? This shows me that we have lots to do in reteaching people what the Mass really is, and what our role in it is.
Some saint said that if we truly understood what the Mass is, we would die for joy. I’d add that if we truly understood the Mass, we would unquestionably see it as our reason for missing absolutely everything else.
If the Mass is merely “religious entertainment,” then I’d agree that it’s boring and unappealing. But the Mass is more than we can possibly imagine, for in its essence, it is our actual and real participation in the Paschal Mystery. But what does that mean?
Essentially, when we are at Mass, the saving action of Jesus Christ–the Paschal Mystery, that is, His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, is made present to us. Not symbolically, not “spiritually”. But actually, truly. Jesus is re-presenting the Last Supper, the trial, the agony, the crucifixion, the pouring out of His blood, His death for our sins, and His victory over Sin and Death by His Resurrection. At Mass, we are in the upper room with the Apostles; we are at the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother and St. John. We are at the empty tomb with St. Mary Magdalene. Every. Time.
Every Mass, we are connected to this Paschal Mystery. And the Church, from her very start, recognized the need to celebrate what God has done in His Son for us, to enter into that very mystery. The commandment to “Keep holy the sabbath” was fulfilled in what we now call “The Lord’s Day”. Saturday was the Sabbath of the old covenant, when God rested, completing the work of creation. Sunday is the Lord’s Day of the New and Eternal Covenant, when God has accomplished the re-creation of a fallen humanity through the Paschal Mystery.
Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation are foretastes of Heaven. They give us even now the access to worshiping the Lord and receiving from Him what we need most on our pilgrimage through life: He gives us the food our souls need–His truth revealed in Scripture, the True Bread of Life in the Eucharist, and the strength that is meant to come from being together as His people.
The Mass is mystery and gift, it is our participation in the Kingdom of Heaven, it is strength for the journey, it is the very offering of Our Lord to the Father, and He draws us into it and feeds us from it.
Praised be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever!
All you holy saints of God, Pray for us!