Mass brings heaven’s glory and joy to earth
Mike Aquilina writes that Mass is a participation in the worship going on in heaven . . .
When we’re at Mass, we are participating in the joyous worship that goes on eternally in heaven. Obviously we can’t know precisely what heaven is like — it’s too wonderful, too glorious for our limited mortal comprehension.
Scripture, however, gives us images to help us get some idea of what heaven is, especially in the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament book of Revelation. What we see in those images is our Christian liturgy, eternally celebrated in the heavenly court of the Father.
Many of the words of our liturgy come straight from those Scripture passages. The Sanctus, or “Holy, Holy, Holy,” is the hymn the seraphim sing at the throne of God. We also recognize just before Communion these words of the angel: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb” (Rev 19:9). In the Mass we participate for the moment in that marriage supper of the Lamb that goes on eternally in heaven.
But the most important way the Mass is like heaven is not in the details of the liturgy. To be in heaven is to be with Christ, dwelling constantly in the presence of the living God. In Holy Communion we are truly with Christ. When that happens we’re in heaven, and no matter how unheavenly the rest of our earthly lives may be, we carry heaven with us into the world if we have the faith to see what we’ve just experienced.
Although Mass is required every Sunday, thinking of Mass as an obligation is really a backward way of looking at it. Going to Mass is an extraordinary privilege. Instead of trying to decide when you have to go, why not go as often as you can?
Yet, our Sunday obligation satisfies the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. The Catechism strikingly calls the Sabbath “a day of protest against the servitude of labor and the worship of money” (CCC #2172). It liberates us, if only for one day out of seven, from slavery to mundane concerns and frees us to look upward toward God.
Part of that rest is the spiritual refreshment of the Mass. Our Sunday obligation gives us two things we desperately need and that we tend not to leave time for if we’re left to ourselves: It gives us rest, and it gives us close contact with the divine.
Especially in modern society, the temptation is to work without ceasing — or to cause others to work constantly for us. But we are more than machines for performing work. We are God’s children with not only a right but an obligation to make ourselves better and to help others around us become better. The obligation to go to Mass on Sunday takes us out of the cycle of endless labor. It forces us to make room in our lives for joy, whether we like it or not!
This column is reprinted with permission from “Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers” by Mike Aquilina (Servant Books, Cincinnati, 2011).
Having passed from this world to the Father, Christ gives us in the Eucharist the pledge of glory with him. Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints.
The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified, so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1419, 1371