Tag Archives: Mass

Evangelization springs from authentic faith of our fathers

Pope St. John Paul II provided Holy Mother Church with a great corpus that inspired, reaffirmed and evangelized Catholics in an era when everything seemed up for revision. Since then, the Church has moved forward with the New Evangelization, which isn’t so different from the first. Essentially, the Church must do what she does best — preach the gospel to all nations until the end of time using all the great resources she has at her disposal.

A well-known Catholic blogger often states, “Save the Liturgy — Save the World.” Indeed, ne’er a truer word be spoken. In liturgical celebrations where the focus is taken away from God, where we applaud each other and tell each other how great we are, something demonic is taking place. Authentic worship is distorted into something else, something banal and uninspiring.

Inevitably, people simply stop coming to Mass when they are no longer entertained or don’t feel the need for validation. Any deformation of the liturgy deforms the content of faith.

When the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is done well-meaning that Father and his servers allow their personalities to fade into the background and each carries out his responsibilities well — the Mass draws people into the mystery of our salvation. Beautiful ceremonies lift man to higher things, impelling him to be more than he is. Heavenly mysteries, truly unable to be fully understood, never fail to fascinate the believer and gently draw the unbeliever to Christ’s Church.

Once drawn into the heart of the Church, the process of unpacking what the Church prays generates a conversion of living in earnest. While she has many well-established methodologies of doing this through her schools, CCD programs, RCIA programs, adult faith formation, and so on, the unfortunate reality is that most Catholics go through life with a sixth-grade education in the Faith. The majority tend to drop out after receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. Statistically, barely 20 percent attend Holy Mass every Sunday and on holy days.

So where do most Catholics learn what they believe about God and the sacraments? Seemingly, significant numbers learn what they think they know through the mainstream media, which does a woefully poor job of explaining Church teaching, usually reporting doctrine incorrectly and almost always without the nuances that are important for understanding them.

True evangelization begins and is nourished within the family. Without the father, it is unlikely that a family will practice the Faith. As head of the household, the father sets the priorities of the household. Even if the father does not impede his wife, the heart of the household, in her own expression of the Faith, his children will take note that their father does not bow his head to God. For children, there is no more powerful witness than to see their father humbly kneel in the confessional or pray before St. Joseph.

In his catechesis on the Creed, Pope St. John Paul II stated that “Jesus is the only model of filial life directed toward, and united with, the Father.” Fathers model this for their children. It is through the silent example of their father and the loving encouragement of their mother that children learn the Faith and receive their understanding of who God is.

The Church needs to continue to turn her creativity to supporting Catholic families, and thereby to creating more deeply committed Catholics. She will keep them by offering a beautiful and worthy celebration of the divine mysteries. Ultimately, it is not a matter of programs; rather, it is the Church simply being faithful to who she is, and to him who is her head and bridegroom.

FATHER HAROLD McKALE, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is parochial vicar to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Doylestown, PA, and works with the Philadelphia Latin Mass community. He holds a B.S. in business from Millersville University, and M.Div. and M.A. degrees from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

Restoring sense of the sacred at the heavenly banquet of Mass

WIDESPREAD LITURGICAL REVIVAL LIFTS UP THE FAITHFUL IN DISTRESSING TIMES

If Hell is where the doors of Heaven (and even Purgatory) are closed, what word should be used to describe where the doors of churches have been closed?

“Hell” might be an exaggeration for some, but “Purgatory” is not. American Catholics had been prevented, since mid-March, from participating as fully in the liturgy as they would have liked. The heavenly banquet of the Mass became very sparsely populated due to concern over spreading the most recent of the coronaviruses, COVID-19

Where They Always Stay Six Feet Away

Despite what more people are seeing as an overreaction, many positives have come from the unusual situation— positives that have perhaps helped purify souls for Heaven.

For example, this year Lent went from being “outdated” to mandated. People who in February thought of deliberately toning things down as useless or even ridiculous, were forced to accept such practices. Closings of baseball stadiums, concert halls, and restaurants coincided with shortages of basic goods that had always been there. Even if the motives were not supernatural, the material realities were suddenly the same for everyone. Simplicity ruled the day, and there was more time to ponder the meaning of suffering and the ultimate end of life.

The word “quarantine” was commonly used, and it was said that it comes from the Italian quarantina for “40 days.” That amount of time – the length of Lent – was impressed upon many.

“Social distancing” has also become popular, as citizens have been instructed to stay six feet apart. This has brought cemeteries to mind, where bodies underground always respect the six-foot boundary.

Girms on Your Hands

Concern over stopping the spread of germs got some people to thinking more about spreading the GIRM—that is, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, a document providing guidelines for the celebration of the Mass. While it has gone through official changes over the years, the GIRM has also been through unofficial ones when individuals or communities decide to do things their own way.

For example, shaking hands during the sign of peace has become widespread, despite not being recommended, or even mentioned, in the GIRM. Routine distribution of the Precious Blood by extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion has also become widespread, despite no endorsement of the practice. In fact, there is even explicit rejection of it in documents such as Inaestimabile Donum and On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest.

Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre has been pondering these types of points for years. The Portland, Oregon-based choir director’s liturgical interest grew into organizing the first Sacred Liturgy Conference in 2012. It started with the purpose of sharing the sublime teachings on the Mass from Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors, in the context of chanted Traditional Latin Masses. Its first installment hosted 75 people, and it has grown in subsequent years to over 400.

Dr. Pitre has a keen interest not in only in sharing accurate information about the Mass, but in ensuring that the very delivery itself is worthy of God’s temple. She explained it like this: “The highest calling upon our lives is to be holy as He is holy, to abide in His Presence and to live in His perfect will. To this end the Lord and His apostles have given to the Church the Eucharistic liturgy, which contains all that is necessary for us to contemplate God. Through beholding His glory in the Eucharist, we are changed into His likeness.”

The Sacred Liturgy Conference, which moved from various Oregon locations to Spokane, Washington in 2019, has featured speakers such as former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest juridical authority in the Church) Cardinal Raymond Burke. This year’s installment was set to feature Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, former Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, but social distancing had the final say. However, there are already plans to hold the event in Spokane June 1-4, 2021, to cap off that diocese’s “Year of the Eucharist.”

Conference Calls

There are other liturgically oriented groups who have made the call (or had the call made for them) to continue, postpone, move online, or cancel altogether. The Saint Gregory Institute of Sacred Music’s Master Class in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – featuring the primary organist of St. Peter’s Basilica – took place in virtual this past spring.

The Institute’s founder, Nicholas Will, actually started the 2019- 2020 school year in Italy, but returned home to Pittsburgh in March as COVID-19 became a crisis in that country. While there have been literal casualties and other challenges in these odd times, Will has also seen positives. The Franciscan University of Steubenville professor said that, since Gregorian chant can be done without instrumental accompaniment or congregational participation, it is ideal for televised Masses in which only a few people are physically present.

Of the televised Masses that have become popular recently, Will said: “This may be some Catholics’ first exposure to chant, and it comes at a time when everything we take for granted concerning the sacraments is being challenged. My hope is that after this era of social distancing, many Catholics will find themselves more open to chant [which should be given pride of place in liturgical services, according to Vatican II] and other forms of sacred music, such as Renaissance polyphony.”

Booking Your Place at Mass

While online liturgical services have become very popular for those unable to be physically present in church, so have low-tech options. Missals, Bibles, Catechisms, Gospel commentaries, and other printed books have become more relevant than ever.

Mother of Our Savior and Refuge of Sinners Publishing has seen a sharp increase in sales of such items. General manager Rose Michna said, for example, that “We have a booklet called Holy Mass for the Absent that is doing very well due to church services being canceled.” She also said that ten-packs of holy cards with a Spiritual Communion prayer are selling better than usual, along with [Venerable Martin Von] Cochem’s Explanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, an eye-opening book on the perfect offering found in the Catholic liturgy

Genuinely Christocentric liturgy is also a high priority of other publishers, including Ignatius Press (which prints then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy), Roman Catholic Books (which prints Father Robert Hayburn’s Papal Legislation on Sacred Music), and Preserving Christian Publications (which prints Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise’s updated Holy Communion).

One point addressed in Holy Communion was how some saints made fewer sacramental receptions of Holy Communion but attained an apparently higher sanctity than weekly or even daily communicants display now. This gives hope to those unable to physically receive the Eucharist in their mouths, but always able to do so spiritually in their hearts.

As the faithful are finally able to receive the Eucharist again sacramentally, it is likely being done with much more humility, attentiveness, and appreciation than if things had gone on as planned. Indeed, all things, including this purgatorial experience, work together unto the good for those who love God.

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer

Catholics need the Real Presence

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10: 11-12).

In the past several months, the Mass and other Church activity – not only here, but across the globe – had been largely inaccessible to the faithful. Masses had not been available publicly, and in some places, no sacraments at all. Live streaming of Mass wasn’t the same physically or spiritually as being in the Real Presence of Christ, and being in union with Him through the Eucharist.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

The possibility of a scenario like this had been unimaginable throughout the 2,000-year history of the Church. But early this year, cardinals and bishops worldwide had to grapple with a widespread health risk.

The faithful greatly missed being in the Real Presence of the Lord at the Sacrifice of the Mass, and in communal presence with each other

In our state, though the governor exempted religious institutions from the stay-at-home order from the start, public Masses were nevertheless suspended.

Our continued access to the Sacrament of Confession at several local churches, however, felt like a rare privilege. People stood silently in long, spread-out lines, to bring Christ their anguish and brokenness, and ultimately hear those relieving words of Absolution from the priest – in persona Christi – “I absolve you from your sins … .” More people were coming, their mood pensive, their focus resolute. Those of all ages and backgrounds filed in, some wearing makeshift masks, during the daily Confession hour. Because suddenly there was time – but an unspoken sense of urgency.

We asked a few local priests if we might attend their private Masses. Only one replied. We had been able to slip into the church a few days per week while he said Mass in Latin. At most, there were three to five others in the huge, empty church. There was no distribution of the Eucharist; it was not yet allowed. But Christ was there, and we came.

This same priest notified parishioners he’d be doing a mobile Exposition of the Eucharist on a mid-May Sunday through several townships. Some 175 parish families signed up for the drive-by – during which he’d bless their families and their homes. Father arranged an altar with flowers adorning the monstrance (and himself, in spectacular red and gold vestments) in the flatbed of a pickup truck. The entire route mapping, email notifications, and logistics were facilitated by a fellow parishioner (a Bucks County Chapter Legate) – who drove the truck.

People dropped to their knees in front lawns as Father slowly faced them with The Real Presence in the gold monstrance, while chant music played. Some had signs saying “Welcome Jesus”; others cried in joy and disbelief. At an intersection, a self-identified Jewish woman opened her car window to thank Father for what he was doing. The clouds broke and Father picked up a blazing sunburn, devoting a 10-hour Sunday to bringing Christ out to His heartsick flock.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Restoring the place of humility and manners

Choosing what to wear for Mass one morning, I asked the sacristan why he had chosen a vestment that was rather cheap in design and fabric. He replied that it would be more comfortable. Comfort has become the criterion for dress and for manners in general. Film footage of men at ballgames 60 or 70 years ago show them better dressed than most people today are for almost any occasion.

On Sundays my father would adjust my necktie when I was too young to do it myself, for it was unthinkable to attend church without a suit. The common excuse today is that “God doesn’t care what I wear.” That exercise in self-justification assumes that one knows God’s opinion, when in fact the only hint we have to go by is His parable of the Wedding Garment, describing people thrown out of the banquet for not being properly dressed (Matt 22:1-14). Of course, this parable was about the interior disposition of the soul, but the outer garment is a sign of reverence.

Fashions are of secondary importance, but the issue here really is humility. For to place personal comfort above the sensibilities of others is a sign of selfish pride. It is also a lack of respect for the dignity worthwhile we are given by grace in baptism. This also applies to the “gravitas,” or seriousness, with which one exercises official duties. A judge wears robes for the same reason a priest vests in a Eucharistic chasuble: he is involved in something more important than himself, and he is subservient to his office and task. When George Washington became president, there were no protocols for such a novel office. He could not dress as a king, and yet he embodied the seriousness of responsibilities entrusted to him. Courteous to everyone, he was also austere in the way he carried himself and woe betide anyone who dared to slap him on the back.

As a youth, Washington studied a book called Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior which had been compiled by French Jesuits in 1595 and translated by a twelve-year old boy in London. The rules were of common sense and had nothing to do with pomposity. They harkened back to the best Greek philosophers who defined virtue in terms of piety, dignity, courage, and gravity. Saint Benedict (480-547) linked these virtues with the fundamental one of humility, of which one indication is speech that is not boisterous and coarse. True humility of manners also disdains insults and vulgarisms, while false humility often pretends to be authentic by theatrical gestures like “dressing down” and advertising poverty by rejecting the customary forms of etiquette.

It is arrogant and not true friendliness for official mailings from a bank or business to address the client by a first name. The man who says, “Call me brother call me pal” would not have to sloganize that way if he really were a brother and pal.

G.K. Chesterton recalled how Saint Thomas Beckett wore cloth of gold on the outside to please the people, and kept a hair shirt next to his skin where no one could see it. Today, he said, the modern millionaire does the opposite.

Our Lord was deprived of everything in His Passion, save His dignity. This greatly disturbed Pontius Pilate, even when He was dragged before the governor dressed mockingly as a fool. There was something ineffably royal in the Master, surpassing the ceremonies of Caesar. So the Roman governor ordered that a sign be placed on the cross calling Him a king. When the crowd objected, haunted Pilate said, “What I have written, I have written.”

FR. GEORGE RUTLER is pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City, and author of 33 books – including Grace & Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization; and A Year With Father Rutler – a compilation of nearly 400 of his most brilliant and beloved homilies and writings (both recently released by EWTN Publishing). Father Rutler was national chaplain of Legatus from 1991 to 2001.

Tres Magna

As we begin this new year, the theme of the magazine is Renewed Purpose. I am asking you to resist the temptation of simply chalking this up as another New Year’s resolution topic that is convenient because it is that time of year. Indeed, I believe the topic of this column, Tres Magna, is extremely important to each member of Legatus.

Tom Monaghan

We are all aware of our mission as an organization to study, live, and spread the Catholic faith. However, as we go beneath the surface and engage what this really means, it is about growing in personal sanctity, which is no surprise to any of us because that is the goal of every Catholic.

So what is Tres Magna? This is Latin for Big Three. Some of you will remember in March 2017 my column was entitled The Big 3 of the Spiritual Life, and I challenged you at that time to attend daily Mass, pray the rosary every day, and go to Confession monthly!

My conviction of the importance of each of these has only continued to grow! About a year and a half ago, when the International Board of Governors met in Los Angeles, our ecclesiastical advisor, Archbishop Gomez, said (and I am paraphrasing here), I see Legatus being like a lay religious order. That statement really resonated with me and put into words the sense of purpose, focus, and vocation to which I, too, believe Legatus is being drawn. This call is not complicated nor is it anything new to the church And for me Tres Magna helps to make this call, this practice very specific.

We are all aware that the Mass is the highest form of prayer (or member of Legatus. worship), and while daily Mass certainly is not mandatory, as Vatican II says, it is the source and summit of our faith…In terms of the rosary, not only have popes throughout the ages called us to this devotional practice, but in Church-approved apparitions from Lourdes to Fatima, Our Lady consistently exhorts (dare I say, begs) the faithful to pray the rosary daily. And finally, monthly Confession. This is a part of the First Saturday devotion that I wrote about in my last column, and which has been built into every monthly chapter meeting.

Each of us is keenly aware of the current crisis in the Church and the challenges that loom before us. If we ever had a doubt as to why we exist as an organization, I believe it is for such a time as this. So, I encourage you in the strongest way I know to COMMIT to Tres Magna! Do not let it be something you just try, but resolve to do it and encourage your fellow members.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CEO.

The big three of the spiritual life

As business executives, we all have to set priorities for our companies or organizations. A part of this process is recognizing what is core to our success. If this is the case for our businesses, how much more should we practice this principle in our spiritual lives!

Tom Monaghan

We all know that our ultimate goal is to get to heaven and to bring as many people with us as possible; this is the living and spreading of our faith that we talk about in the mission of Legatus.

There are obviously many facets to living our faith, but let me share with you what I call “the big three of the spiritual life.” I have talked about these over the years and have even used them as a challenge at commencement addresses.

The first time I did so was when I was scheduled to speak after Mary Beth Bonacci. If you have ever heard Mary Beth speak with all of her style and energy — and I had — you know what an unenviable task it is. I thought, “What can I say to these young men and women that will keep their attention and make an impact?”

And then it came to me. I threw out the notes I had prepared and decided to issue them a challenge to attend daily Mass, to pray the rosary every day, and to get to Confession at least once a month.

I asked those graduates to commit themselves to these three things for the rest of their lives. Well, the message was so well received that day that I have used it several times since. I pray that those young people have kept their commitment. It’s not complicated, but it is a challenge. In the context of Legatus, I don’t think it’s coincidental that we find all three of these elements present at our monthly chapter meetings — rosary, Reconciliation and Mass. Over the years, these three things have become the foundation for my spiritual life, and for this, I am grateful.

So as we begin this Lent, instead of giving something up (or in addition to your fasting), let me issue this challenge to you: Try daily Mass, praying the rosary every day, and monthly Confession and see how it goes. I guarantee you will not regret it.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder and chairman.

Why does the priest mix water and wine?

Mike Aquilina

Mike Aquilina

There are two answers to this question. The first answer is that that’s how people served wine at the time of the Last Supper and for a long time afterward.

Vintners made wine very strong, like juices that we buy today in concentrated form. Wine was diluted with water at a civilized table (see Prov 9:5); only barbarians drank unmixed wine.

The second answer is that this custom of humble and ordinary beginnings has acquired a rich symbolic meaning. Some of the earliest Christian writers — as early as St. Justin Martyr in 150 AD — mentioned the “mixed cup.” For some, the wine and water represent the blood and water that poured from Jesus’ side on the cross (see John 19:31-34). As the priest pours the two elements, a devout Christian can’t help but remember this scene from the Scriptures.

Other interpreters saw the mixture as a symbol of God’s communion with us. Saint Clement of Alexandria, writing around 200 AD, emphasized the effects of Communion upon the individual who receives: “As wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man.” A few years later, in North Africa, St. Cyprian spoke of the mixed cup but emphasized Christ’s communion with the whole Church:

“The water is understood as the people while the wine shows forth the blood of Christ. When the water is mingled in the cup with wine, the people are united with Christ…. Once the water and wine are mingled in the Lord’s cup, the mixture cannot anymore be separated.”

There is something exact about the symbol: Christ is the wine; we are the bit of water. The main part of the sacrament is Christ really present, but communion does not happen without our willing participation.

The mixed chalice can also be seen as a sign of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, united in one person. The wine represents his divinity, the water his humanity. The two natures come to us together in the Eucharist, as they did in the Incarnation.

Thus from the earliest times the mixed chalice at Mass was emblematic of the mystery it held: the mystery of Christ and of salvation by his blood.

The Church has insisted on this mixing of the water with the wine for two millennia. In the 16th century, the Council of Trent even excommunicated priests who neglected to mix the elements. The Church has good reasons to be faithful here. Some are perhaps historical: a fidelity to a custom dating back to the time of Jesus. Others, however, are doctrinal, dealing with the mystery at the heart of the faith — the marvelous exchange spelled out in the prayer at the Offertory: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

MIKE AQUILINA is the author or editor of more than 40 books on Catholic history, doctrine and devotion. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers” (Servant Books, Cincinnati, 2011)

Catechism 101

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigures the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.

The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1335

Did Jesus really want us to celebrate the Mass?

Mike Aquilina

Mike Aquilina

How do we know that Jesus intended the Church to continue offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

His instructions are simple and specific: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The people who knew him best — his apostles — followed those instructions. Right after Pentecost, Acts tells us that 3,000 new Christians were baptized. “And they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

“The breaking of the bread” was the characteristic celebration that set the Christians apart from other Jews. While the temple still existed, the Christians worshiped there along with everyone else, but they had Mass in private homes: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47).

So we have the witness of Scripture to tell us what Jesus’ instructions were and to tell us that his apostles were following those instructions mere days after Jesus ascended into heaven. The tradition of the Mass is unbroken from the time of Christ to our own day.

The Mass has been the center of Christian worship since the beginning, so the early Christians found ways to celebrate it even during the most intense persecutions. The celebration seems to have been very much like our current liturgy, although it’s hard to establish some of the details of the very earliest celebrations.

Often the Christians met secretly at the tombs of the martyrs for morning prayers. They may have celebrated what we call the Liturgy of the Word there and then celebrated the Eucharist at someone’s house later on, or they may have just prayed at the tombs and then celebrated the whole Mass later in the day.

Saint Justin Martyr, who was writing in about the year 150, describes the Eucharist in terms we easily recognize: “Then the president of the brethren is brought bread and a cup of wine mixed with water. Taking them, he gives praise to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the peoples present express their assent by saying Amen, which means ‘so be it’ in Hebrew.

“And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, the ones we call deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced [or more literally, that has been eucharisted], and they take some of it away to those who are absent. We call this food the Eucharist.”

MIKE AQUILINA is the author or editor of more than 40 books on Catholic history, doctrine and devotion. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers” (Servant Books, Cincinnati, 2011)

Catechism 101

Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister … but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes.

He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised “where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1088

The Jewish roots of the Mass

Mike Aquilina: The Last Supper was the last Passover meal;  it fulfills the Passover . . .

Mike Aquilina

Mike Aquilina

The Mass is the fulfillment of many of the Israelite rituals of the Old Testament. The Passover is probably the most important of these. The Last Supper was a Passover meal. For Christians, it was the last Passover meal because it fulfills the Passover.

Every year the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb the way they had done at the first Passover. They would eat unleavened bread to remember the haste with which they left their bondage in Egypt. From one generation to the next, the people would pass down the story of how God had redeemed them.

Our Mass makes our own redemption present to us but, unlike the Passover, in a real and complete way. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross completed the work of redemption. The Exodus released only one small group of people from their physical slavery. It did not release them from their bondage to sin, and it did not release the rest of the nations of the world from anything.

Sin offerings were also an important part of Israelite ritual. This ritual did not overcome sin. It forgave one sin of the past; it could not defeat sin itself. Only Christ’s sacrifice could release anyone from sin. This is the sacrifice that is present to us at every Mass.

The “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” which is prescribed in Leviticus but not mentioned again until the time of David, is another important precursor of our Mass. The word Eucharist, in fact, comes from the Greek word that was often used as a translation for “sacrifice of thanksgiving.”

All these sacrifices come together in our Mass because Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Christians no longer sacrifice animals or grain, because we know that Christ’s sacrifice is complete — one perfect sacrifice for all time.

Finally, our Liturgy of the Word — in which we hear the scripture readings and the homily and say the prayers for everyone in need — seems to be based on the synagogue liturgy that was current at the time of Christ. In the synagogue, the Scriptures were read by a lector, and then there was a kind of homily or interpretation. Jesus himself, visiting the synagogue at Nazareth, is asked to read and interpret the scripture (Lk 4:16-22).

What we see from all these comparisons, then, is that Christian worship was a continuation of Jewish worship. This is no surprise. The early Christians never thought they were founding a new religion. They believed they were practicing the religion of Abraham, Moses and David — but now with the knowledge that they were living in the time of the Messiah.

MIKE AQUILINA is the author or editor of more than 40 books on Catholic history, doctrine and devotion. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers” (Servant Books, Cincinnati, 2011)


Catechism 101

By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his Father by his death and resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.

A better knowledge of the Jewish people’s faith and religious life as professed and lived even now can help our better understanding of certain aspects of Christian liturgy. The relationship between Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy, but also their differences in content, are particularly evident in the great feasts of the liturgical year, such as Passover.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1340, 1096

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).


Catechism 101

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