AS next Sunday is Passion
' Sunday and our introduction into the two most solemn weeks of the liturgical year we make no apology for devoting this space to some fresh thoughts about the Mass which is the centre and heart of our spiritual life.
What we write here is not our own. It is but a summary of a Dominican instruction printed in a booklet called " Les Chretiens autour de l'Autel " in which are set out a series of instructions on the meaning of the Mass given to the congregation of the church of Saint-Severin in Paris.
This instruction has the title: What is the Mass? The preacher begins by admitting that many of his hearers either do not know or at least only vaguely know. Not knowing, they are bored. Their reasons for going to Mass are in many cases simply that it is a grave obligation. Others go to Mass because they want to pray. But, the preacher reminds them, there is no need to go to Mass or even to church in order to pray. As for those who go to Mass in order to go to Communion, they are right up to a point, but they are only interested in one part of the Mass and often are quite disinterested in the remainder.
"It is true that the Sunday Mass is a formal obligation, that we must pray during it and highly desirable that we should receive Holy Communion; but the Mass is far more than this... What then is it? THE MASS IS A MEAL "
MORE correctly, the Mass
is a sacrifice. But the word " sacrifice " today does not mean a great deal to many people. Whereas Our Lord in the Gospels goes out of his way to explain religion In terms of the ordinary day
to-day lives of those about Him.
Just as the Last Supper was a meal, so the priest celebrates on a table covered with tablecloths, with bread, wine, water, a cup and a plate. The priest eats and drinks, and so, if possible, should others at the Mass.
What is the normal and proper ritual of the family meal? It is a time when the family and their guests converse, exchange news, discuss their affairs, share their joys and sorrows; it is a time when the children listen to their elders, learn and educate themselves. It was at the Last Supper that Our Lord talked to His apostles of the deepest truths, calling them His friends because He had made known to them what. He had learnt from His Father.
It is a time when offerings are made. The hosts offer of their best to their guests, and the guests bring presents in exchange or invite their hosts to a meal in return.
Lastly, the meal is the time for communion — the occasion when the members of the family are joined together, the occasion for the special celebrations of anniversaries, marriages, the welcome home of relations and friends.
WHEN we apply all this to the Mass we realise at once its homely significance.
Up to the Creed we listen to God's words and we speak and pray to Him.
From the Offertory until the Our Father, we — each of us individually and all together offer to the Father the sacrifice of Christ and we offer ourselves with Christ.
And from the Our Father until the end of the Mass, we communicate, eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ, and in doing this together we enter into communion with one another.