Why Go to Mass ?
Bishop Michael Evans
A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.
Celebrating the Christian Mystery
Many think that Part Two of the Catechism (Celebrating the Christian Mystery) is its best. In presenting the liturgy and sacraments, it is especially open to the insights of Eastern Christians, particularly in its emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit. The order of the Catechism is significant: Creed (our faith professed), Sacraments (our faith celebrated), Commandments (our faith lived), rather than Creed, Commandments, Sacraments. The latter order can lead to understanding the sacraments simply as powerful aids to keeping the Commandments, rather than as the key ways in which we share in the mystery of Christ here and now, a participation which leads us to a new way of life.
We come to Mass to share in the wonder of our Father’s love, to participate in the saving work of Jesus his Son, and to be transformed by the Spirit of holiness. From our Sunday celebration, we go forth together to be and to live what we have celebrated. For the rest of the week (or for the rest of the day if we go to Mass more often) our life as Christian communities, families and individuals flows from the Mass and looks towards the next celebration. Every Mass is also a reminder that there is a greater life to come: in the Eucharist we already share that heavenly life, and look forward to its fulfilment: ‘We hope to enjoy for ever the vision of your Glory’ (Eucharistic Prayer 3).
All of this may seem strange to any Catholics who come to Mass simply because they have always done so, because they see it merely as their ‘Sunday obligation’, or because someone else – parents perhaps, or school – demands they come. Why does the Catholic Church insist so strongly on the need to come to Mass? We all need to think more deeply about the Mass and what it means. In this short pamphlet I can do no more than give a few thoughts for reflection, rooted in the Catechism. There is so much more than can be said.
THE EUCHARIST AND THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY
One special merit of the Catechism is its emphasis on the Holy Trinity as the central mystery of our faith. This is especially true of its teaching on the liturgy, the Church’s public worship. The Father is the source and goal of the liturgy. In and through the risen Christ, the Paschal Mystery is continued in the sacraments: ‘Christ is always present to his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations’ (n. 1088). The Holy Spirit is ‘the artisan of God’s masterpieces, the sacraments of the new covenant’ (n. 1091). God’s own beauty and artistry are expressed in a special way in the Church’s liturgy.
The Catechism discusses the Eucharist under three main Trinitarian headings: as thanksgiving and praise to the Father; as the sacrificial memorial of Christ and of his Body, the Church; as the presence of Christ by the power of his Word and of the Holy Spirit (n. 1358).