Why Go to Mass ?
Bishop Michael Evans
A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.
An Easter Communion
The Church as the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her
Head (n. 1368). In this sense we can call the Eucharist the sacrifice of the Church; united with Christ himself, we come to the Eucharist to be offered, whole and entire, to the Father. True Christian discipleship is not primarily following after Christ, or imitating him, but being ‘in Christ’, being immersed, plunged or inserted into the saving person and work of Christ himself. It is in the liturgy, above all at our baptism (cf. Rom 6:1-11) and in the Eucharist, that this is made possible.
The Eucharistic Prayers get to the heart of the meaning of the Mass. We ask that Christ ‘make us an everlasting gift’ to the Father, by uniting us to his own gift of himself (Eucharistic Prayer 3). We become ‘a living sacrifice of praise’ (Eucharistic Prayer 4), united with Jesus himself in his own worship of the Father. The special Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and for Children are particularly helpful. The first prayer for Masses with Children gives a neat summary of why we should come to Mass:
We do now what Jesus told us to do.
We remember his death and resurrection and we offer you, Father, the bread that gives life and the cup that saves us.
Jesus brings us to you; welcome us as you welcome him.
By uniting ourselves with Christ in the Eucharist, as Christ’s Body with Christ our Head, we are taken up ‘through him, with him, in him’ into the heart of the Father: we go where Jesus goes (cf. Jn 14:3), and we ask the Father to ‘accept us together with your beloved Son’ (Children 3; cf. Reconciliation 2).
The Church’s living memory
The Catechism makes interesting use of the idea of memory. From the Last Supper to the early and medieval Church, to the Council of Trent and to today, the Eucharist has remained much the same (n. 1345), and the memory of what Jesus did (above all his death and resurrection) is passed on in a living way from then until now. ‘The Holy spirit is the Church’s living memory’ (n. 1099); it is because the Spirit is present in the Eucharist as the living memory of the Church that the Eucharist can be a memorial in the full sense of the word. The whole Eucharist is very much the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Liturgy of the Word, the Spirit ‘recalls’ all that God has done for us, awakening the memory of the Church and inspiring thanksgiving and praise (n. 1103). But the liturgy is more than this: because in each celebration there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the saving events we recall are ‘actualised’, made powerfully present (n. 1104). Through the sacraments the Holy Spirit makes present the wonders of God: it is above all in the Eucharist that ‘The Spirit makes present and communicates the Father’s work, fulfilled by the beloved Son’ (n. 1155).