Why Go to Mass ?
Bishop Michael Evans
A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.
Christ the Priest
The Eucharist is the heart of the life of the priest, and it is in presiding at the Eucharist that the special ministry of priests is most evident (n. 1142). At the Eucharist the priest does not replace an absent of Christ; he is the sacramental sign and instrument of the presence of Christ as our Head and Shepherd:
At its head is Christ himself, the principle agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration (n. 1348).
This is important. When we come to Mass, the One who invites us, gathers us together, presides over us, teaches, nourishes and blesses us, is Christ himself. He does this in a special way through the visible priest, and it is obviously the ideal that the priest himself should be a good sign and instrument of Christ – a friendly and welcoming person, a good preacher, a true shepherd who knows and cares for his flock. No priest is perfect; every priest is a sinner and has his faults and weaknesses. If your priest does not match up to the ideal, and the celebration of the Mass is not as you might like, that is no good reason not to take part in that Mass. The risen Lord himself is there inviting us to be part of his community, to play our part in the celebration, to listen to his Word, to share in his saving sacrifice, to receive his gift of himself, to be sent forth into the world in his name. The sacrament of ordination guarantees that when a priest presides at the Eucharist, Christ invisibly presides through him. Everything we say about the Eucharist is possible only because Christ himself is there among us, powerfully at work.
The Mass of all Ages
The history of the Mass is a fascinating subject, and one we cannot pursue here. There have been all kinds of changes down through the centuries, not just in our own time, but the substance of the Eucharist has not changed (n. 1345-7, 1356). The Eucharist of the first Christians, the Eucharist described by St. Justin and St. Hippolytus in the second and third centuries, the Eucharist of the Middle Ages and that laid down after the Council of Trent, the Eucharist as renewed by Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council and celebrated today; each is the same Mass of all Ages, the same Eucharist of Jesus Christ.’
The Catechism points out that the Eucharist today has the same basic movement as the Easter meal which the risen Jesus ate with his disciples after his encounter with them on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13—35):
Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table ‘he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them’ (n. 1347).