Why Go to Mass ?
Bishop Michael Evans
A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.
Forward to the Future
The Eucharist is also a pledge of the glory to come, ‘an anticipation of the heavenly glory’ (n. 1402) which anticipates the future wedding feast of the Lamb (n. 1329). This dimension of the Eucharist is important, and needs further reflection by each of us:
Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the Paschal mystery of Jesus until he comes, the pilgrim people of God advances, following the narrow way of the cross, towards the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table of the kingdom (n. 1344).
If the Eucharist today is both a memorial of Easter and an anticipation of the final Wedding Feast of heaven, then joy (in its deepest sense) should be a characteristic of every celebration (cf. n. 1616). It may not always seem so, but when we come to Mass ‘we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all’ (n. 1326). The ancient prayer O Sacrum Convivium is a good summary of the past, present and future dimensions of the Eucharist:
At this sacred banquet in which Christ is received,
the memory of his passion is renewed,
our lives are filled with grace,
and a promise of future glory is given to us.
Sacrament of Love
One key and recurring theme in the Catechism’s treatment of the Eucharist is love. This illustrates its fundamentally positive approach to the Eucharist and to the whole of our faith. Christ has given us the Eucharist as a ‘pledge of his love’ (n. 1337):
[He] wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us to the end. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love (n. 1380).
The Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of love’ which receives our own love (n. 1394) and which teaches us that all real love always involves listening, openness, sacrificial self-giving and sharing one’s life with another.
The prologue to the Catechism ends with these words from the Roman Catechism of 1566:
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love (n. 25).
This applies in a special way to the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. Once we understand the Eucharist in this way, it will be obvious why the Catholic Church emphasises so strongly that regular participation in the Eucharist is vital for maintaining and deepening our life together in Christ. It is there above all that the Risen Christ is present for us, drawing us ever deeper into the mystery of his saving love, ever deeper into the life of the Living God: ‘The Church knows that the Lord comes even now in the Eucharist, and that he is there in our midst’ (n. 1404).
NB: this is the final episode on Why Go to Mass by Bishop Michael Evans. From next weekend onwards, a new episode on Baptism – New Life in Christ by Sr. Eustochium Lee OSB will begin a new chapter.