New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What is the mass and consequently what is not the mass.

The other day after the mass, someone very dear to me called the mass a communal celebration.

This whole post is to specify what the mass is becasue since Vatican II there has been an infiltration of protestant ideology about how and what the mass should be.

The Council of Trent taught that the Mass is the same as Calvary, "only the manner of offering being changed" from bloody to unbloody. Similarly Vatican II (On the Liturgy #10) said that the Mass is the renewal of the new covenant. Thus the mass is first and foremost a Sacrifice.

A sacrifice as Catholics understand it (in contrast to some pagan concepts) has two elements: the outward sign and the interior dispositions.

At the Last Supper, the outward sign was the seeming separation of body and blood, with the two species. This was a dramatized way of saying to the Father: "I know the command you have given me, I am to die tomorrow. Very good, I turn myself over to death - expressed by the seeming separation - I accept, I obey." On the next day He did as He pledged, but then the outward sign was the physical separation of body and blood, while the interior remained the same. In the Mass, by the agency of a human priest who acts "in the person of Christ" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium # 10) Christ continues and repeats His offering. The external sign is multiplied as many times as there are Masses. But the interior disposition of Christ is not multiplied, it is continued from that with which He died. For death makes permanent the attitude of will with which one leaves this world.



At the Last Supper Christ ordered, "Do this in memory of me". Since we were not there, Christ wants us to join our dispositions to His. The great Liturgy Encyclical of Pius XII, Mediator Dei, explains well that the people can be said to exercise their royal priesthood, to offer the Mass with the priest: first, "from the fact that the priest at the altar in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, does so in the person of Christ," whose members they are.

Secondly the people can be said to offer sacrifice since: "The people join their hearts in praise, petition, expiation and thanksgiving with the prayers or intention of the priest, in fact, of the High Priest Himself, so that in the one and same of offering of the Victim... they may be presented to God the Father "(Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 39:556). Vatican II explains (LG # 10) that this is what it means for them to "offer spiritual sacrifices".

These spiritual sacrifices consist of their obedience to the will of the Father, already carried out, and planned for the future (Cf. LG #34). This includes their works, their bearing the troubles of life, their prayers, their apostolic efforts, their living out the duties of their state in life, even their relaxation of body and mind if all these things are done as part of the Father's plan, to enable them to serve Him better. Jesus Himself spent about 30 out of 33 years in family life, to show how greatly the Father values this if done precisely because it part of His plan.

It would be good to take a moment before each Mass to see what one has to join with the obedience of Christ, soon to be offered on the altar.It is good to recall too that His Mother Mary shared in this sacrifice by her obedience (cf. our comments on the Third Article of the Creed) on Calvary, and now, as John Paul II taught (Angelus Homily of Feb. 12, 1984) she "is at every altar" because "she was present at the original sacrifice", sharing in it, and now from heaven, she still joins her will to His, as He offers the flesh and blood He received from her.

The principal priest in every Mass is Jesus Christ, who offers to His heavenly Father, through the ministry of His ordained priest, His body and blood which were sacrificed on the cross. The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross. It is now in the New Law, the sacrifice that is acceptable to God.

As we can clearly see from this the Mass is not a communal celebration it is a one to one sacrifice involving Christ who is the Priest and sacrifice, the preist who acts in the person of Christ (In persona Christi) and if present the people who also offer spiritual sacrifices.

A mass can be offered alone by the priest without any people present at all.

The priest is not the chief performer as the mass is not a performance. And the people are definitely not the most important factor for a mass to take place.


For more about what the mass is please click here

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