The Mass as Holy Week

In a recent post, Ann, of Poetry, Prayer and Praise has a beautiful reflection on the Mass, a section of which I have copied and pasted here:

In so far as I have come to understand it; the Mass is both sacrament and sacrifice. When we attend Mass we gather around the table as the apostles did at the last supper, we assemble before the Lamb, we are there at the re-enactment of the sacrifice of His body and just as Mary was present at Calvary she too is present, by her Son’s side at every Mass.

In recent weeks at Mass, I have found myself thinking that not only are we present with Jesus and the apostles as at the Last Supper and also participating in a re-enactment of the sacrifice of His body, but truly with them from Passion Sunday right through to the Resurrection. From the Acclamation: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest” (as on Passion Sunday), through to The Lord’s Supper, and on to the Memorial Acclamation: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” (the Crucifixion and the Resurrection).

So, when we receive Holy Communion, it is Christ’s resurrected Body that we receive.

I would love some feedback on this, though I know commentors are few and far between in recent weeks! Am I correct in thinking this? Is this something I should always have known, maybe did always know, but it’s just really hitting me now?

17 thoughts on “The Mass as Holy Week

  1. It’s how I’ve felt for years, but not until after Vatican II. I resented Jesus’ sacrifice until then. (Obviously, I did not understand it.) Along with adult religious ed discussion series’ which each went on for nearly a year, as well as my own teaching of the faith to little kids, and weely Scripture study and just plain ol’ hanging around with priests and nuns and church secretaries and the old ladies who count money on Monday morns, I think one way that helped on understanding a LOT of things –most especially regarding the Mass– was being an RCIA sponsor. Year after year, we’d have someone (usually priests) come and explain the Mass, but Sr. Dot presented this once and she went all the way back to Jesus’ time –and before! It was awesome for all of us. We just blinked and looked at each other –how could we not have known??

    This is why the Mass is called the perfect prayer –it incorporates everything and Everyone. Indeed, I once resented the Lord’s sacrifice –my attitude was, “I didn’t ask You to do this and make me beholdin’ to You for all my life…and beyond.” *gasp–I know–what a wretch! But now.. the more I understand what Mass is and how it closes any distance between us and Heaven, all for love.. all for Love.. the more astounded I am at His sacrifice, and the more I realize how necesary I made it.. oh, the Love. Who loves us like this? No one. I’d beg Him not to even bear one thorn for me, yet He would not be able to listen to it! His love is bigger than anything we know, anything.

  2. We are, as I believe is defined by doctrine, present, participating in the Eternal Mass each time we worship at the Mass. I can only imagine then that those who have gone before us and are His holy saints must also be present. It’s staggering.

    I recall one Sunday when we declared the Great Amen, I had the strongest sense of saying Amen with the whole Church, not merely with those present in that particular parish. It was as real as real can be.

    Certainly Scott Hahn takes the view you have shared, that we are truly present, sharing in the Eternal Mass at every Mass, in his book of a few years ago called The Lamb’s Supper.

    And yes, it is the true body of Christ therefore it must also be the resurrection body of Christ. Staggering! What does this say then, if more need be said, on how we are to prepare ourselves for every Mass? It is evident from typical behaviour before, during and after Mass that perhaps the majority of us do not hold so high a view, so clear an understanding of the Holy Mass.

    God bless you and keep you….{thrive!}

  3. Hey, Owen — good to see you and I’ve been enjoying your artwork. I haven’t read any of Scott Hahn’s books, but the Mass one might be well worth my effort.

    When one thinks of Jesus’ love not just for us but His love for the Father, which we’ve been drawn into with His prayer and are drawn into in every Mass, it’s enough to put tears in one’s eyes, especially if we know ourselves and how mankind can be, is, and perhaps shall be. He knows how the Father desired us, and via their Love, the Holy Spirit, we are restored in every Mass through that Self-same sacrifice. It is because of this that yesterday I asked for a greater understanding of the Holy Spirit as Third Person of the Trinity – my grasp on Him is so bare bones, so only-catechetical, I thus feel I have been slighting Him with my mind and heart which isn’t fair (tho’ I suppose if one is nuts about the Father and the Son, the Paraclete receives one’s love as well). I’d recently been looking up prayers to Him here in my books, and yet such Holy fruit can only come from God — and one can only ask. I expect this prayer to be answered as well.

    I have seen many outward behaviours at Mass — the praying hands/straight back/mea culpa strike reverence and altar rail of long ago (and initial genuflection after Vatican II), and today’s assembly line feeder Communion line (perhaps because of many more people nowadays in fewer churches), and certainly there are dismaying signs. Yet I know from my own personal history that outward demeanor does not necessarily a holy communicant make. We worship with the heart, however it appears on the outside. It may have felt holier to us to receive Him on the tongue, kneeling, but if one thinks about it, both Mary and Joseph received Jesus’ flesh and blood in their hands initially, held Him close, and shared Him with those around them. It is very hard to know we are present at Calvary no less than was Mary Magdalen and St. John and the Centurion etc., and tho’ Jesus’ offering of our redemption on the Cross of the Great Sacrifice was for the Father, Jesus the High Priest was facing us, those whom He was rescuing, so I also don’t mind if the altar/priest faces us now. Mass is not about orthodox reverence and presence of (also sinful) clergy. The Lamb was slain for us, and each time His flesh and His blood is raised, we are indeed there before Him with Mary His Mother and with all who were there, with all who are there globally (in every Mass, and in every human suffering and dying), and with all who have gone before, be they in Heaven or in Purgatory. It is with a real wrenching of heart and soul that we tear ourselves away from Mass when we are sent, isn’t it?

  4. And because Jesus ultimately underlined it three times after He rose, we are also present with the devastated and crying Simon Peter who was MIA from Golgotha on that awful day, “Lord, you know that I love You!” and with all the others who had scattered in their terror and confusion. Their outward demeanor would suggest they had little love for Him. We now know that isn’t true –but what did folks around them think back then? We are also present with the disciples at Emmaus whose hearts were burning, and with John who shouted from the boat, “It is the Lord!” And with Thomas as he puts his fingers into nail prints and hand into His side, “My Lord and my God!”

    I was thinking, G, about how Mary almost immediately brought Jesus to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, and that (perhaps after Ann and Joachim) Elizabeth not only received Jesus in her hands (via a hug of Mary, His ark), but that it’s even more understandable thus that we go to Jesus through Mary. Again, this is why I don’t mind if the Tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament is off to the side; our ever-accessible Tabernacle is already our own Mother, thanks to His gift of us to Her at Golgotha, and thanks to her gift of an unlimited Yes to God via the archangel, so that whenever we pray “the Lord is with thee” it is always in the present tense. If we happen to be some donkey that cannot go to Jesus through Mary, we certainly can go to Mary through Jesus as you stated long ago at your Consecrated to Mary blog. If one thinks about it, Mary carried the Sacrifice within her, for Jesus was always Jesus.. so she carried the whole Mass within her as well.

  5. Hi Gabrielle, thanks for the link. It’s interesting to read what C and Owen and yourself are saying. The greater part of it remains mystery, we walk by faith not sight.

  6. Amen, Ann, yet (although I have never had an original thought except perhaps in sinning) I can’t help but get into the Personal aspect of it all… because our eternal saving was and is and ever shall be Personal, customized — and that is something I went too long without knowing and that unknowledge impacted so heavily upon my life. How does one live without knowing it was all for Love? On the other hand, I was reading what a priest said of Mass recently, about how it’s communal worship, it’s not just “I” at Mass and how we must never forget that — and from that and from what Lee (View from the Choir) spoke of today, I still see the wisdom of taking the meat and leaving the bones, but most of all, I see the humility required in sharing the sacrament of Mass. I read a Jesuit once on the communal aspect of all the sacraments — I’ll explain it badly, but he said that it’s not just the individual who receives grace in a Sacrament, but the whole Church as well. Again I wondered how I could’ve gone so long without knowing or sensing that. By the way, Ann, all your posts are powerful food for thought–all of you, actually, form part of the fabric of a holy garment.

  7. Owen, thanks for confirming that my recent thinking (including about receiving the resurrected Christ) is shared by others; certainly I’ll be able to look into it more now and find what others have written about it. I did read Scott Hahn’s “The Fourth Cup”, which was incredible, but I will definitely get “The Lamb’s Supper” out of our church library now. Thank you! I remember you describing your mystical experience around the Great Amen on your blog, and I have thought of it often since. I don’t know if I ever posted about it here, but I believe it was St. Gertrude who said that at every Great Amen at every Mass around the world, Jesus holds His own Sacred Heart in His hands, and offers it to the Father. I think about that at every Mass now.

    Carol, wow – your comments are really a “celebration” of the Mass! Thanks also for confirming what I was writing about – and then some! I think it’s beautiful that, if we are sincere in our desire, the mystery of the Mass becomes fuller and fuller to us, and is revealed more and more. I understand too your desire to become more intimate with the Holy Spirit and to recognize Him and come to know Him more truly as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. I was experiencing that myself not long ago, when I posted all those videos/music/prayers re the Holy Spirit novena. Generally when I do something prolonged like that, it’s because I’m working at it on my own journey! I share your views as well, about the externals, etc., at the actual Mass – all that truly matters is that there is love, reverence, and a desire for union, as far as I’m concerned. Re Mary, “so she carried the whole Mass within her as well” – what a beautiful thought! And when she came to Elizabeth, not only did she bring Jesus, but as Luke’s Gospel tells us, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit! Re the Mass as both personal and communal, and the graces received in the Sacraments as both personal and for the Church, that sounds like a really, really interesting area of study/reflection, but one that I haven’t delved into at all. I was planning on hugely curtailing my reading this fall/winter…but I’m so easily intrigued…

    Ann, thanks for that beautiful post that I referred to here; I’m enjoying your poems and photos too, but really need to visit more often than I have been of late – I truly miss your voice of common-sense and compassion around the blogosphere!

  8. Well, I cannot recall the book title nor its Jesuit author’s name, and I’ll check my local library — I think I simply bumped into it there (don’t we all just go to the Catholic shelves and feast our eyes with a burning heart?), but what really blew me away about it was that this stuff seemed basic knowledge — yet another *basic knowledge* I’d never heard a word about! I’m pretty sure one of its subtitles was “we are saved in community”. After an hour’s Googling, no such book sprang forth, but there was an abundance of sacramental grace books that whetted my eyeballs, one not least of which is by one of your newly favorite authors, Adrienne von Speyr, “The word becomes flesh: Meditations on John 1-5.” It is as tempting as a whole box of dark chocolate covered raspberry creams. Seriously. I will not be able to pass it by.

  9. I’m afraid I got too far away from your initial topic theme “Mass as Holy Week,” because there is indeed a genuine excitement for Mass. I once said it aloud in RCIA, “Aw, do we have to go home now? Can’t we all just come and live here?” If it was like that even in ’83 over mere RCIA, you can imagine what Mass itself is like for me these days; the older I get, the more I realize that the Holy Mass is our Heaven on earth. It’s All there. And it’s too brief. How can people do without Mass? That’s sorta like opting for artificial legs over one’s own strong, dependable ones. I don’t get it.

  10. Carol, I am delving into the parts of the Mass more deeply now, reading both in the Catechism and elsewhere, and am loving it. Soooooo much more to learn….

    Owen, don’t know if I’ll be able to find time to read it this fall, but as soon as I do, would love to discuss it!

  11. HI Gabrielle,
    The topic you’ve brought up is an exciting one for me. It is true that the Eucharist is the Resurrected Christ. It’s also true that – and this is very important for adorers, too – all of the mysteries of Jesus’ Life are present in the Eucharist and at the Mass. St. Peter Julian Eymard discusses this mystery in some of his writings. So, it is true, as you’ve noticed, that everything from the Passion through the Resurrection is present. But it’s also true that every mystery is present. Every mystery of the Rosary is present. The whole of Scripture is present for contemplation. And in Eucharistic Adoration, that moment of consecration is suspended in time, if you will, so that the soul may contemplate all the msyteries of Christ’s Life. St. Eymard in fact notes that the person *must* contemplate the different mysteries in contemplation, so as not to become “Stupid in prayer”, as he says.
    This all comes from the truth that the crucifixion and resurrection casts a certain light on all of Christ’s Life. All His Life is fundamentally understood through this lens, as it is the foundation of revealing God to us. The Greek word He uses when saying, “It is finished” point to the whole of His Life.
    LIkewise, there are many beautiful elements of Scipture that bind the Crucifixion and Resurrection together, especially the Psalms, but also in the Gospel of John (I’m going by memory), the Greek words for dead and risen are juxtaposed. Again, there is the notion of His whole Life being characterized by this intimacy between death and resurrection, which is so often expressed as the “hallmark” of God’s servant in the Psalms.
    A beautiful study can be found in the Resurrection accounts in Scripture, especially in regards to the Eucharist (the road to Emmaus, for example.)

    There is a great little document on the website of Roy Shoeman, who is the author of Salvation Is From The Jews, regarding a Jewish-Christian passover supper. It explains much and relates is to the Mass:
    http://www.salvationisfromthejews.com/HC.pdf
    Of special interest to me is the Afikomen. At one point in the meal, three Matzos are placed on a tray. The middle one is removed and broken in two, and one half is wrapped and hidden and later redeemed for a reward (think Christ’s crucified body being buried). This piece of bread is called the Afikomen, meaning “that which is to come”. Then, after the meal, the children would go looking for it. Whoever found it brought it to the head of the family. Then, he opened the wrapping, broke it, and gave it to the others present.
    This is very deep and I have to run now, but I’ll post again, Gabrielle,

    God bless!
    Jerome

  12. Hi Jerome; I’ve read your comment three times now, but this is so interesting to me that I think I’ll actually have to take a few notes tomorrow and ponder some of the points you’ve made more closely. Thank you for sharing all this; if you ever decide to design an online course on any subject, and if it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, I’ll sign up! 🙂

  13. Thanks Gabrielle for your always kind words. If an online course ever happens, I’ll be sure to let you know!

    There is a private inspiration that I’ll share, in following up with the Afikomen. This, again, is my own inspiration – I believe that it’s very possible that it’s true, but of course, it’s a private interpretation. But I will share it because I think it edifies in devotion to the Mass.

    In the beloved disciple’s Gospel, there are two resurrection scenes I’m thinking of. Remember when Peter and John run to the tomb. Part of the reason that John comes to see and believe is because – I believe – they ran for the Afikomen in the same way at the Last Supper, the first Mass! Someone said, it’s over there, they ran for it, John got there first but deferred to Peter, etc. I believe that in part, John’s sight and belief in the Resurrected Lord is connected to his relating the post-resurrection experiences to the events at the first Mass!

    And then, later on, while fishing, the Lord calls out “Children, have you caught anything?” No. Try the other side of the boat. Then they caught the huge draft. John recognized the Lord then. Why? I believe it’s because that same course of events happened with the Afikomen at the first Mass! As the “children” searched for it, the Lord asked, children have you found it? No. Try over here. They checked (with Peter and John leading) and found it. Again, John is recognizing the Risen Christ by relating his experiences to the first Mass!

    That’s the lesson I’m drawing out of this (again private) inspiration, that we find the Risen Christ in our lives by relating our life events to the Mass! It makes it so simple.

  14. Thank you, Jerome. Your thought in the last paragraph, “we find the Risen Christ in our lives by relating our life events to the Mass” strikes me as a very important and efficacious practice, and I can honestly say that it’s one I’ve never thought of before. I’ve certainly tried to relate life events to Scripture as a whole and to the life of Christ, but not directly to the Mass, but now that we’ve been discussing how the Mass actually contains everything, I will try to do this as well.

    I appreciate your sharing what you’ve gained from Roy Shoeman’s “Salvation is from the Jews”, and your private interpretations as well. This is a book that one of my pastors strongly recommended several years ago, but I haven’t read it yet; it and Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper” recommended by Owen will be on my winter reading list. But I’ve just now printed out your comments so I can read them quietly during the week.

    I wanted to share something with you (and perhaps other readers as well) – a couple of years ago on one of her blogs, Carol posted about something that Jean Scot Erigene said. It struck me as quite important, and so I jotted down a note about it. I’m paraphrasing I think, but Erigene said that John ran faster to the tomb than Peter (and I assume this is in a metaphorical sense, not because he was possibly younger and in better shape than Peter :)) because of the power of contemplation to penetrate the mysteries of the Divine, the power of contemplation being more purified than that of action.

  15. Hi Gabrielle,

    Thanks for this thought as well. Yes, I was thinking that the relationship between Peter and John relects the relationship between the will and the intellect.

    The intellect and will have a special relationship. The will leads the intellect in that the will decides what will be placed before the intellect to consider. Look at this image, read this book, listen to these words, etc. Avoid this or that.

    But here’s the catch for the will: the intellect is bound to whatever truth it is exposed to. And not only that, when the intellect is bound to something, the will must follow into action.

    So, the intellect and will are inter-dependent upon one another, for the good of the whole.

    So, a good will desires that the intellect find the truth, so that the intellect can be bound to it, and so that it (the will) can follow the truth that the intellect has identified.

    A bad will does not want to follow the truth, and so keeps the intellect from exposure to the truth, for fear that it will be forced to obey it. And even when the intellect does find the truth, the bad will denies its very nature to follow. This is sin.

    The resurrection accounts of Peter and John in John’s Gospel correspond to this description of a good will, I think. Remember, John spoke in the boat, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumped out of the boat to swim to shore. Clearly, Peter is glad that John has found and identified the Lord, and Peter acts immediately on it. And on the way to the tomb, it is as though Peter [the will] decided to go to the tomb, the Divine mystery; and so John [the intellect] responds and freely leads the way (Peter didn’t call him back and try to control what he saw, though he could have.) But the intellect will not actually *enter* the Divine mystery until the will decides to. After the will decides to enter the mystery, it is again the intellect that leads in seeing.

    This gets to the insights of Mr. Erigene, that it is contemplation only that comprehends the mysteries and must precede action. In a sense, we must begin with an action of directing contemplation to a place, resolving in trust that we will act on what contemplation reveals. This is great prayer!

    You know, as I read it, I think that this discussion could go on for a really, really long time. After your next comment, I probably won’t be commenting again, but it certainly has been insightful and a good reminder for me.

  16. I always picture Jesus and John sharing a silent smile over one or another of Jesus’ wry observations that often went straight over the Pharisees’ heads. There had to be smiles even after He left His mom’s house, you know? And I can (too) well imagine Peter not knowing what to do in a lot of instances regarding crowds, but I think John kept his eyes on Jesus, knowing that all of it was under the authority of His love, ultimately.

    I’ve often thought that we ended up with Holy Mass and the Divine Liturgy because of Peter and John, but I never thought of historical people as types of will and intellect, Jerome.. I’ll be thinking on that. Interesting!

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