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The Credo Pages

The Mass - some personal reflections

I wrote on the 'Why I am a Catholic' page: "It was the Mass that brought me, despite myself, to the Church; it is the Mass that keeps me in the Church." I wish to share some thoughts about the 'Mysterium Fidei', the "Mystery of Faith, that is, the ineffable gift of the Eucharist that the Catholic Church received from Christ, her Spouse, as a pledge of His immense love."*

This page is liable to change and grow, for I do not suppose that, even if I were granted a thousand lifetimes, I would exhaust the deep and rich mysteries of the Holy Mass.

* From the Encyclical Of Pope Paul VI on the Holy Eucharist, September 3, 1965


Note: while the quotations below are authoritative, the comments are my own personal ones.

"Taking some bread, and having given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you; do this as a memorial of me.' And likewise the cup after they had had supper , saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

[Luke 22: 19, 20]

"This is my body ... this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood." These are the words of Christ that had troubled me for many years and which drew me into the Catholic Church that day in November 1960 when I replied with the words of doubting Thomas: "My Lord and my God!" Then all my doubt drained away.

Adóro te devóte latens Déitas,
Quæ sub his figúris vere látitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum subjícit,
Quia, te contémplans totum déficit.
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Visus, tactus, gustus in te fállitur,
Sed audítu solo tuto créditur:
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Fílius,
Nil hoc verbo Veritátis vérius.
[St Thomas Aquinas]
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? That shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly, or there's nothing true.

[Translation by Gerard Manley Hopkins]

"The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice."

[Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1367]

This is what I have always understood since I met Christ in the Holy Mass in the autumn of 1960. I had, however, been brought up to believe that the Mass was a blasphemous ritual that purported to re-sacrifice Jesus. But meeting Jesus head-on, so to speak, in the very Mass itself, I was shaken to the core. Yet I believed and my eyes were open: I saw that this was no 're-sacrifice': I was present at the one, true and eternal sacrifice.


"But Christ, having become high priest of the good things to come, has passed through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, which is not made by hands, that is, it does not belong to this creation, and entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption."

[Hebrews, 9:11, 12]

In the Mass we are drawn up into Heaven, where Christ, our eternal high priest, has won for us eternal redemption and reconcialiation with his Father, by his once and for all sacrifice. His priestly ministry did not end on the cross on Golgotha; he has entered the heavenly sanctuary - not of this creation - and in his love for us, instituted the Eucharist whereby we may participate in this one eternal sacrifice, by which creation is reconciled with its creator.


"To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ."

[Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1370]

Yes, the Holy Mass transcends all space and time. I am united with Mary, with all the saints and with all the countless hosts of angels at the foot of the cross. Through Christ's love and sacrifice I am privileged to be able to unite myself with his body, the whole Church throughout all time and space, in this eternal offering of reconciliation.


" ... ejus efficiámur divinitátis consórtes, qui humanitátis nostræ fíeri dignátus est particeps."
" ... may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."

[from the Mass]

In Philipians 2, verse 6 and following, we read that Christ emptied himself, became a human and was humble even submitting to death like a common criminal. Through his life and death, Christ deified humanity and united it to his divine nature. By institituting the Mass, he has allowed us not only to be present at this death but to have a share in his divinity; in the Mass earth and heaven meet and we participate in the eternal life of the Trinity.


"Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccáta mundi. Beáti qui ad cenam Agni vocáti sunt."
"Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."

[from the Mass]

We are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. In Ephesians 5, St Paul teaches that the Church is Christ's bride. Towards the end of Revelation, in whose 22 chapters Christ is called the 'Lamb' twenty-eight times, we read: "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come'." The Church, the Bride of Christ, invites us to the wedding supper of the Lamb, who was sacrificed to redeem his Church. We become one with Christ and share in the life of the one, undivided eternal Triune God. I invite you to explore these ideas futher in Scott Hahn's book "The Lamb's Supper" (ISB 0-385-49659-1).


"And he [Christ] is the Beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he may come to hold first place in all things, because it was determined that in him all the fullness of creation should dwell, and through him all things - everything on earth and everything in the heavens - be reconciled to him, as he made peace through the blood of his cross."

[Colossians 1:18, 19]

I believe Christ's act of reconciliation, the one, single sacrifice of Christ is truly universal. We are told by Paul that God wants all people to be saved and reach the full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). But when I consider the whole, vast universe, I find it difficult to believe that our tiny planet revolving around a moderately sized sun in our galaxy is the only place where intelligent life exists. I believe that just as the Mass is one and the same as the sacrifice of the Cross, so Golgotha was the historic enactment on our planet of Christ's one universal act of cosmic redemption whereby the whole universe (the 'fullness of creation' - pan to pleroma) is, through the power of the Holy Spirit, reconciled to its creator. It is created in love and reconciled through love. The Mass, I believe, takes us up into heaven with all the angels and saints in the one great cosmic and universal act of love and reconcilation.

Per ipsum,
et cum ipso,
et in ipso,
est tibi Deo Patri omnipoténti,
in unitáte Spíritus Sancti,
omnis honor et glória
per ómnia sæcula sæculórum.
Through him,
and with him,
and in him,
O God almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honour is yours,
for ever and ever.
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