We have discovered that Christ said that we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, and what is meant by calling Christ the Lamb of God. Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God took our sins upon Himself and died to save us from them, in our place. At the Last Supper, the night before He died, He left behind a memorial of Himself, the Holy Eucharist, which Catholics may receive every Sunday at Mass. It is in the Mass that Christ comes to us and makes it possible for men of all times to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood.
“Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” [CCC 1365]
“The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:
[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.” [CCC 1366]
Though the Mass has been celebrated for thousands of years, countless times, all over the world, Christ is not sacrificed again. His sacrifice is made present to us. The sacrifice on the cross and “the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.”[CCC 1367]
“The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church…Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.” [CCC 1368]
At Mass, when the priest pronounces the words of consecration over the bread and wine, and then elevates the consecrated Species which have become the Body and Blood of Christ we are taken back in time to Calvary; Christ’s sacrifice is presented to us and we are there at the foot of the cross with His Blessed Mother, the other women and the Beloved Disciple. When He is lifted up, He draws men of all times to Himself.
So why should we go to Mass? Because it is just something Catholics do? Because our parents want us to, and we don’t want to upset them? (If that is the only reason then one would do well to actually take some time to try and understand the Mass better; its history, its meaning, etc. Would we ever go to something every week which we didn’t understand or found boring? Of course not, and if you find the Mass boring then you obviously don’t properly understand it.)
By going to Mass every Sunday we are, are obeying the third commandment, and at the barest minimum avoiding committing a mortal sin. But do not by any means let this be the main reason.
Remember the words of Christ, “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (John 6; 53-55). What you are being offered here is eternal life! Surely even one who was doubtful would do well to investigate this claim, hoping that it were true.
If a friend told you that they knew of some new breakthrough in medicine which would allow you to live forever, and that they knew where you could get it, that they in fact had it themselves, would you ignore or dismiss their words and continue on with whatever you were doing? Of course not, you would eagerly ask questions, and try to receive this gift without delay. Well that is what I am doing, I know where you may receive eternal life, and I’m telling you where to go. In the Mass we are offered the Bread of Life, which if a man eats, he will live forever; for the Bread of Life is Christ, who is the resurrection and the life.
Jesus Christ, God made man, gave His life for each and every one of us, to save us from our sins, and show us the way to Heaven. The very purpose of our lives is to know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next. “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.” [CCC 1] In the Mass, Jesus, God Himself comes to us under the appearance of bread and wine, and in receiving this great gift of His very self we are united to Him not only in our souls, but also in our physical bodies. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6; 56)
When we realise how much Our Lord has done for us, how can we fail to give Him but one hour of every week, when He shed His own blood, and gave His very life that we might be happy with Him for all eternity? What would be our reaction if we saved the life of one whom we loved, risking our own on their behalf, and in return they would not even take the time to catch up with us for a short time once a week? Or what if we invited them to our house and they turned up late, ate the meal we had painstakingly prepared, and then said they had to be off and did not even stay to talk to us? This is only a poor illustration of how Our Lord is treated if one neglects to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays, or arrives late out of laziness, and leaves in a hurry before it has actually ended. One hour a week is really not that much to ask.
Mass Through the Ages
At the sacrifice of the Mass, we are not only at the foot of the cross with His Blessed Mother, the other women and the Beloved Disciples, we are there with the Apostles who fled when Jesus was arrested, we are there with St. Paul; St. Francis of Assisi and those of Middle Ages in their newly built, magnificent cathedrals. We are there with the English in the time of the Elizabethan persecutions when the Mass was illegal and brave priests like St. Edmund Campion risked their lives to bring Christ to the faithful; we are there with people of all nationalities, spread throughout the world, and throughout time, speaking the same prayers, participating in the same Divine Liturgy. Though outward appearances may be different, the sacrifice of the Mass, like Christ Himself is the same sacrifice yesterday, today and forever.
“As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:
On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.
The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.
[The Readings and the Gospel]
When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.
[Prayers of the Faithful]
When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
[Sign of Peace]
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.
He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.
When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen.’
[The Communion Rite]
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.” [CCC 1345]
“The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day. It displays two great parts that form a fundamental unity:
– the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with readings, homily and general intercessions;
– the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation of the bread and wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion.
The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Eucharist together form “one single act of worship”; the Eucharistic table set for us is the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of the Lord.” [CCC 1346]
“Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? 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.”[CCC 1347] “And their eyes were opened and they recognised Him; and He vanished out of their sight.” (Luke 24; 31). The disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus recognised Him in the breaking of the bread. Let it now be we who recognise Him in the Holy Eucharist, at Mass, where the King of the Universe comes to greet us in person. It was by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that death came into the world; it is by eating the Body of Christ, the Bread of Life, given for us upon the Tree of Life, the cross, that death is conquered and we may have eternal life.