Each Sunday, all around the globe, Catholics gather together to pray in a particular and distinctive way: to celebrate the Mass. Go anywhere you like in the world: The language may change, the clothes and sermon style may differ, but the Mass and its structure are always the same. Even Sunday to Sunday, the way Catholics pray together changes in part, but is largely the same actions. Why? What is the Mass and why do we do it?
The Mass: What is it?
The Mass is nothing less than the greatest prayer we have as a Church. Handed down to us largely unaltered from the time of Christ and the Apostles, the Mass is God’s gift to us: a way to worship Him as He would prefer.
This aspect of the Mass is key: Like all prayer, this most perfect prayer is not something which we do ourselves. Rather, it’s a gift from God and something that God does in and through us. This little fact is more important than most realize. We cannot worship God as we ought unless God gives us a way to do this. Why?
Think of it this way: God is all-perfect, all-good, all-loving, etc. He’s infinitely above us, even moreso than we human beings are above ants, for example. That means that there is an infinite gap between divinity and humanity, one that can only be bridged by an infinitely powerful and loving God. By ourselves, we have no more idea how to worship God as God would prefer than an ant would about preparing dinner for a human. Imagine an ant doing the best it could to fix you dinner: You’d end up with a pile of caterpillars and crickets at best. Hardly appetizing.
So, if God wants us to worship Him in a way that is satisfactory, He needs to bridge that gap and communicate that to us. We’re in luck, because that’s precisely what God does in the Mass. God loves us, and he comes to meet us where we’re at. Through His only begotten Son, Jesus, God has taught us actions and words to do in remembrance of Him, actions and words that really are pleasing to our Father in heaven. In a way, the prayer we receive through Jesus in the Mass is like a dad teaching his son to write, slowly but surely showing him how to make each letter, just so the boy can write his own note back to his mom and dad: “I love you.”
But wait, there’s more. God not only gives us words and actions to do ritualistically, He goes above and beyond: In the Mass God pours out his life and Spirit upon us and into us, animating our prayers and actions to a higher perfection than they could ever achieve on their own. This is true for each and every member of the congregation, but most particularly of the Priest.
Why is that? God is love and the most fitting return we can give Him in worship is an act of perfect love. Thus God gives His Spirit to us, and the Spirit lifts us up and prays within us so that those words and actions truly participate in the Words and Actions of Christ. In the Mass, we…
More to come soon!