The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer. – Pope Paul VI
This week, I have asked some friends from my parish to pray with me and my family at Masses in the Extraordinary Form.
We have gone to Mass and shared a meal after. And talked. About Holy Mass. About the Latin mass.
And about the interior of our churches, after a visit to an abbey and prayers at a chapel.
What is the place of mass in our lives? Is it really about us and the community?
Christ died for us on the cross. By His sacrifice , Christ "justified" us - by this I mean, He mde satisfaction to divine justice for our sins, the sins of mankind. He thus makes us "just" by reason of His own justice...He gives us a share in His life.
The mass is Christ's own sacrifice perpetuated on our altars.
Not the bloodied death, of course, but the sacrament which makes present that which happened on the cross.
This seems basic to Catholic theology but is something that bears repeating. For, we have all been present at masses that have become vehicles for humans and for community...giving out certificates, clapping, celebrating a life at funerals...and so we can sometimes forget what it is that mass is about.
We, my family and parish friends and I, have discussed this, after quiet, reverent masses in the Extraordinary Form. Masses where we are left with no doubt as to the central act of mass. The worship of Our Lord, the re-presentation of His sacrifice , on the altar.
However, just as in the work of our salvation God does nothing for us without our co-operation
(we have free will), so, too, it is in mass that we need to make effort, a certain effort, as we take part in the sacrfice of the mass.
Effort? But shouldn't mass just make us feel good, said a friend.
Yes, effort...all good things come with some effort...and with grace..but effort, firstly, by our presence at mass. If we believe, as the Church teaches, that the sacrifice of the mass is that of the sacrifice of the cross, then we as Christians should make an effort to be present at the mass. And we should have what has been called adherence...we adhere to the truth of the cross, we unite ourselves to the sacrifice and example of Our Lord...death to sin and life for God. So, at mass we unite our will, we engage interiorly.
But what about the community? Do we get that sense of community in mass in the Extraordinary Form.
As we pray, as we unite ourselves with Christ, so, too, we are united with all Christians. We pray with those around us; as the priest lifts his eyes upward, we are reminded of the saints who also pray with us and for us. It is thus a collective action, a community of saints.
But what about the homily? Wouldn't it be nice for Father to remind us to say hello to our neighbours?
Well, no. And yes. Nice to be reminded. But is this really what a homily is about? What does this teach us about the Faith, about the Gospels? And are we at mass to hear the words of men?
We are there not to hear human words but to hear the word of God. As we gather together as Christians, we gather to worship Our Lord, to receive Him in the Eucharist, to take part in the central act of the Church.
We hear the divine message, throughout the year; we receive this word in a context of praise and prayer; and in the Eucharistic sacrifice we seal, yet again, the eternal covenant...that in which Christ sacrificed Himself for the Father and gives Himself as food.
One friend asked again to go to Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Which, as my son Greg pointed out, demonstrates the truth of the belief that people are actually hungry for reverent masses, for their souls to be fed and that they will come to appreciate a reverent mass, a God centred liturgy, over a people and community driven liturgy.
Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints. -- St. Peter Julian Eymard