What Is The Mass?

Fr Ev farewell MassCardinal Sarah’s speech to traditionalists yet lives in a thread here at CMAA’s forum. In the comments there, I was intrigued by a manifesto of questions ending with this one:

How many have ever heard that the Mass is first and foremost, a propitiatory sacrifice for sin?

Traditional Catholic language, I noted. But is it right? Orthodox? The Baltimore Catechism offers a differently worded view:

Q. 917. What is the Mass?

A. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ.

More traditional language. No “first and foremost.” The modern catechism begins an exploration of liturgy at number 1066. It also cites Vatican II with this extended “first” description of liturgy:

The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It involves the presentation of (human)sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members. From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree. (SC 7)

Perhaps many Catholics have not heard this either. This introductory section of PArt Two mentions “Paschal Mystery,” and I’m not sure all Catholics are familiar with that either.

A bit later in the Catechism, as the bishops get into a presentation on the Eucharist, all of 1323 is a citation from Vatican II’s Liturgy Constitution:

“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'” (47)

Can these longer quotes be reduced to accurate one-liners? I don’t think so. But I would propose that the experience of millions of ordinary churchgoing Catholics aligns with an encounter with the Lord Jesus. My review of the “in brief” section 1110-1112 found this gem:

The mission of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy of the Church is to prepare the assembly to encounter Christ; to recall and manifest Christ to the faith of the assembly; to make the saving work of Christ present and active by his transforming power; and to make the gift of communion bear fruit in the Church.

When New Testament figures encountered Jesus, they frequently confessed being sinners, being unworthy, and the like. Simon the fisherman, the centurion, Saul on the road to Damascus. If a recognition of sin is sought, it would seem that encounter with Christ is essential. Other human beings, even priests, cannot demand it. They can only facilitate it. That is the connection between sin, sacrifice, and the Mass: aiming toward that holy encounter.

And most of those encounters continue to happen with the modern Roman Rite, celebrated with an unobstructed view of the altar, sometimes by priests who show off a bit too much, and also by a gathering of unworthy sinners. Things never change, right? Or not?

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Amoris Laetitia 106: John Paul II on Forgiveness

amoris laetitia memeToday, a long citation from St John Paul II on forgiveness:

106. When we have been offended or let down, forgiveness is possible and desirable, but no one can say that it is easy. The truth is that “family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise the many and varied forms of division in family life”.(Familiaris Consortio 21)

I think it is true that all families suffer these from time to time. The difference for the fruitful family is that when these arise they are dealt with more or less quickly before they become major issues. For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 105: Love Forgives

amoris laetitia memeThe Holy Father’s advice on harmony in AL 104 seems about right for the healthy family, people living together who are generally on functional terms. But we are imperfect and mortal. Therefore, sometimes, things get a little more out of hand. So forgiveness comes into play:

105. Once we allow ill will to take root in our hearts, it leads to deep resentment. The phrase ou logízetai to kakón means that love “takes no account of evil”; “it is not resentful”. The opposite of resentment is forgiveness, which is rooted in a positive attitude that seeks to understand other people’s weaknesses and to excuse them. As Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

Perhaps this analysis sounds familiar for our culture, if not our more dysfunctional families:

Yet we keep looking for more and more faults, imagining greater evils, presuming all kinds of bad intentions, and so resentment grows and deepens. Thus, every mistake or lapse on the part of a spouse can harm the bond of love and the stability of the family. Something is wrong when we see every problem as equally serious; in this way, we risk being unduly harsh with the failings of others. The just desire to see our rights respected turns into a thirst for vengeance rather than a reasoned defense of our dignity.

The remarkable recent instances of Blacks and police coming together might be examples of that much-needed gesture of good will or harmony. May we see more of that in our families and in our nations.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 104: Making Peace

amoris laetitia memeFour Scripture passages help Pope Francis launch into some advice:

104. The Gospel tells us to look to the log in our own eye (cf. Mt 7:5). Christians cannot ignore the persistent admonition of God’s word not to nurture anger: “Do not be overcome by evil” (Rm 12:21). “Let us not grow weary in doing good” (Gal 6:9). It is one thing to sense a sudden surge of hostility and another to give into it, letting it take root in our hearts: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family. “And how am I going to make peace? By getting down on my knees? No! Just by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored. Just a little caress, no words are necessary. But do not let the day end without making peace in your family”.(Catechesis (13 May 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 14 May 2015, p. 8)

Making peace doesn’t mean humiliation. Loved ones notice those small things. We turn to how to deal with the offenses dealt to us:

Our first reaction when we are annoyed should be one of heartfelt blessing, asking God to bless, free and heal that person. “On the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Pet 3:9). If we must fight evil, so be it; but we must always say “no” to violence in the home.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 103: Love Is Not Irritable Or Resentful

amoris laetitia memeA difficult one for many of us: how do we not cultivate that inner tickle to hold on to little pieces of irritation?

If the first word of Paul’s hymn spoke of the need for a patience that does not immediately react harshly to the weaknesses and faults of others, the word he uses next – paroxýnetai – has to do more with an interior indignation provoked by something from without. It refers to a violent reaction within, a hidden irritation that sets us on edge where others are concerned, as if they were troublesome or threatening and thus to be avoided. To nurture such interior hostility helps no one. It only causes hurt and alienation. Indignation is only healthy when it makes us react to a grave injustice; when it permeates our attitude towards others it is harmful.

I might add that indignation is more helpful when our reaction is to an injustice suffered by another. For oneself, there is discernment on how to deal with wrongs suffered. The path is more sure when someone else has suffered.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 102: Thomas Aquinas and Generosity

amoris laetitia memeThomas Aquinas launches this paragraph into three citations of Jesus that describe the extravagance of a generous love:

102. Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that “it is more proper to charity to desire to love than to desire to be loved”;(Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 27, art. 1, ad 2) indeed, “mothers, who are those who love the most, seek to love more than to be loved”.(Ibid., q. 27, art. 1)Consequently, love can transcend and overflow the demands of justice, “expecting nothing in return” (Lk 6:35), and the greatest of loves can lead to “laying down one’s life” for another (cf. Jn 15:13). Can such generosity, which enables us to give freely and fully, really be possible? Yes, because it is demanded by the Gospel: “You received without pay, give without pay” (Mt 10:8).

Demanded by the Gospel, it may be, but we are still human beings troubled by some aspects of this, especially when it touches on our own sense of fair play. For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 101: Love Is Generous

amoris laetitia memeSaint Paul says love is generous. The “same idea” cited in this passage is a prelude to the Kensosis Canticle of Philippians 2:6-11. If you want a sidebar, check Saint John Paul’s catechesis on it here. Then come back and read:

101. We have repeatedly said that to love another we must first love ourselves. Paul’s hymn to love, however, states that love “does not seek its own interest”, nor “seek what is its own”. This same idea is expressed in another text: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). The Bible makes it clear that generously serving others is far more noble than loving ourselves. Loving ourselves is only important as a psychological prerequisite for being able to love others: “If a man is mean to himself, to whom will he be generous? No one is meaner than the man who is grudging to himself” (Sir 14:5-6).


For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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