Pillar No.3: The Mass

Catholics worship God in a variety of ways, but the chief act of corporate or communal worship is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Eastern churches, Catholic and Orthodox, this is known as the Divine Liturgy; in the West, it is known as the Mass, an English word derived from the Latin text of the priest’s dismissal of the congregation at the end of the liturgy (“Ite, missa est.”).

Mass includes the Holy Eucharist, one of the seven Sacraments in the Catholic religion. The Eucharist is bread and wine that God transforms into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ during the Mass. For devout Catholics, the sacraments are important because they hold special religious meaning. Catechism, the church doctrine, expresses the importance of attending Mass and receiving the sacraments. Catholics also believe in the Ten Commandments, tenets from God that include a rule to keep the Sabbath day (Sunday) holy. Mass is a way to keep the Sabbath day holy since it includes the Eucharist. Throughout the centuries, the liturgy of the Church has taken a variety of regional and historical forms, but one thing has remained constant: The Mass has always been the central form of Catholic worship.

As far back as the Acts of the Apostles and Saint Paul’s epistles, we find descriptions of the Christian community gathering to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. In the catacombs in Rome, the tombs of martyrs were used as altars for the celebration of the earliest forms of the Mass, making the tie between the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, its re-presentation in the Mass, and the strengthening of the faith of Christians explicit.

Catholics gather in church to attend Mass because worshiping together as a group strengthens and professes their faith as Christians. As with any regularly scheduled event, attendance becomes routinized. Some Catholics go to Mass every day or every Sunday while others only go occasionally or on special holidays. Chances are that if a Catholic regularly attends Mass, he or she thinks the Mass is important. The opportunity to partake in the sacrament of Eucharist motivates Catholics to attend Mass.

The Mass represents the Last Supper, when Jesus broke bread and drank wine with His disciples. According to the Bible, Jesus instructed His disciples to eat the bread and drink the wine in order to remember Him. Catholics are also disciples of Jesus, so it is important for them to commemorate the Last Supper. Belief is the bottom line when it comes to why Mass is important to Catholics. People choose to practice Catholicism because they believe in the validity of the religion and its tenets. They believe the Mass is important and they practice the religion regularly to strengthen and maintain their beliefs. Mass isn’t important to all Catholics, but it is important to the ones who participate and attend regularly.

When we go to Mass we tell the world around us who we are and what we represent. Simply by going to Mass makes us all evangelists to our family, friends, neighbours and the community in which we live. Jesus says very clearly in His Gospels that anyone who stands up for Him before the world, He will stand up for us before God the Father . In the light of our life in eternity, what more could anyone ask, for so little effort on our part.

Attendance at Mass is not just simply joining in a social or community action taking place in a certain type of building. We are actually and formally worshiping God in a community setting. At this time we can thank Him for His many graces and favours to us over the past week and beg His indulgence for needs that are coming in our own lives and the lives of our family and community. Most of all, though, we can acknowledge our absolute dependence on Him. It is only by His grace and mercy that we get to draw our next breath, let alone anything else in our lives.

At Mass God is able to talk to us in a way that we will not find anywhere else. Through the prayers of the Mass itself, the scripture readings that change each day, and the sermon on Sundays, God is able to help, encourage and instruct us in a unique and personal way. Many times I have come away from Mass with a particular thought or phrase going through my mind, which usually and not surprisingly applies to something that is going on in my life at that time.

Click HERE for an explanation of Mass.


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