We Can Enter
the Holy Mass
Fourth Article of a Series
Writing a series of articles on the topic of the New Roman Missal which will be inaugurated throughout the world on the first Sunday of Advent is an exercise in ‘readiness’. I am preparing myself for the transition in an attempt to move to a deeper place; to unite myself more completely with Holy Mass, often described as the ”source and summit” of our faith. These thoughts are being shared here as a means of assisting others to do the same. We need assistance because change is rarely fun and there has been a great deal of rhetoric in circulation about this very significant event. The call is to go beyond the rhetoric and re-enter the Mystery.
Our understanding of the Mass, consisting mainly of a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist, can be expanded by using the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-34) as a metaphorical lens providing greater clarity. What happens at Mass can be described as an ‘Emmaus process’.
In that very human story we find two disciples (two men or perhaps a man and a woman) walking away from
, away from the great suffering and tragedy of the death of their Master. In their conversation they are trying to make sense of it all – the pain, the futility, the disappointment, the confusion and fear for their very lives. Along comes an eavesdropping stranger who, joining them in stride, enters their conversation and proceeds to cite scripture, illustrating to them how the death of the Messiah had been foretold by the Prophets and had now been fulfilled in their sight. His presentation must have been mesmerizing because we are told they had no desire to end the conversation and invited the stranger to eat with them. And Luke records: “…He took the bread, pronounced a blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” Jerusalem
The story has two movements that mirror the movements of the Mass; first, the Mystery is unveiled; it is revealed through the words of Scripture. And second, the person who is the very Mystery is recognized as being present their company. In the Liturgy of the Word, the readings from Scripture that we hear at the beginning of Mass, the mysteries of our faith and their meaning are revealed and expanded upon. They speak to our heads and hearts and can be further magnified by a well-prepared and delivered homily. Then we move into the Liturgy of the Eucharist in which the mysteries of our faith as embodied in the person of Jesus Christ are made present on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine. And we know Him in the breaking of the breaking of the bread.
Not unlike the troubled travelers on the way to Emmaus, we arrive at church for our Sunday worship awhirl in a myriad of emotions, pressures and concerns. We come, consciously or unconsciously, looking for clarity, solace, affirmation. We may also come with a heart full of joy and thanksgiving looking for an opportunity to offer praise to our benevolent God. At the end of Luke’s story the disciples ask each other, “Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Our desire must carry us beyond the issues of the language of Mass, the quality of the presider, the babies who may or may not be crying around us or the annoyance of last minute arrivals. At the end of Mass, inspite of whatever tries to get in the way, we all want to leave with burning hearts, our faith fanned into flame once more for the love of God, our constant companion on the way.