What Is Mass Really About?


There have been various sources of confusion and consternation when it comes to the Holy Eucharist lately. Some of them I’ve written about here in my column. There’s the general concern with the low percentage of Catholics who believe that Jesus is really present in this great sacrament. There was a debate over whether or not to identify certain politicians as those who should not be admitted to Holy Communion. In the midst of it all, Pope Francis changed the church’s policy on how and when the Extraordinary Form (sometimes known as the pre-Vatican II Mass) can be used. As a parish that isn’t using that form of the Mass, it may not seem that important to those in our pews. Still, it seems odd to many that at a time when we are trying to revive belief and reverence for the Holy Eucharist, there would be additional restrictions on a form of the Mass that has a lot of outward reverence and ceremony.

All of this begs the question: what is the Mass really about? What are we doing when we gather for it?  I would like to suggest that we take a far too narrow view much of the time, even when we focus on the amazing reality of receiving Jesus Himself. When it comes down to it, the Mass is about being caught up in the worship of God offered by Jesus, in a way that defies the limits of time and space.

Our salvation consists in the fact that Jesus offered to God the worship that we humans were supposed to offer, but since Adam and Eve have failed to do so. Jesus’s worship came to its culmination in the New Covenant He established at the Last Supper and through His death on the cross. Here’s the kicker: since Jesus is God, these events exist both in time and out of time. In other words, they happened at a specific moment on a particular day 2,000-ish years ago. But they also happen eternally, outside of the constraints of time and space. So, when we are at Mass, we’re not simply re-enacting or recalling those events. We are participating in them; we are present to them. Ordinary events are like your porch light; it only illuminates and is present to a specific place. The Mass is like the sun, which—because it is not earthbound—sheds its light everywhere and at all times.

In other words, because Jesus is truly present to us, we are truly present at these events of our salvation!  Thus by the ordinary things we do in our day-to-day lives, we are able to faithfully stand by Him as Mary and St. John did, or to deny, betray, or leave Him as the others did. May the Mass be for us centered around the worship of God, in union with Christ Jesus.

Fr. Joah Ellis