What Holds the Mass Together

From the first days of the Church following the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, believers gathered for Mass daily. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” Acts 2:42 (NAB)

This fourfold pattern of worship continues to the present day. In each Mass, believers gather to listen to the writings of the Apostles in the gospels and their epistles. We come together in fellowship: greeting one another, discovering needs for assistance and prayer, and sharing our lives with one another. We celebrate the breaking of the bread, that is, the Eucharistic Feast. And, we pray for one another.

Over the last 2,000 years, the celebration has become more organized. We call this organization of worship liturgy. However, liturgy is not something cold and detached. Liturgy is an act of worship. The Greek word, liturgia, is translated “the prayers” in the verse quoted above.

In ancient Greece, ‘liturgy’ described a voluntary service to the state. In the Church, it has come to mean our service of worship to God. In the Mass, we gather for the Liturgy of the Word (reading of and reflection on Scripture) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ proclaimed in his Last Supper, experienced in his Passion and made present in each Mass.) Above all, the Eucharist is a celebration of thanksgiving, which is what the word ‘eucharist’ means. It is thanksgiving for the saving act of Christ by which we are redeemed from eternal death and made friends of God.

From the beginning, Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies. It is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

We carry out the Lord’s command by celebrating the memorial of his Sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine. By the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, these gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus, Christ is truly and mysteriously made Present.

The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all “thanksgiving.” CCC ⁋ 1356-1357, 1360

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *