What is Holy Mass?
It is our way of showing Jesus that we love Him. God, through the Church He founded on St Peter, asks us to obey the 3rd Commandment by attending Mass. Heb 10:25 says: 'Don't neglect to meet together, as has become the habit of some.' The basic format of the Mass has not altered since the beginning of the Church's 2,000 year-old history (CCC 1345). Mass is a SACRIFICE, a SACRAMENT and a COMMUNION where Jesus, our Lord, is present in His Word, in His priest, in the gathering of His people, and most especially in the Eucharistic species.
Before any party or celebration there has to be some giving, some sacrifice. The sacrificial element of the Mass could be seen to occur within the ringing of the 4 bells.
The 1st bell is a wake-up call. The Holy Spirit is being called down on the gifts of bread and wine. The Church asks us to be on our knees at this time because it is God we are adoring.
The 2nd bell is rung after the first words of consecration: THIS IS MY BODY. These words do exactly what Jesus did at the Last Supper. On that night before He died, Jesus held Himself in His hands. He sacrificed His Body to the Father in Heaven for us all. The priest at Mass, at this point, shows forth the death of Jesus at Calvary in an unbloody way, just as Christ did at the Last Supper. The priest, by the power of Christ, acts in the person of Christ, and by the words of consecration, changes the bread into the Body, Blood, Soul and Godness of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The 3rd bell is rung after the priest says the second words of consecration: THIS IS THE CUP OF MY BLOOD etc. Jesus did this changing of the wine into His Blood at the end of the Last Supper. He showed forth His death, His SACRIFICE, by the SEPARATE CONSECRATIONS of bread and then wine. He showed HIS BODY and then, separately, HIS BLOOD to God the Father. The priest at Mass does the very same: he changes the bread and then the wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus called the consecrated bread HIS BODY ONLY, and the consecrated wine HIS BLOOD ONLY. This was done to show His sacrifice (the cleaving of Blood from Body â€" which always means death) under the forms of bread and wine until He comes in glory. So, it is the SEPARATE consecrations of bread and wine that account for the sacrificial nature of the Mass. It is the same sacrifice offered on the Cross at Calvary only, like at the Last Supper, in an unbloody manner. At Mass, before the consecration, the priest drops water into the chalice of wine to signify our personal participation in Our Lord's sacrifice.
The 4th bell is rung at the Communion of the priest. It heralds the end of the sacrificial element of the Mass. It is rung when the priest consumes the precious Blood. Just like when Christ at the Last Supper said, 'I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes' (Lk 22:18). He did not drink the customary last cup of the Passover ritual of the Last Supper UNTIL, on the following day, at His crucifixion, He was given sour WINE â€" then Christ said, 'it is consummated' (Jn 19:30), and He died for us. At Mass then, the priest makes present, really present, the Sacrifice of the Cross, and by his Communion he consumes the consecrated Bread and Wine and by so doing he consummates the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Mass is also a SACRAMENT because it makes Christ REALLY present under the appearances of bread and wine. After the consecration the bread and wine are no longer bread and wine, but are, in actual fact, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. They remain so, for as long as they hold the physical appearances of bread and wine. We are not speaking figuratively or metaphorically. See St John's Gospel, chapter 6. Jesus speaks LITERALLY about giving us His Flesh and Blood. Many of His followers left Him when He said this, but Christ did not back down on this point. We accept TRANSUBSTANTIATION (the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood) by Faith because Jesus said it LITERALLY and His Word is true. His Body and Blood are, therefore, food for our spiritual souls: 'Unless we eat and drink the Flesh and Blood of the Lord, we have no life in us' (Jn 6:53). We are not adoring a piece of bread or some wine, we are actually adoring THE REAL PRESENCE of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. The 2nd Person of the Trinity has deigned to manifest Himself to mankind in two material forms: 1) His incarnated, physical human form 2,000 years ago in Palestine, and 2) His Eucharistic, Sacramental form from the Last Supper to our present time wherever Mass is validly said. So, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus remains present here on Earth with us in a very real, visible and tangible way. Well before the Last Supper, at Capernaum, Jesus made the promise that He would give His own flesh and blood to be the food of our souls. He prepared His audience well; on the day before, He performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes: 5 loaves and 2 fish fed thousands. Of all His miracles on Earth, never were so many people so directly involved. On the night before, He walked on water. They should have been ready to believe in Him. But when Jesus repeatedly declared in John 6 that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life, many of His followers walked with Him no more (Jn 6: 66). Jesus is God. God is Love. Love would not let the disciples walk with Him no more while KNOWING their misunderstanding. Jesus knew their thoughts. Jesus would not have let them leave knowing they had misunderstood Him. Jesus knew the disciples who walked away had understood Him the way He wanted Himself to be understood. Therefore, everyone of sound reason who listened to Jesus that day was not misconceived. Jesus in Jn 6:48-59 had referred to either His Flesh or Blood more than 10 times. Jesus could not have been more literal than He had been. It is only logical to deduce that Jesus would only have let them walk away if they had understood him. That is why He did not call them back. It does not make sense to say that they would have walked away from Jesus if He was only speaking symbolically. Some say Jn 6:63 shows that the whole chapter is symbolic, but it simply shows that we cannot accept this mystery in too human a way, by having an earthly view of things (see Jn 3:6). (Thibault, R. C. Rebuking the New World Order pps. 64 â€"66; The Eucharist video by Transmedia)
Mass is also a COMMUNION because, at the Last Supper (when the Eucharist was instituted) Jesus prayed that we all may be one, 'As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us' (Jn 17:21). This wish of Our Lord's for unity has its fullest expression in universal Eucharistic Communion (ie all peoples baptised and fully incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ on Earth by receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in Holy Communion). We, in a sense, become what we eat. Without this perspective, the words of the Our Father, 'give us this day our daily bread,' lack their full meaning. Communion, in essence, is what God wants for us. He wants a relationship so close that we become Eucharistic members of His Body. This is why to receive His Body unworthily, eg while knowingly in mortal sin, is a grievous sacrilege against God.
So, the Mass cannot be properly considered without at least taking into account: Sacrifice, Sacrament and Communion. Christ is still acting on our behalf. He has entered 'into Heaven itself, that He may appear NOW, in the presence of God for us' (Heb 9:24). The Eucharist is repeated over and over again because Christ is a continual celebrant with His Father 'always living to make intercession for us' (Heb 7:25), so that we can derive the salutary effects of the Mass in our own present situation. The Mass is the greatest prayer. It is God's way of inviting us into the closest possible intimate family relationship with Him while we are here on Earth. It prefigures the eternal bliss of the Beatific Vision that we all have as our destiny, IF we co-operate with God's will. By deliberately not attending Sunday Mass we cut ourselves off from obtaining the grace we need to win Heaven (CCC 2181). God does not force us to love Him. We have genuine free-will. Jesus wants us to come to Mass as often as we can because all the labours of an entire lifetime separate from the Mass are nothing in comparison to the value of one Mass.
Sacrosanctum Concilium (a document from Vatican Council II), article 7. â€˜Eucharistic speciesâ€™ is the name given to the Body and Blood of the Lord after consecration. â€˜Eucharistâ€™ is another name for the Mass, and means â€˜thanksgivingâ€™. We go to Mass to give thanks to God. Jn 6: 26-29; 32-35; 41; 43-44; 48-60; 66-69.
* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.