The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass


In my last post, I began sharing a series of articles to look at basic definitions of words that we should know as Catholics. Maybe we forgot, it has been too long since religious education classes, or perhaps we never learned them in the first place, as catechesis over the last 40 or so years has not been emphasized.

We defined the word Liturgy, which is not necessarily synonymous with Mass. The Liturgy is the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in public worship of God, and brings about the sanctification of mankind. The Mass is one type of Liturgy. So, then, what is the Mass?

The Mass is the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate it in the manner instituted by Christ, which he entrusted to the Church as a memorial of his death and resurrection. It is not merely a memorial, however, because his sacrifice is actually made present for us. It is the exercise of the priestly office of Christ, for the glorification of God and the sanctification of our souls.

The usual celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can take place according to the different Rites of the Church. At my parish, we celebrate the Roman Rite, of which there are two forms: the Ordinary Form (which we use, in its English translation) and the Extraordinary Form (sometimes known as the Traditional Latin Mass). 

Since the Mass is only one kind of Liturgy, next time we will look at another type of Liturgy…the Liturgy of the Hours.


The Year of Faith and the Liturgy

 In his Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, Pope Benedict XVI declared that from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013, the Church will celebrate the “Year of Faith.”

One of the reasons for proclaiming a “Year of Faith” is that we need to re-evangelize ourselves as Catholics. Many of us generally know something about our faith, but either it has been so long since we were taught or we weren’t taught the specifics in the first place, which is very common!

Over the past few months, I have been writing a series of articles for the parish bulletin where I work, defining basic concepts and terms of Catholicism, so that we have a starting point for deepening our understanding of our faith, and we can really LIVE it!

I will begin with something I myself am particular about, the use of the term “LITURGY”, because it is the source and summit of our faith, from which our lives should flow and to which our lives should return.

Most people seem to think that the word Liturgy is perfectly synonymous with “Mass.” Sure, this is partly true, but it is not totally accurate. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a Liturgy, but it is NOT the only kind of Liturgy. Liturgy is the official, public prayer of the Church. It can be the Mass, it can be the Liturgy of the Hours. It can even be a “Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest” (which is used, for example, for mission territories where a priest can only come by once a month). So to say “at our Sunday Liturgy” could mean at our Evening Prayer on Sunday, or a number of other things.

We must be careful in our distinctions about Liturgy. Interestingly enough, just because it is a public prayer of a lot of people, does not mean it is a Liturgy. You could have a thousand people praying the Rosary together, and that is still a devotion, not a Liturgy. Devotions are important, but not equivalent to Liturgy. Yet, one priest, sitting alone, praying his Breviary (the book that contains the Liturgy of the Hours that he is obligated to pray) is praying the Liturgy. He is not alone – he is praying it with millions worldwide, even if they are not in the same place.

Many people have come to use the term Liturgy to be synonymous with Mass because they are uncomfortable with what they consider to be “old” language, like “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”. It isn’t “old language,”  it is accurate language. The idea of Sacrifice doesn’t seem as pleasant as “Eucharistic Banquet”. The problem is that we wouldn’t have a Eucharistic banquet if there were no Sacrifice – the one Sacrifice of Christ that is remembered and made present in the Mass. Why not just call it what it is?  The Mass is the Mass. Yes, it is A TYPE OF “Liturgy” but those words do not apply only to the Mass.

More to come on the Mass…