When non-Catholics encounter the Mass, often times confusion and questions
arise. Some come with an open mind, others with doubt or preconceived
notions. Let's review some points to make the Mass easier to understand,
so it will be a positive experience for you!
Mass lasts about an hour. If you've been to other religious services
before, you'll notice similarities and differences from what you've
experienced. Perhaps you've attended services with Bible reading,
preaching and songs. Others have attended services that have those
elements, as well as a communal "Lord's Supper memorial." Historically,
such features of other churches' services were taken (with changes)
by various Protestants in the 16th century from the Catholic Mass.
So familiar elements will be noticed at Mass, along with others
that perhaps are new to you.
ARE YOU A BIBLE READER?
If you are going to a Mass for the first time, or haven't gone often
or in a while, you might want to take out your Bible and read a few
passages. These will help you to understand where some of the concepts
and symbolism used in the Mass comes from.
First, you'll notice similarities with the ceremony (also known as:
liturgy or rite) found in the Old Testament, notably the ancient Passover
celebration (Ex. 12:14-20).
But you will also experience the Lord's Prayer from the New Testament
and much more. Some are a bit uneasy at first with the changes in
posture: the standing, kneeling and sitting. But consider the fact
that Jesus Himself used these same postures in praying (Lk. 22:41),
teaching (Lk. 4:16-17) and sharing His Way of Salvation (Mt. 5:1;
26:20). You will see reflections of the heavenly worship described
in John's Revelations, which also use these same postures, along with
words and ideas that will sound familiar at Mass (Rev. 5:6-14; 7:9-17;
8:3-4; 10:8-11; 15:1-8' 19:1-10; 21:1-8). Besides the readings from
the Bible, other parts of the Mass are very Scriptural!
WHICH LANGUAGE DO YOU PREFER?
Today, in many parts of America and other nations with larger towns
and cities, you may have a choice of the language the Mass is said
in. Latin is still the official language of the Church, and it's
a tongue which our Lord Himself heard while on earth. Many prefer
the Mass in Latin for its reverence and majestic yet mysterious connection
Others prefer to hear the Mass in their native or 'vernacular'
(common) language. In the U.S., for instance, English is used, but Masses in
Spanish, Polish, Vietnamese and other tongues can be found. In Canada, one
is likely to find a Mass in French or English. You will normally find a 'missalette'
available at the entry for your use in following the Mass, and participating in the common prayers
once you are comfortable. For Masses in Latin, typically the English
translation will be on the opposite page, so that you can know exactly
what is being said. If you have the opportunity, it can help to get
familiar with the missalette prior to Mass; but others prefer to simply
maintain a reverent observance of all that is taking place! We want
you to feel welcome!
There are those who go to Mass and 'just don't get it.'
Sometimes teens who don't understand the miracle taking place are less than
enthusiastic. But the Mass isn't meant to be entertainment - it is the most
perfect possible worship of God, and an opportunity for the faithful to be
renewed in spirit and fed on the Bread of Life! It is your openness to the
working of the gifts of the Spirit, of being in the Lord's presence - that is
the 'attraction.' The more you ponder and study the beauty and mystery
in the Mass, and as you place yourself increasingly in the hands of our
Creator and Redeemer, your appreciation and love for this Divine
Liturgy will grow!
THE MASS FULFILLS SCRIPTURAL TEACHING
The heart of the Catholic concept of the Mass is that it fulfills
the command of Jesus referring to the Eucharist (which means "thanksgiving",
it also is known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper) to "Do this
in remembrance of Me." (1 Cor. 11: 24).
The Mass is the most perfect prayer possible! The height of the Mass
is the Consecration of bread and wine by the ordained priest, using the words that Jesus commanded His Apostles
at the Last Supper. We believe this miraculously changes the bread
and wine into the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ! This is
how Jesus meant for us to fulfill this Scriptural command:"I am the
living Bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this Bread will
live forever; and the Bread I will give is My flesh for the life of
the world." (John 6:51).
It is interesting to realize that by applying this Catholic belief,
the answer to the question of Jesus' doubters in John's Gospel is
also revealed "The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can
this man give us His flesh to eat?" (John 6:52). Notice that unlike
the occasions reported in the Gospels when Jesus clarified parables,
on this occasion, He gave no 'interpretation' of His Words (see Mk.
4:34). Instead, He repeated His message over and over: "Amen, Amen,
I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink
His Blood, you do not have life in you. Whoever eats My Flesh and
drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last
day." (John 6: 53-54).
Many non-Catholic Christians understandably value or desire a 'personal
relationship with Jesus.' Consider this: there is no more intimate or
personal relationship with our Lord possible on earth than to be one with
Him in Communion! Since our Savior's time, the Church has believed that
the consecreated Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and
Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. This tremendous outpouring of grace
in this Divine Sacrament is a gift that Jesus told us is necessary to
gain eternal life. So if you want to follow Jesus' teachings, and to
have the closest possible relationship with Christ, that blessing can
be found daily in the Masses around the world! (see Mal. 1:10-11).
We hope you will appreciate the splendor of the Mass, and can, after
studying Church teaching and becoming a Catholic, join us in the Lord's Eucharistic Communion
of life-saving Bread!
Related Topics in the ABCs of Faith
The Bible and the Lord's Supper
The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
Mary, Thy Mother, an article by Rich S, thanks for sharing it with us here!