January 24, 2021

Why Going to Mass is the “Most Important” Prayer

Stand. Sit. Stand. Sit. Stand. Sit. Stand. Kneel. Stand. Kneel. Stand. Kneel.  

Workout?  Or Mass?

Every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, we are asked (or required or commanded–whatever word you want to use) to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  That makes it seem like it is pretty important in the life of the Church.  And it is the same thing, pretty much every time.  

Why is doing the same thing every week so important for Catholics?

Great question.  I’m glad you asked!

Imagine a couple gets married.  On the day of their wedding, the husband looks over at his wife, smiles at her and whispers, “I love you!”  She smiles back and says, “I love you, too!”  The next day, the husband looks at the wife and says, “I love you!”  The wife looks back at the husband and says, “I know.  You told me yesterday.  Tell me something new.”  

I cannot imagine a wife giving that response to her husband.  I love you isn’t something we want to hear once and then never again.  We want to hear it every single day, probably multiple times each day.  Parents don’t tell their children they are proud of them once and then never again.  Good employers don’t compliment the employee’s work once and then never again.  When something is good and true, it should be repeated often.  

When approaching the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are stepping onto holy ground.  The Mass is saying many things and all of them are good and true.  Even beyond the fact that Jesus explicitly tells us in Scripture to “do this in memory of me” (Lk. 22:19), we are encountering God in a very intimate way, one that bears repeating over and over again.  We are becoming a part of the Last Supper, where Christ made a gift of Himself to the disciples which foreshadowed the offering that came the following day.  We are entering into the timeless Calvary, seeing the unbloody sacrifice that mirrors the totality of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This is, to use T.S. Eliot’s phrase, “the still point of the turning world.” (The Four Quartets)  We are seeing the crux of our salvation unfold before us, offered again to us as we again offer to the Father the only thing worth offering to Him: His Son.

“Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.” (Lumen Gentium 11)

So, in light of this, we revisit the question: why do we do the same thing every week?  

In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we enter into the same liturgy that saints through the centuries have shared in.  We become an intrinsic part of the living Body of Christ, stretching throughout space and time, from the foot soldiers still on earth to the souls suffering in Purgatory to the glorious saints in Heaven.  In this liturgy that we have attended so often we have memorized the words, repeating “our lines” with little thought unless we are attentive, we see a glimpse of Heaven itself.  

In Scripture, Heaven is referred to as the Wedding Feast, the banquet of the Lamb.  In Mass, we are at the heavenly banquet, despite the fact that it looks so ordinary.  The Lamb of God is truly present, though He is humbly hiding behind the appearance of bread and wine.  And when we are in a state of grace, we go forward and receive into our very selves the very Self of God, the incarnate God-man, who holds nothing back so that we might be in union with Him.

We go to Mass every week because it is our chance to whisper “I love You” to the Creator of the Universe and to see the tangible reality of His love for us.  Like the couple who repeats affirmations of love every day, we say the same words and perform the same actions every week at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Yet each day and each week is a new opportunity to become closer to and more like the One we love.

“By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”

Trish Irvine is a pursuer of the good, the true, and the beautiful. As a high school theology teacher with a penchant for reading and writing, she has numerous encounters with each. Trish has a desire to help others encounter the Lord through a recognition of His presence in the ordinary. Her degree is from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, but her home is the South Dakota prairie.

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