The celebration of the Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the Cross.
—St Thomas Aquinas
In Heaven Right Now
WHAT I FOUND AT MY FIRST MASS
THERE I STOOD, a man incognito, a Protestant minister in plainclothes, slipping into the back of a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness my first Mass. Curiosity had driven me there, and I still didn’t feel sure that it was healthy curiosity. Studying the writings of the earliest Christians, I’d found countless references to “the liturgy,” “the Eucharist,” “the sacrifice.” For those first Christians, the Bible—the book I loved above all—was incomprehensible apart from the event that today’s Catholics called “the Mass.”
Unsure of myself, I remained seated. For years, as an evangelical Calvinist, I’d been trained to believe that the Mass was the ultimate sacrilege a human could commit. The Mass, I had been taught, was a ritual that purported to “resacrifice Jesus Christ.” So I would remain an observer. I would stay seated, with my Bible open beside me.
SOAKED IN SCRIPTURE
As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn’t just beside me. It was before me—in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from the Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, “Hey, can I explain what’s happening from Scripture? This is great!” Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: “This is My body… This is the cup of My blood.”
I am always amazed when I realize that many people satisfy themselves with merely reading the Bible when through the liturgy of the Church they could actually enter into the events of the Bible.
—The Liturgical Year: A Celebration of Christ
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