This past Sunday, our priest talked to us about the Eucharistic Revival and what it will take to truly accomplish one. He explained that one of the things we need is a shift in the understanding of the Mass. Post Vatican II, with all of the changes to the Mass, it began to be seen as more of a communal banquet and liturgical celebration rather than what it is, a sacrifice that is commemorated each time the priest offers it. This can be evidenced by many prayers that are used today which emphasize thanksgiving for “this banquet” or “this meal” and the fact that the altar is now often referred to as just a table. This confusion arose when the priest began facing the people and reciting all parts of the Eucharistic Prayer aloud instead of silently so as to be between him and God, as a person offering a sacrifice and the One receiving that sacrifice. Part of having a true Eucharistic Revival requires going back to the true understanding of the Mass as a sacrifice and treating it as such.
The Novus Ordo rite of the Mass seems to primarily take as its model the Last Supper, where Jesus ate His last meal with His disciples and instructed them to do the same in memory of Him. However, the model we are supposed to take for the Mass is Good Friday, the actual sacrifice of Jesus Christ that took place on Calvary for our salvation. We are supposed to be at the foot of that hill, uniting our own sacrifices and trials with the suffering and death of Christ. Christ Himself willed this, because His words and actions at the Last Supper pointed to the real thing on Good Friday. Protestants often argue that Catholics re-sacrifice or re-crucify Jesus every time the Mass is offered, but sacrifice does not always mean killing, it can often mean merely a gift. And Jesus is forever a priest, therefore He is always offering Himself to the Father for us and the Mass is our participation in this offering.
Understanding the Mass as a sacrifice can also cause us to realize the importance of our attendance and make us want to be present whenever we can be, not just on Sundays. The Mass is really not for God, since He gains nothing from our praise and thanksgiving, but rather it is for us to help us gain the graces necessary for our journey to eternal life, particularly through the reception of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. We begin by offering our daily sufferings to God through Christ as we prepare for Communion, giving Him the gift, or sacrifice, of our lives so that He can in turn give us His Son to strengthen us. This idea of a sacrifice is much more beneficial than just an idea of a banquet or meal with a friend, because if we think of the Mass as the latter, we are much more tempted to say, “It is just a meal, I can take a rain check and go another time, my Friend will understand.” However, seeing the Mass as a sacrifice and truly beneficial for our souls will encourage attendance and make us see that it is vital in order for us to grow spiritually and gain heaven.
As we go through this period of Eucharistic Revival in the Church, it is important for us to remember and educate others about the true purpose of the Mass and why we attend. Understanding that the Mass is a sacrifice and not just a meal to be enjoyed with a friend is the first step in reviving our love and respect for the Eucharist and improving Mass attendance, along with the belief in the Real Presence. If we show the proper respect for the Eucharist that It deserves, others will follow suit and begin to truly see what we see whenever we receive It.