Christ: our Torah, our Passover, our Life.
The celebration of the Eucharist (the Mass, as it is often called) is our opportunity to behold our Messiah “in action”. In the liturgy and its ritual, the great moments of our salvation are rendered present before us, calling us into active participation with the Messiah Himself. When we understand this, even if only in a small measure, such participation with the Annointed One Himself becomes a momentous privilege and, actually, an exciting step towards closer union with Him and His continuing work for all humanity.
The Origin of the Mass
Vatican II puts it succinctly:
“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us”
(Sacrosanctum Concilium 47).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts the question:
“10. In what way is the Eucharist a memorial of the sacrifice of Christ?”
“The Eucharist is a memorial in the sense that it makes present and actual the sacrifice which Christ offered to the Father on the cross, once and for all on behalf of mankind. The sacrificial character of the Holy Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution, “This is my Body which is given for you” and “This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood that will be shed for you” (Luke 22: 19 — 20). The sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one and the same sacrifice. The priest and the victim are the same; only the manner of offering is different: in a bloody manner on the cross, in an un-bloody manner in the Eucharist.”
Mass, therefore, is not an acted performance to remind us of what happened long ago. In the Judaic tradition, it is a dynamic celebration of an event made “present and actual” in which we participate.
In Step 1 which follows, we look briefly at the structure of the Mass, and see its connection with the great events in Salvation History.
Step 1 Suggested Reading and some points emphasised
First: “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” which introduces the traditional Latin Mass (See Appendix).
Secondly: Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part 2, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 1
Part 2, Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 1.
Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 3.
1.1 Whether we attend what are referred to as the “ordinary (contemporary) or “extraordinary (traditional or Tridentine) Eucharist ― and Hebrew Catholics are among the congregations of both ― we will always participate in essentially the same act of sublime worship.
1.2 In teaching about the structure of the Mass, the Church has, for most of its history, spoken of two parts:
• Liturgy of the Word
• Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Devotional books explaining the structure of the Mass will often discuss smaller “sub-sections” of the Liturgy to help us be fully united with the celebration of Mass as it unfolds. These are very helpful — our focus here reflects a distinct pattern, enabling us to see the saving work of Christ in the broad spectrum of Salvation History.
In many of the older Latin Mass Missals, the second part, the Liturgy of the Eucharist was described as having two divisions:
— Service of the Sacrifice/Consecration
— Service of Communion
We mention this only to draw attention to the long-recognised presence of three moments of intense encounter with the Lord during the celebration. Other explanations of the Mass draw attention to other decisions and moves within the service, and these are all immensely helpful. In this outline, we have chosen to focus on three moments of intense encounter with the Lord. They are:—
• Encounter with Christ, our Torah in the Word
• Encounter with Christ, our Sacrificial Lamb in the Consecration
• Encounter with Christ, our Risen Lord in the Communion
Note that these take place at three different places in the Church corresponding to the focus at the time. This represents the pilgrimage of God’s people since the time of Abraham, in fact, key elements in our own spiritual journey.
Remember, Mass is not a performance to go and watch. As “Sacrosanctum Concilium (47)” tells us, the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ is His perpetuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again.
Christ instituted the Eucharist, the Mass, for His people to continue to encounter Him in His work for their redemption. We do this, as we have said, in three moments, three opportunities of intense encounter:
I Encountering Christ
|— Hearing Christ’s proclamation of God’s loving care for
all creation and desire to restore all Humanity to perfect
union with Him through His Son who is Christ our Lord —
Christ our Torah. Welcoming the Word and, with the
help of the Holy Spirit, abiding in Him and He in us.
II Encountering Christ
|— Participating in His Sacrifice by presenting and
offering ourselves, as a living sacrifice of body and
soul, to die to sin, in Him, that we might rise to new
life in Him.
III Encountering Christ
|— Receiving the gift of His Body and Blood with our
fellow Christians as a foretaste of New Life in His
Resurrection and His Reign in Heaven, preparing for
His glorious Return.
1.3 The Mass as a liturgy and act of worship, is a single unity, yet moves dramatically along a line which reflects the immense span of God’s caring love for humanity. It causes us to look back to the beginning, but also points us forward towards the coming climax of Salvation History when Jesus our Messiah will return and bring all things to perfection. The spatial aspect referred to in 1.2 (lectern, altar, rails or Communion place) may help remind us of the pilgrimage we ourselves are on as part of Salvation history.
1.4 In Hebrew Catholic spirituality, at the core of all God’s saving action for humanity is following in His path of “sacrificial obedience“. This is highlighted in the Biblical accounts of:—
- Abraham and Isaac
- Moses and the Passover Lamb
- Mary and her commission from Heaven
- Jesus Messiah: His teaching, passion and death.
Participation in this great drama of Salvation, the Eucharist is therefore, for Hebrew Catholics, both supreme privilege as well as mitzvah i.e. obligation. It is an honour unmatched by anything else of human derivation!
A Hebrew Catholic Reflection
Awesome Presence At the Renewal of the Covenant.
In Hebrew Catholic spirituality, when we participate in the Holy Mass we are rendered present at the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. It cannot be over-stated how meaningful it is for Hebrew Catholics and, we hope, all members of the Church, to be present at the commemoration of the renewal and bringing to fulfillment of the Sinai Covenant. In the Last Supper, our Lord, as it were, prolonged the Covenant made at Sinai, “which was not abrogated but renewed#”. This is indeed a breathtaking mystery for Jesus Christ the Word is, and always was, our Torah; and it is He who fulfills all of that God desired in the giving of the Teaching (the Law) at Sinai, and in concluding the Covenant there with His people.
The receiving of Holy Communion at this time fulfills our deepest longing to be wholly united with God through His Eternal Word made flesh ― for us ― and affirms us as members of His Household, who are commissioned to share this Presence, this joy, this light, in the Spirit of love, throughout the world, as we invite others to join the Household of God.
# “Many religions — One Covenant”, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 1999, on pages 56 + 62.
Step 2 Seeing Patterns
Let’s reflect on what actually takes place in the celebration of the Eucharist and how it presents Jesus Messiah to us in His role as Saviour.
Keep in mind the following three moments of intense encounter depicted in the chart below and reflect on how you personally view attendance at the Eucharist. Note anything of special significance to you in each of these “moments of intense encounter”. You may wish to return to this entry at a later point and add anything new to which you had not previously given much thought.
You might also like to reflect on how you can see the stages of the Eucharist representing your unfolding spiritual life.
In the blackboard sketch which follows, consider whether you see any links with the Egypt, Sinai, Promised Land sketch in Unit 2. If you do, note any words or thoughts you can come back to and explore later. These early thoughts, no matter how “half-baked,” will be valuable in your growing understanding.
Note: In the “modern” Mass, Communion is given to people when they approach the officiating ministers, standing either at a Communion rail or some approved place. The essential encounter with Christ takes place in consuming the Sacrificial Lamb of God in whichever space is designated for Communion.
Step 3 The Eucharist as a Pilgrimage
Let’s now consider the following model in which our Lord is presented as the focus of each moment of encounter through which the Eucharist passes. He is the Messiah ― the Anointed One ― the Christ, who is continuing His work of our salvation through the liturgy in His Body, the Church.
We will reflect on:―
I Encountering Christ In the Word
II Encountering Christ In the Consecration
III Encountering Christ In the Communion
I Encountering Christ In the Word
- The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures teach us:-
— We were made to live in loving union with God our Creator.
— Human choices have destroyed this and continue to alienate us from God and thus from one another.
— Of ourselves, we are helpless to restore our lost unity.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ ― Word of God, i.e. Teaching, or Torah of God “..…to whom all the Scriptures testify.”
(John 5: 39) ― calls us through the Scriptural readings (of which He is the central figure) to repent, to be transformed and re-created anew in the image of God.
- We listen with heart and mind open to His teaching and allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen our will and determination to follow Christ our Saviour. (Love, is the very first commandment and Jesus emphasises that.)
Jesus said: “Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him….. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name ― he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you”. (John 14: 23 ― 26)
The Holy Spirit, when we listen earnestly, embraces us as family and enables the Word of God to abide in us, to increase our understanding, and to shape our whole life. The same Spirit enables us to share this same beautiful intimacy with those among whom we live and work.
A Hebrew Catholic Reflection of Real Presence in the Scriptures.
The Liturgy or Service of the Word is very special to Hebrew Catholics. Some parts have clearly evolved from the Synagogue Sabbath Service. Following the Second Vatican Council, the revision of the Lectionary ― the Scripture Readings ― to include an Old Testament reading related to the Gospel of the day, together with a Psalm, is warmly and deeply appreciated by Hebrew Catholics. In Jewish spirituality, the Torah ― five books of Moses, i.e. the Teaching given to Moses by God ― contain the Living Word of God which in the teaching of the sages of old, pre-existed creation. The beautiful linkages of Torah, Prophets, Psalms and Gospel render the listener present before the very Throne of God.
Processions involving Torah Scrolls and the Book of Readings, together with the loving honours paid to them by incense or raising them up for our veneration, are moments of special joy in the Eucharistic Liturgy.
Hebrew Catholics thus have a very strong belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the whole of the Sacred Scriptures, and love to let this be expressed in dance, song and special music and other tributes worthy of the One “through Whom all things were made. (John 1: 3).
II Encountering Christ In the Consecration
• In the Eucharist “Christ our Pasch (Passover Lamb) is sacrificed”. (1 Cor. 5: 7, Douai-Rheims)
— The sacrificial death of Jesus is not repeated; it is re-presented before us.
— The consecration of the bread and wine we offer, which become the Body and Blood of Christ, re-presents to us the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God.
• We respond lovingly to Christ our Torah and His Word, His Teaching all of which signify God’s message of Love and offer our whole lives and everything we are and have, to be consecrated to God. This is the Way God ordained that we follow.
• Thus we die with Christ ― we die to our own selves that we may be raised with Him to live a new Life, and live it to the full, with Him.
A Hebrew Catholic Reflection: Sacred Image
In Hebrew Catholic spirituality, the Consecration is a very special moment when we can look upon the crucifix and behold Christ our Passover Lamb sacrificed that we might be saved from death and enter into fullness of life. Hebrew Catholics love the sacred image of our Crucified Rabbi and venerate it with the most profound respect. For us it is visually central or at least prominent in the celebration of Mass, as well as in our homes, our oratories and all our places of study and teaching. Devotions honouring our Lord crucified are a very special love of Hebrew Catholics.
Yeshua Messiah ― Jesus Christ ― reigns!
III Encountering Christ In the Communion
- In the Eucharist, Christ is rendered present in His risen Body. He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven where He prepares a place for us.
- On His return He will establish His Kingdom for eternity. Meantime He strengthens us and empowers us to prepare for that day. We are united to Him and with one another through the most precious gift of His Body and Blood which we partake, thereby sharing in His risen life.
- St. Paul wrote (in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 — 26):
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this is remembrance of me’. In the same way, also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
The Eucharist is therefore the most treasured experience for the members of the Church when they take part in it; for as St. Paul taught, this is the core of our Christian witness to all humanity, “until He comes”.
A Hebrew Catholic Reflection
Real Presence of Christ In the Blessed Sacrament.
At Sinai God gave very clear instructions for the construction of His dwelling place at the centre of His people encamped around him. It was to contain the finest gold, silver and other valuable and beautiful furnishings. In the holiest place rested the Ark which contained (certainly at the beginning — 1 Kings 8: 9) only the Word of God written by Him on two tablets of stone: it was the Torah, the Teaching, the Law ― given for the Life and Love of His people.
In Hebrew Catholic Spirituality, the physical and spiritual centrality of the Ark ― the Tabernacle ― in the sanctuary, containing Christ the Torah ― the Word of God made flesh for the life and love of His people, is of paramount significance. Whereas at Sinai, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies to pronounce the Holy Name of God once a year, we are privileged to be given access every day to take our place in His Divine Presence and offer our worship.
Hebrew Catholic’s love to respond to this beautiful gift from God, by their care for and decoration of God’s sanctuary, and by their regular visits to our gracious Lord who dwells in our midst. We consider it an honour to enter into His presence, to kneel and physically prostrate before Him.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before
It is therefore of special significance for us to have access to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament: the Lord made flesh housed with the Sacred Torah and Haftorah Scrolls.
1 The structure of the Eucharist reflects the pilgrimage of God’s people from (I) slavery in all its forms, through (II) loving and obedient sacrifice of our own will, to (III) union with God and one another in the place He has designated as our home — though yet imperfect, — until Jesus Christ returns at the end of time.
Whilst signifying the pilgrimage of God’s People collectively, it also reflects the spiritual journey each of us is called to undergo as part of our own restoration to God and to our fellow human beings.
We can summarise this great spiritual journey by three simple words:
Listen — Love — Live
2 We love to call the Eucharist by its more common name: the Mass. At the close of a solemn celebration of the Mass, the celebrant or his deacon chants, in Latin, “Ite Missa est,” or in English, “Go forth, the Mass is ended”. It is ALWAYS performed with great solemnity.
It is so old a custom that some of the text has been lost. Its meaning however has always been clearly known and taught. We are commanded by the whole cumulative force of the instruction, prayers and actions of the Mass to go forth — every one of those present — and take the message, the blessings and love of Christ into the world and share them with all whom we meet, in whatever ways are appropriate for us and the community.
In this way the Mass reflects its powerful message of our Lord’s love of His creation and His desire to restore all things to the glory of God. The Mass epitomises supremely the call from God for us to respond to Him with all our heart, our mind and strength, and live as He commands. It also impels us to follow His example as the Good Shepherd, and go forth to seek the lost and confused. It empowers us with the precious help of The Holy Spirit to obey all His commandments — not in the least to be “another Christ” to all whom we meet.
3 We offer in the following Appendix a brief description of the nature of the Mass and our role in it.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
An Introduction by
RICHARD KUGELMAN, C.P., S.T.L., S.S.L.
(Text revised to New Zealand spelling)
Holy Mass is the un-bloody sacrifice of the New Testament in which the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, are offered to God under the appearance of bread and wine.
The Sacrifice of Christ
Humanity’s redemption was accomplished when Christ bowed His head in death on the Cross. The Holy Mass is the sacrament of the sacrifice of Redemption, through which “more abundantly” than through any other means (Council of Trent) the merits of Christ’s redeeming death are applied to souls. The Mass is not a mere symbol recalling the sacrifice of the Cross. It is a sacrament, a symbol that does what it signifies. Through the separate consecration of the bread and wine, Christ our Lord, speaking through His priests, portrays the shedding of His Blood and His dying on Calvary, and becomes really present under symbols that show Him to be in a state of victimhood. In accomplishing this act, Christ presents once more before His Father His immolation on the Cross, with all that it involves of love and obedience, of adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation and petition. Thus, St. Cyprian writing to the Christians of the 3rd century declared: “The sacrifice which we offer to God is the Passion of our Lord Himself.
Besides being the sacramental renewal of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the Mass is also our sacrifice. Holy Baptism grafted us in Christ, the true Vine. We are members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. Christ our Head is the priest and the victim of every Mass. “The Sacred Ministers act in the person not only of our Saviour, but of the whole Mystical Body and of everyone of the faithful. Christ offers not only Himself as Head of the Church, but in Himself His mystical members as well.” (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei) In every Mass, therefore, we are associated with the complete consecration, the obedience unto death of Christ our Head. Attendance at Mass should be for us the renewal of our Baptismal promises, a sincere dedication to Christian living, to the following of Christ, to doing the Will of God.