You thought the last post was an introduction, didn't you? No, silly. That was the introduction to the introduction.
I have known a lot of people that don't get the Mass. Some are Catholics that are going to Mass, but just aren't really sure why we do what we do. Some are non-Catholics that have been to a Mass or two and either wonder how we can put up with the same dusty ritual over and over, or they really liked it, but didn't understand a lot of what was going on. Some are people that used to be Catholic, but left, partly because the Mass didn't mean as much to them as some other church services did.*
The Mass is so ancient, and has so many customs that date back to the early Church Fathers and Jewish customs. I wish I could talk more about that, because it's fascinating, but I really want to focus on the Scriptural points that come to mind. For the most part, I don't want to look at "proof text" types of things, but rather the ways that we get to not only read or recall the Scriptures, but also to live them in some way every single time we go to Mass! I love it!
The term "Mass" really only refers to the Roman rite, and there are many different rites of the Catholic Church. I will speak of the Roman rite, because that is what I know. However, whatever Catholic liturgy** you go to, you will experience the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Right there, in breaking these up into two parts, we see an echo of the Scriptures. Check out Luke 24, starting with verse 13. The two disciples are walking when Jesus appears to them and begins to start explaining the meaning of the Scriptures and how that applied to His passion and death. I give you... The Liturgy of the Word! Then they sat down to supper, and the disciples came to know Him in the breaking of the bread.... The Liturgy of the Eucharist!
Now, clearly, what we do at Mass today is not exactly like what happened on the road to Emmaus. Like I said, I'm not proof texting here. I just want to show you that what we do in the Mass calls Scripture to mind at every turn.
Another introductory Scripture to look at is John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." One church that I've mentioned before shows this simply and beautifully. On the lectern where the Scripture is read, it reads "The Word". Then on the altar it says, "Was made Flesh", and over the tabernacle, "And dwelt among us." The lectern (or pulpit), looking at the Liturgy of the Word, the altar where the Liturgy of the Eucharist takes place and the tabernacle*** where Jesus resides, as He should reside in our hearts as well after every Mass.
One thing that I should reiterate here is that Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. We believe that when He said, "This is my body," and "This is my blood," that He meant it, literally. None of the rest of what we do makes any sense without that understanding. It would be awfully pointless to genuflect and do all the rest if He wasn't there. It doesn't mean that you have to agree with Catholics on that point, but understand that we do believe it, and that is what the Mass is all about.
And that concludes the introduction. Both of them. Next time, I'll actually talk about the parts of the Mass!
*Which reminds me of a point that I want to clarify. I know I get all biased and "yay, Mass!" and all. It is true that I vastly prefer the Mass to any other service, but I do not mean to discount the ways that other types of services bring meaning to people's lives. My purpose is to share why the Mass has such meaning in my own life.
**Liturgy means the public form of worship.
***The tabernacle is the box where any leftover hosts are kept between Masses.