The Holy Mass: Our Treasure!
Introduction: As Thomas Nash, author of the Worthy is the Lamb, The Biblical Roots of the Mass, has said, “The Bible tells the story of how God came to save us, and the biblical roots of the Mass — the biblical story of the Mass — is central to that story of salvation history. Why? Because the Mass sacramentally re-presents Christ’s one sacrifice whereby man was redeemed and salvation made possible.” The Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear that Christ is our High Priest in heaven offering his once for all sacrifice on our behalf. From the earliest times God commanded his people “to keep holy the Sabbath.” Christians, honoring this commandment and that of Christ at the Last Supper, when he said, “Do [offer] this in memory of me” have continued to follow this command by worshipping every Sunday, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. As Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6: 53). The Apostles were obedient to Christ’s imperative command as can be seen in some the Church’s oldest liturgies, namely, that of St. James and St. Paul’s close companion, St. Mark, still extant. The Holy Mass is offered all over the world and is a treasure beyond words, but regular weekly attendance has been declining in Western countries where many have lost the sense of the sacred and moral. Pope John Paul II said this shows, "inadequate sensitivity toward the great sacrament of love."
Approach the Blessed Sacrament (the Eucharist) in a state of grace. This is essential and means with any mortal sins having been confessed in the sacrament of Reconciliation first. In this regard the Holy Father reminds us all of the serious warning of St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians (11:28) that each person must "examine himself" so that he or she may receive the Body of Christ worthily. Our baptism calls for us to live our lives close to the Lord and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is essential as a regular part of our Christian walk with the Lord. Our consciences should be guided by respect for Christ, "who, when he is received in the Eucharist, should find in the heart of each of us a worthy abode."
The Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament: Sadly, some Catholics have not been taught that when the words of Christ are spoken by the priest during the Mass along with the epiclesis (invocation or prayer to the Holy Spirit), the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. The whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained therein. We do not receive merely a spiritual symbol or sign of Christ, but rather we receive Jesus himself.
A Sacrament of Love. The Second Vatican Council expressed this powerfully noting that the Savior instituted the sacrifice of his Body and Blood at the Last Supper: “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 eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”(Sacrosanctum Concilium)
The Eucharist is a true banquet in which Christ offers himself as our nourishment. When for the first time Jesus spoke of this food, his listeners were astonished and bewildered, which forced the Master to emphasize the objective truth of his words using a Hebrew oath formula: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you” (John 6:53). This is no metaphorical food: “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55).
Full, Conscious and Active Participation. The Second Vatican Council Fathers wrote in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1965), “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Peter 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, “The liturgy is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ” (CCC 1070). We as the Mystical Body of Christ, are called to participate in this most “sacred action surpassing all others” (CCC1070). We are called to participate “in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1073).
Thus, the value of the Holy Mass is enhanced by our preparation for it. Meditate on the readings before attending Mass and say prayers of thanksgiving and contrition to prepare for active participation in this holy sacrifice in which “Christ is present in many ways to his Church [Romans 8: 34] in his word, in the Church’s prayer, ‘where two or three are gathered in my name’ [Matthew 18: 20] in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which He is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister . . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species” (CCC 1073). The laity have a vital role to play in the celebration of Christ’s Paschal mystery. We are, according to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, called to learn to offer ourselves through Christ the Mediator in order to be “drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.”
St. Leonard of St. Maurice, an Italian priest and missionary (d. 1751), the patron for parish missionaries, reveals much about the Mass when he writes:
“What graces, gifts and virtues the Holy Mass calls down ... repentance for sin ... victory over temptation ... holy inspirations which dispositions to shake off tepidity ... the grace of final perseverance, upon which depends our salvation . . .”
Traditional Prayers Before and After Holy Communion. Some prayers you might consider before and after receiving our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion are given below.
Before Holy Communion: Prayer of Saint John of Damascus
Master and Lord, Jesus Christ our God, You alone have authority to forgive my sins, whether committed knowingly or in ignorance, and make me worthy to receive without condemnation Your divine, glorious, pure and life-giving Mysteries, not for my punishment, but for my purification and sanctification, now and in Your future Kingdom. For You, Christ our God, are compassionate and loves mankind and to You we give glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and forever and ever. Amen.
After Holy Communion: The Anima Christi Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me. Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
In the hour of my death, call me. And bid me come to Thee.
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee.
 See especially chapters 7 and 8 in Hebrews.
 See Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20 and 1 Corinthians. 11:23-26.
 Mystery and Worship of the Holy Eucharist, n.11.
 The Paschal Mystery refers to the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is God’s plan of salvation for mankind. Every Mass is a celebration of the Paschal Mystery which we are privileged to kneel at the foot of the Cross and invited to receive the glorified Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Blessed Lord.