Father John A. HardonHow to Make the Mass More Vital in the Religious Life

How to Make the Mass More Vital in the Religious Life
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.


I would like to cover this under a variety of aspects. First to state some basic principles then to look at the basic norms and then how each of these basic norms can be carried out in practice.

First, the basic principles. The Mass is both worship and sacrament. If there is any real development in modern Catholic thought it is especially here. That the liturgy of which the Mass is its center and principle focus is both theocentric and anthropocentric. That it is intended both to glorify God and sanctify man. And that between these two purposes of the liturgy in general, or the Mass in particular, the primary is worship. In other words to give glory to God. The secondary, not only important but nevertheless secondary, is to obtain grace from God and thus that man might be sanctified. The present Holy Father in his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis, among many other very profound insights that he gives us, is his insistence that the Eucharist is sacrament three times over. The Eucharist is sacrament as presence; it is sacrament as sacrifice; and it is sacrament as communion. But he never loses sight nor should we lose sight of the fact that before all, the Mass is a sacrament and therefore beneficial to us. By sacrament we mean something instituted by Christ that confers grace. It is that but that is secondary to the primary purpose which is to give glory to God. Those are the three basic principles. The Mass is both worship and sacrament. Second it is meant to both glorify God and sanctify man. It glorifies God as worship. It sanctifies man as sacrament, but thirdly, its primary purpose is to give glory to God and very secondary, though of great importance, is to sanctify man.

[Edited by moderator]

Mass related to Calvary. Again we are to both know the Mass ourselves and teach it to others in its relationship to Calvary. As the Protestants over the centuries have complained: Why do Catholics have the Mass? What are they claiming? Are they claiming that the Cross is insufficient? That Christ did not redeem the world by His death on Calvary? What good is the Mass? Either Christ redeemed the world when He died or He didn’t. If He did how can we dare say that the Mass is a sacrifice? “Sacrifice to do what?”, as Calvin asked, “To add to Calvary?” That’s why one of the most memorable statements in John Calvin, “Every Catholic priest should be hanged from the nearest tree.” And Calvin’s reason was because the priest makes the blasphemous claim that in the person of Christ he offers a sacrifice as though the death of Christ on the Cross was insufficient to redeem the world. That’s why among our Jesuit martyrs we have not a few who were put to death by overzealous Calvinists especially in the lower countries.

So how is the Mass related to Calvary? This is not unimportant especially in a country like ours where so much of the mindset of our nation is, where it is religious, it is Protestant. As briefly as its vast subject can allow it, Christ’s death on the Cross merited our salvation. The Mass communicates the graces of salvation. Christ’s death was necessary to win the grace to which man had no title. God had to become man in order that as man He might die on the Cross. Why? Then synonyms: to win; to merit; to gain; to obtain the graces that a sinful world needs. Why then the Mass? The Mass, and now we go through a series of other verbs: the Mass distributes, the Mass communicates, the Mass dispenses, the Mass channels, the Mass confers. It is mainly through the sacrifice of the Mass that the graces merited on Calvary are given to a sinful world. Having taught the subject over some years to many students in theology, I cannot tell you how crucial is a clear understanding of the relationship of the Mass to Calvary. Without Calvary the Mass would be meaningless. There would be nothing to distribute. There would be no graces to confer. Faith tells us and only faith can enable us to believe that although Christ can no longer die because He is glorified, in every Mass He is willing to die. His readiness to die which by the way is the essence of sacrifice. Though willingness to give up, the readiness to surrender because there is a real human being on the altar, the moment the first consecration is enacted. Christ is there or better He is here. Then with that human will in our midst He really reoffers Himself to His heavenly Father and were it possible He would die.

Mass related to ourselves. There is one more item about knowing the Mass, and that is, know the Mass in relationship to ourselves. Unlike Calvary which was a sacrifice of Christ alone, the Mass is no longer just a sacrifice of Christ. It is also our sacrifice. And though Christ in His physical person can no longer die, we can, and we better. The distinction the Church makes between the Calvary or the sacrifice of Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass is to say that on Calvary it was Christ who died as an individual person. In the Mass He dies as the mystical person. He offers with us, and though He can no longer die, we are to continue dying to ourselves and that’s what makes the Mass fruitful. The grace has been won but the grace is dispensed only in the measure to which we unite ourselves with the Mass and uniting ourselves with the Mass means sacrifice. So much for knowing the Mass.

Living the Mass (cont) athttp://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Mass/Mass_001.htm

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