Continuing the presentation of the catechesis from Pope Francis from his weekly General Audience, currently speaking on matters liturgical…
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Continuing with the catecheses on the Mass, we can ask ourselves: What is the Mass essentially? The Mass is the memorial of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. It makes us participants in His victory over sin and death and gives full meaning to our life.
Therefore, to understand the value of the Mass we must then understand, first of all, the biblical meaning of the “memorial.” It is “not merely the recollection of past events, but in a certain sense renders them present and real. Thus, in fact, Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers, so that they may conform their lives to them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1363). With His Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, Jesus Christ has brought Passover to fulfillment. And the Mass is the memorial of His Passover, of His “exodus,” which He carried out for us, to make us come out of slavery and to introduce us in the Promised Land of eternal life. It’s not merely a recollection no, it’s more: it makes present what happened 20 centuries ago. The Eucharist always leads us to the summit of God’s action of salvation: the Lord Jesus, making Himself broken bread for us, sheds on us all His mercy and His love, as He did on the cross, so as to renew our heart, our existence and our way of relating to Him and to brothers. Vatican Council II states: “Every time that the sacrifice of the cross — with which Christ, our Paschal Lamb, was immolated –, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our Redemption is effected” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 3).
Every celebration of the Eucharist is a ray of that sun without a sunset, which is Jesus Risen. To take part in the Mass, in particular on Sunday, means to enter into the victory of the Risen One, to be illumined by His light, warmed by His warmth. Through the Eucharistic Celebration, the Holy Spirit makes us participants in the divine life, which is able to transfigure our whole mortal existence. And in His passage from death to life, from time to eternity, the Lord Jesus draws us with Him to <celebrate> Easter. Easter is celebrated in the Mass. At Mass, we are with Jesus, dead and risen, and He draws us forward, to eternal life. In the Mass, we are united to Him. Rather, Christ lives in us and we live in Him. “I have been crucified with Christ — says Saint Paul –, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20). Paul thought thus.
In fact, His Blood frees us from death and from the fear of death. It liberates us not only from the dominion of physical death but of spiritual death, which is the evil, the sin that takes hold of us every time that we fall victims of our sin or of that of others. And then our life is polluted, it loses its beauty, it loses meaning, it withers.
Instead, Christ gives life back to us; Christ is the fullness of life, and when He confronted death He annihilated it forever: “Rising He destroyed death and renewed life,” (Eucharistic Prayer IV). Christ’s Passover is the definitive victory over death because He transformed His death into a supreme act of love. He died for love! And in the Eucharist, He wishes to communicate to us His paschal, victorious love. If we receive it with faith, we can also truly love God and our neighbor, we can love as He loved us, giving His life.
If the love of Christ is in me, I can give myself fully to the other, in the interior certainty that even if the other were to wound me, I would not die; otherwise, I would have to defend myself. The Martyrs, in fact, gave their life for this certainty of Christ’s victory over death. Only if we experience this power of Christ, the power of His love, are we truly free to give ourselves without fear. This is the Mass: to enter in the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus; when we go to Mass it’s as if we went to Calvary, the same thing. But think: if we in the moment of Mass go to Calvary – let us think imaginatively – and we know that that man there is Jesus, do we then permit ourselves to chat, to take photographs, to engage somewhat in a show? No! Because it’s Jesus! We will certainly be in silence, in mourning and also in the joy of being saved. When we enter the church to celebrate Mass we should think this: I am entering in Calvary, where Jesus gives His life for me. And thus the show disappears, chats disappear, comments and the things that remove us from this most beautiful thing that is the Mass disappear, it’s the triumph of Jesus.
I think that now it’s clearer how Passover is rendered present and operative every time we celebrate Mass, namely, the meaning of the memorial. Participation in the Eucharist makes us enter in Christ’s Paschal Mystery, making us pass with Him from death to life, namely, there in Calvary. The Mass is to relive Calvary, it’s not a show.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT, http://www.zenit.org