The Mass is the ultimate earthly celebration of the work of God. In each of us, as we journey, there is an inherent resonance of petition, praise and thanksgiving attached to life. If life, in the first instance, is itself the work of God, then the Mass is a celebration of life. But more than that, it is a celebration of God’s response to human life and how He works through it. It is also a celebration of our response to God.
In the Mass we celebrate communally the ongoing messages of the scriptural word – the documented outline of the teaching that was Your work among us.
The Mass also celebrates the mystical aspects of our seeking: the willful and loving surrender to Your body and blood and the embracing of Your triumphal resurrection for our redemption. The Mass is not only a celebration of this work but also a recognition of our dependency upon it and thus a stimulus to the seeking that resonates in us to ask of You, to praise You, and to thank You.
Descriptively the parts of the Mass extend from the history of God among us to current manifestations of contemporary relevance to that history. The Mass is an extraordinarily panoramic prayer encompassing all the ways God has chosen to respond to His people and offering many ways for us to respond to God.
Salvation history is formed from the mesh of the word and The Word made flesh which, in the Mass, is reenacted in the integration of two parts: the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Mass is the celebration of God with us. The fact that it puts us primarily in the role of receivers lends it the quality of celebration away from which we take what is offered. This aspect of passiveness casts the Mass in the role of teacher: the scriptural word, the homily, the history of Eucharist, salvation, and redemption are lessons in who we are and are punctuated by our actively seeking forgiveness, requesting that our petitions be heard, praising You and thanking You. It is in these latter elements that we become active rather than passive participants in the celebration. In this sense the Mass might be considered as a beautiful amalgamation of both a contemplative and an actively solicitous response to God.
We do well to remember that the evolution of the Mass down to its present form is a construct of man based on the only part actually given to us by You at the Last Supper. As such, the Mass reflects the perception by successive generations of our relationship and response to our spiritual heritage.
The wonderful gift of our rational powers is often the most dangerous ground we tread on our spiritual journey. By its powers of persuasion we often deceive and misdirect ourselves. It is, unfortunately, very easy and very comfortable to convince ourselves of the rightness of our wrongness or of the goodness of our badness.
To which, by nature, do we tend - good or evil? I think it’s obvious from our efforts to rationalize our errors that what is strongest is our tendency toward good. And so, it is not only easy but also "natural" for us to rationally "adjust" marginal activities and attitudes (at least in our own minds) so that we can think well of ourselves. This can be a very dangerous form of self-deception that swings on the hinges of denial. But it occurs to me that there is another form of this which is even more dangerous - one toward which I often find myself leaning; namely, rationalizing one’s efforts in spiritual growth to be not only sufficient but also as having its source in oneself.
Whatever I’ve done or am able to do is a gift from You. This pertains most emphatically to the spiritual life. If I have been able to grow to reach new levels of contemplation, love and awareness, it is not my self which enables me to do this but the grace of Your Spirit. Implicit in the rationalization of this spiritual movement is a terrifying smugness that makes one want to shout, "I’ve got it!", as if the summit of a chosen climb had been reached safely and it’s all downhill from here. No! What I seek I cannot find by myself. True, it is me choosing to seek, but in this ascent, without a guide I know not which foot to put after the other. It’s like Peter walking on the water. As long as his focus was intensely on Your beckoning, he was able to do it. The moment he thought he was doing it, he sank.
Our intellect is the source of our pride and it will often sink us. It is a quality of our spirit which, when it overpowers us, drops our spirit. It is the driving force behind our other spiritual quality, the will, which is the engine that drives our choices. When we fling wide the door of our intellect to You rather than self, our will makes better choices.