WHY IS CATHOLIC WORSHIP CALLED MASS?
Rev. Fr. John Patrick TINDANA
The Catholic worship is commonly referred to as Mass, rather than service, as others refer to their worship. In fact, you would even hear some Catholics refer to their worship as service, just like the other non-Catholics.
Before we go into details as to why we call our worship Mass, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, our worship goes by many other names. Hold on, don’t get confused. You already know those names, and you use them from time to time.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church – the CCC – has dedicated numbers 1328 to 1332 to the various names of our worship. The CCC says, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (# 1324). Ah, here we have another name of the Catholic worship – the Eucharist.
It is called the Eucharist because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. So you see, we come to church to thank God. We must never get tired of thanking him. We should thank God for the gift of creation, our beautiful world. We should thank God for our redemption – not leaving us in the shadows of death, but sending his Son Jesus to come and die for us. We should also thank God for the gift of our sanctification – unworthy though we are he sent his Holy Spirit to accompany and sanctify us in this valley of tears.
Apart from the name Eucharist, the Catholic worship is also called the Lord’s Supper. This is because on the eve of Jesus’ Passion – that is, his suffering, death and resurrection – he had supper with his disciples. In much the same way, when we gather to worship we also dine with the Lord and with one another when we receive the Body of the Lord.
The Catholic worship is also called the Breaking of Bread. This is because at the Last Supper, Jesus blessed and distributed bread. In Lk 24:13-35 the disciples were able to recognize the Risen Lord through the breaking of bread. The bread that is broken during our Eucharistic celebration is Christ himself.
The Council of Trent defines that, “The same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, is present and offered in an unbloody manner” in the Mass. In that sense, we can say that anytime we come for Mass, we gather at the foot of the cross of Calvary. Think about that.
I will leave you to read on the other names, as found in CCC ## 1328 – 1332, since our main focus for today is the Mass.
The Holy Mass in Latin is Missa. It is called the Holy Mass or Mass, because the whole celebration concludes with the sending forth of the faithful. It is as simple as that. And “the sending forth” in Latin is missio. And already the word missio should be ringing a bell in our ears – mission.
It means that every Holy Mass sends us on mission. A mission to fulfil God’s will in our daily lives. The good news must permeate every boundary. The word of God cannot be chained (2 Tim 2:9). We keep repeating that the church is by nature missionary. And that is not limited to only the clergy, but to all the baptized.
The priest’s office, if you like, is the sanctuary. The lay faithful on the other hand are found in various offices of the world – the marketplace, the classroom, the chamber, the consulting room, the taxi, the trotro, the farm, everywhere. The priest cannot be at all these places. That is why, in the celebration of the Mass, we gather as the people of God, and the priest exercises his office from the sanctuary, after which the people are sent forth to go into the world, to their various offices, and bring the word of God, the good news, there.
The priest concludes the Mass by saying ite Missa est – go, the Mass is ended. The “go” is imperative, it is a command. Whatever you have heard during the celebration of the Eucharist, whatever the Lord has placed on your heart, go into the world and share it with others.
So you see, Catholics have been missionaries from day one. Probably some of us went to sleep and forgot this great responsibility, divine responsibility, entrusted to us. From hence, anytime you go for Mass, the moment you hear the priest say “Go, the Mass is ended”, ask yourself, “what am I bringing to the world?” So, I hope you would be able to explain to your friends why our worship is not called service, but Mass, wouldn’t you)
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Authored by Rev Fr John Patrick Tindana