Liberal Arts Blog — What is Catholic Mass? What is the Heart of It? Who Cares? Who Should?
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: What is Catholic Mass? What is the Heart of It? Who Cares? Who Should?
Is the Catholic Church the oldest continuously operating international organization on the planet earth? The claim has been made and it might well be true. Assume it is for a moment. What is the essence of this institution’s core ritual — the weekly Catholic mass? Can it be distilled through some great alembic of the mind? Today, a few thoughts. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
TO THE OUTSIDER, THE MASS IS BIZARRE, MACABRE, CREEPY
1. The heart of it is a miracle performed by a master of ceremonies called an ordained priest who transforms a wafer made of flour and water into the flesh of a mythical figure born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
2. And then the priest blesses a cup of wine which magically morphs into the blood of this guy who was nailed to a cross way back when.
3. Then the priest eats the flesh and drinks the blood because Jesus said to do so “in memory of me.” He said this at dinner the night before he was put to death on Friday of Holy Week.
NB: The dinner is called “The Last Supper” and is famously memorialized in Leonardo da Vinci’s eponymous painting.
THIS WEEK’S LITTLE EPIPHANY — A PRAYER COMES OUT OF NOWHERE
1. The words came to me as I walked down Barretts Mill Road along the line of march of the Acton Minutemen on their way to confront the British Regulars at the North Bridge in Concord on April 19, 1775.
2. “Let us pray. Let us give thanks to the Lord. It is right and just. It is right and just and proper towards salvation always and everywhere to give thee thanks and praise.” I said them aloud. But I could not identify the source. So I went to the web and learned that this is part of the Eucharistic Prayer which is the heart of the mass.
3. In other words, the heart of the mass is a prayer of thanks. Weekly mass is like weekly Thanksgiving.
NB: Put differently, perhaps more poetically, the essence of the mass, and of the Catholic religion, and perhaps really all religions is “Hallelujah.”
HEAVEN, HELL, HALLELUJAH — the Big H in the Sky
1. Think of Orion (the most prominent constellation in the night sky) as a Giant Post-It Note in the Sky, a glorious reminder of what matters in life, a reminder of your immense power to mold your own destiny and that of humanity through your choices in life which will echo through time like ripples in a pond.
2. Think of Orion as a Big H (though the bow tie thing, the hour-glass, and the dancer also have appeal). Will the H stand for heaven, hell, or hallelujah?
3. Any time, any place is a great time and a great place to remember the greatest quote from John Milton.
NB “The mind is its own place. and in itself can make of heaven a hell. Of hell a heaven.” (Satan in Paradise Lost, Book One, lines 253–5) Hallelujah!
A LINK TO THE LAST THREE YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.