Pastor’s Message — Vatican Council II — 50th Anniversary
A multi-part series honouring the Vatican Council II by reviewing its documents. We continue with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
Part XIII: Chapter II: The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
Having now summarised their reasons for a liturgical renewal and having established the general principles by which this renewal is to take place, the Council Fathers now turn their attention specifically to the Mass.
The Mass is the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Last Supper, in which Jesus continues to give us His Body and Blood and a sharing in His divine life. He commanded that we “do this in remembrance of [Him]” (Lk 22:29; 1 Cor 11:24),
in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us (no. 47).
As such, then, the Mass is both the Last Supper and the Cross, united in a single sacrament combining the words and actions of the Last Supper to those of the Cross. The Last Supper gives meaning to the Cross, and the Cross makes present what the Last Supper signified.
It was for this reason the Council Fathers gave so much attention in the previous section to the notion of active participation. Since the Mass is a moment of encountering God and of experiencing communion with Him,
Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves (no. 48).
Attendance at Mass isn’t like watching a play; our presence is only the beginning of our participation. By joining our hearts and minds to the actions taking place — whether by the Priest or by other ministers —, not only do we give our consent to what is happening, but we also join our own intentions, joys, sufferings, and prayers to the action of Christ, through the Priest’s offering. That’s why the Offertory dialogue in the new translation of the Roman Missal says: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father”. At Mass, with and through the Priest, all of Christ’s faithful are called to offer with Jesus the perfect prayer of praise and thanksgiving that He Himself gave on the Cross as an act of love to the Father. That’s why there is nothing greater that we can do in this life than participate at Mass, for through the Mass we enter into the divine communion of love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (To be continued…)