I remember being at a Catholic youth conference and becoming upset because one of the teen-speakers called the Mass “a family dinner”. I went to one of the youth leaders of my group and stated that I was upset that the mystery had been taken away from the Holy Mass. She, being a neocon Catholic herself, agreed that the Mass was a family dinner and that was the mystery. After all, God did not have to make us his family.
There is truth there — God did not have to save us from sin nor make us His children through Holy Baptism. The redemptive act of the cross did not have to happen. God had mercy on His creatures and willed that it should happen. He willed that we all be given the chance at being obedient, echoing Mary’s fiat.
The Mass is about the redemptive act of Calvary. The Last Supper is about a sacrifice. How many family dinners have you gone to that the head of the family gives his flesh and blood for food and drink, that he offers his body and life in sacrifice? Yes, that is not what happens at a family dinner. That is what happens at the Mass. The Mass is the mystical unbloody sacrifice of Calvary. It should not be reduced to something profane or anthropocentric.
It isn’t about us. It is about the worship of God.
What brings up this rant? I came across a post which discusses the practice of Ad Orientum, the priest facing the East and leading the people in the sacrifice. The post was in response to a very narrow idea that Ad Orientum is nothing more than the priest having his back toward the people. This is simply not the case. I liked the response of the post:
The celebrant does not turn his back to the people; he turns to face the Father as they do, in solidarity with them and acting in the person of Christ the Head. However, if he views the altar as firstly a table, then his anthropocentric understanding of Eucharistic worship is not so surprising.
The Roman Catechism, also known as the Catechism of the Council of Trent, states the following regarding the Holy Mass as a True Sacrifice:
Proof From The Council Of Trent
With regard to the institution of this Sacrifice, the holy Council of Trent has left no room for doubt, by declaring that it was instituted by our Lord at His Last Supper; while it condemns under anathema all those who assert that in it is not offered to God a true and proper Sacrifice; or that to offer means nothing else than that Christ is given as our spiritual food.
Nor did (the Council) omit carefully to explain that to God alone is offered this Sacrifice. For although the Church sometimes offers Masses in honour and in memory of the Saints, yet she teaches that the Sacrifice is offered, not to them, but to God alone, who has crowned the Saints with immortal glory. Hence the priest never says: I offer Sacrifice to thee Peter, or to thee Paul; but, while he offers Sacrifice to God alone, he renders Him thanks for the signal victory won by the blessed martyrs, and thus implores their patronage, that they, whose memory we celebrate on earth, may vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven.”
Proof From Scripture
This doctrine, handed down by the Catholic Church, concerning the truth of this Sacrifice, she received from the words of our Lord, when, on that last night, committing to His Apostles these same sacred mysteries, He said: Do this for a commemoration of me; for then, as was defined by the holy Council, He ordained them priests, and commanded that they and their successors in the priestly office, should immolate and offer His body.
Of this the words of the Apostle to the Corinthians also afford a sufficient proof: You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the? table of devils. As then by the table of devils must be understood the altar on which sacrifice was offered to them; so also – if the conclusion proposed to himself by the Apostle is to be legitimately drawn — by the table of the Lord can be understood nothing else than the altar on which Sacrifice was offered to the Lord.
Should we look for figures and prophecies of this Sacrifice in the Old Testament, in the first place Malachy most clearly prophesied thereof in these words: From the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.
Moreover, this victim was foretold, as well before as after the promulgation of the Law, by various kinds of sacrifices; for this victim alone, as the perfection and completion of all, comprises all the blessings which were signified by the other sacrifices. In nothing, however, do we behold a more lively image of the Eucharistic Sacrifice than in that of Melchisedech; for the Saviour Himself offered to God the Father, at His Last Supper, His body and blood, under the appearances of bread and wine, declaring that He was constituted a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedech.
Again, my family dinners are not sacrificial in nature. It is not a family dinner – it is a mystery and a sacrifice. It is rendering to God what belongs to Him.