Even with the recent changes to the Roman Missal, the essence of Mass, dating back to the beginning of the Church, has always been the same.
Mass, then and now, is all about experiencing Jesus' presence. The life-giving presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is as much a reality today as it was 2,000 years ago. Mass is and always has been a celebration of the salvation of the world, said Father John Reddy.
Reddy, a Pallotine priest at Edmonton's Good Shepherd Parish, was the final speaker in the six-part catechesis series on the Holy Mass.
About 25 people attended his talk, The Mass: Become What We Receive, June 6 at Newman Theological College. In small groups, they discussed their primary focus when they receive the Eucharist.
"What is broken on the altar is what you receive at Communion. What you receive at Communion is what you become. You become the very body of Christ," said Reddy.
Christian worship differs from all other forms of religious worship which preceded it, he said. God does not require our worship. In the Old Testament, most worship focused around animal sacrifice. In Christianity, no sacrifice is required, except one - the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
"If we understand the teachings of St. Paul, we know that we do not need to make any sacrifices. Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice once and for all. His sacrifice is valid for all of the people who believe in him," said Reddy.
If worship and sacrifice are unnecessary, then why do Christians gather in church every Sunday? Celebrating Mass is much more than following a set of ritual actions.
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"We are celebrating Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Our focus is on that act of self-giving. When we bring the bread and wine as offerings in the church during Mass, somehow by God's own grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, those very gifts are transformed into the life-giving presence of Jesus Christ," said Reddy.
In Mark 10.45, Jesus is clear that he came to serve, not to be served. He came to give life as a ransom for many.
Again at the Last Supper, he washes the feet of the apostles, teaching them that washing their feet was a sign of his love and service to them. As his disciples, they were instructed to wash each other's feet. Likewise, Christians are people chosen by Christ to be signs of his presence in the world.
"When we celebrate Mass, we imitate what our master did. That is, we ourselves become a sign of love and service. We become signs of Christ's life-giving presence in our own families and in our own communities," said Reddy.
Through receiving the Eucharist, people's lives are touched, affecting their values, choices and daily actions. They start to pattern their own lives on Jesus' example. Living as Jesus lived, loving as Jesus loved, and serving as Jesus served is what being a Christian is all about.
As well, Christians accept their own individual crosses, their own personal burdens. By doing so, they are ready to break their bodies and shed their blood as Christ did on the cross.
"The life-giving presence of Jesus, which we have experienced at the Mass, is now continued in our persons. In that sense, we are becoming what we have received," said Reddy.
Mass, not only a celebration of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, is also a time for Christians to celebrate their own acts of self-giving. Mass is an expression of their commitment to live for others.
"When we receive the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, in some mysterious way we become the very sacrament of the Eucharist. We become the actual sign of life-giving presence of Christ to ourselves and to others," said Reddy.
Catholics, he said, need to understand the significance of Communion. The Eucharist is a moment to savour the fact that God chose to make himself a gift to you in the Body and Blood of Christ.
"Faith is measured in its capacity to make Christ's presence real here and now. That is what the whole experience of the Mass is, to experience the real presence of Jesus Christ. If our own lives are Christ-like, then we will make his presence obvious to the world."