Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 28, 2008
We don't have to die to go to heaven
Catholic convert Scott Hahn compares the Mass to heaven
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
We don't have to die to go to heaven," author and speaker Scott Hahn told more than 800 people packed into Ottawa's St. Patrick's Basilica April 12.
"All we have to do is go to Mass."
The former Presbyterian minister, who now teaches theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, shared how he slowly came to understand how the Catholics are standing in heaven during the Eucharist and sharing in the marriage supper of the Lamb as described in the Book of Revelation.
The author of The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth first encountered Revelation as a teenager while attending a weekend retreat.
End times warning
He learned he was lucky to be alive in the "end times," about the coming rapture of Christians and the Antichrist. Those "left behind" would face plagues of demonic frogs and bloody rivers.
Hahn said he started paying attention to the news, watching for signs. But soon he came across another interpretation of Revelation and grew discouraged at the divergent views. He began to read the Bible on his own.
When he started his theological training he "stumbled across the Church fathers," less than three months before his ordination.
Discovering the writings from Christianity's first five centuries was like "striking gold," and helped make the Bible come alive. The Church fathers built bridges between the Old and New Testaments. They "connected the dots," revealing the patterns of promise and fulfillment.
Hahn compared their reading of Scripture to what Jesus did with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, when he opened up the Law and the prophets to reveal all the promises concerning himself.
Hahn showed how the Gospel of John matched the creation narrative of Genesis; he showed how the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, was matched by Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, among many other examples of "connected dots" in the contextual way the fathers read Scripture.
Hahn said St. John Chrysostom wrote of Jesus as the new Moses, bringing a new covenant and showed the parallels between his life and the exodus of the Jews, even down to the signs: Moses turned water into blood, Jesus turned water into wine.
In the story of Passover, Hahn stressed that if you wanted to experience freedom, you had to slaughter the lamb, sprinkle the blood and eat the lamb.
Though he found the interpretation exciting, he also found it scary. He started to examine what the fathers wrote about John Chapter 6 where Jesus says anyone who eats his flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life.
"He's only speaking figuratively," Hahn told himself, realizing he had never heard a sermon preached on these verses, as if they were skipped over. He decided to see how the fathers interpreted them.
The fathers told him "it was not figurative." Understanding the Eucharist in terms of the Passover Lamb, who had to be eaten for the covenant to be fulfilled, became the only way of understanding the New Covenant and the Eucharist, he said.
Hahn realized at that point he had to step down as a minister. For the next two years, he taught and continued his study of the fathers, Vatican II documents and contemporary Catholic theologians.
In the fall of 1985, he snuck out to a midweek Mass. He avoided the holy water, as if he might get "Catholic cooties" and sat throughout the service.
At the Consecration, he realized, like the Apostle Thomas, "My Lord and my God. That's you. That's really you."
He realized he was no longer in a basement chapel during a weekday mass. "I'm in the Book of Revelation," at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Christ the heavenly high priest takes the wine and turns it into blood. He realized "the dead in Christ are more alive than we are."
"We are joined with the angels and the saints and we share in the same supper," he said.
He admitted that he had "rediscovered the wheel," but he felt as if his eyes had been opened, as the eyes of the travellers to Emmaus had been to the real presence of Christ with the breaking of the bread. He was received into the Catholic Church the following Easter. His wife Kimberly followed in 1990.
Journey to Catholicism
Then the couple wrote Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism.
Hahn said he was grateful for his evangelical protestant formation and how it grounded him in the Word of God. He said Protestants have been busy studying the Word while Catholics have been enjoying the meal.
"Our hearts should burn within us" when the Scripture is opened up in the Liturgy of the Word, he said.
Hahn said he hoped Catholics would "lay hold of God's word," to help them "lay hold of the greater treasure in the Eucharist."