|Mass as "festive meal"? |
Which is why we can have "clown Masses"?
Nowadays, you hear a lot of liturgists tell us that the Mass is "the meal of love" and that the focus of the "liturgy" is to "gather around the table of the Lord" for the "sharing" and the "eating and drinking". Some would even go to the extent that the Mass should be "like a fiesta" with dances and flaglets, complete with rock bands and drama skits to emphasize the "communal nature" of the Mass arising out of the understanding of Mass-as-meal. They say these because they point out that the first Mass is the Last Supper (which was a meal time) and that the Last Supper was in itself a Passover meal.
But I think... the melodramatic and histrionic emphasis of liturgists regarding the “meal” aspect of the Mass in the aftermath of the Bugnini reform has really obfuscated the authentic understanding of the focus of the Passover meal, that of the Last Supper, and ultimately that of the Mass.
If we read Exodus and examine closely the intent of the Passover, one can readily notice that the main focus of the Passover meal is NOT THE MEAL per se; rather, it is to recreate in a concrete and sensible way the experience of that night in which the Angel of Death “passed-over” the houses of the people of Israel sparing their first-born sons from death and their eventual deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It was to constantly remind Israel and to perpetuate the experience of that night of their salvation that the Passover came to be: thus, you have the bitter herbs, the “haste-bread” (unleavened bread, because they had no time to wait for the dough to rise), and the retelling of the story of the Exodus. Eventually, every generation of Israelites would re-live, re-enact, and re-experience the saving work which God had wrought to them.
|"Do this in remembrance of Me."|
It was in this context that the Lord Jesus shifted the meaning of the Passover. From the perpetuation of the experience of Israel’s salvation from slavery in Egypt, the Lord gave to His disciples His own Body and Blood and commanded them to do so “in remembrance of me”. That command was similar to what the Jews were doing with their Passover: so as to perpetuate for all time, the experience of that night in which He suffered and would eventually die for “the sins of the many”. And holy mother Church has fulfilled this command from her Lord when at every Mass, she makes present in a physical, sensible, though sacramental way (veiled under the eucharistic signs of bread and wine), the very Body given up on Calvary and the very Blood shed on the Cross for the salvation of many. And we signify and claim for ourselves the fruits of that sacrifice when we receive Holy Communion.
|The Great Sacrifice of the Altar:|
"Do this in memory of Me"
And so what of the meal aspect? The meal of the Passover together with that of the Last Supper and eventually that of the Mass (because there is eating and drinking) is NOT THE FOCUS, it is BUT THE MEDIUM through which the re-enactment and the re-living of God’s saving work is achieved. The focus of all three is on the renewal, the making present of God's salvific work. Though generations may not have witnessed the actual events in history, nevertheless, the saving work is still constantly experienced, and as for us Catholics, the full power of that saving sacrifice is made perceptible and actual in the here and now of our earthly sojourn.
I therefore assert that the emphasis in the “meal” is a great mistake and corruption of the main focus of the Mass. The emphasis on meal per se is the reason why we find the abominable exaggerated emphasis on community and the get-together in the Mass nowadays. If we are to re-orient the focus of the Mass as worship and as God’s perennial interaction with us, we should work to de-emphasize the “meal” of the Mass and explain that the meal IS BUT A MEDIUM AND NOT THE FOCUS of the great Sacrifice of the Altar.