The Sacrifice of the Mass Explained
The Mass is a gift from Jesus. When Jesus ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God, He left the apostles a sign that He would always be with them.
On the night before He died, Jesus gathered His apostles together for the feast of the Passover. During this meal, His 'Last Supper', He took bread, gave thanks and told the apostles that it was now His body. At the end of the meal, He took a cup of wine, gave thanks and told them that it was now His blood. "For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." (John 6: 55-57) He then told His apostles to continue to do what He was doing at this meal, in remembrance of Him.
The Eucharist is a celebration (called the 'Mass') that recalls the Last Supper: a holy meal that provides spiritual food for Christians and a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus offered His life to God in sacrifice for us to obtain everlasting life with God in heaven. When we receive Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist (whether under one or both forms), we are made holier by the power of Christ's sacrifice; we participate in Christ's sacrifice; and we are strengthened as members of the faith community.
By doing as Christ directed, the Apostles and the priests who followed them commemorate Christ's death on the cross. Christ's sacrifice becomes 'present' with each and every celebration of the Mass. It is not represented (symbolic) but rather re-presented (continuous)!!
Wheat is milled and made into bread, a basic food that nourishes our earthly bodies. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave His apostles His own Body under the form of bread so that it could become nourishment for their souls, their spiritual bodies. Grapes grow on vines and are used to produce wine. Jesus often used vines, grapes and wine to describe our relationship with God. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the Apostles His own Blood under the form of wine and promised them that drinking it would bring them forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
At Mass, the bread becomes the Body of Jesus and the wine becomes the Blood of Jesus through the action of the Holy Spirit when the priest (consecrates) prays over them. The blood of Jesus still looks and tastes like wine, and the body of Jesus still looks and tastes like bread, but our faith tells us that it is no longer just bread and wine, but rather the real Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. When we really believe this, and follow in His way, the promise that Jesus made to His apostles becomes the promise made to us. We will also receive forgiveness of our sins and eternal life.
The Eucharist, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the risen Christ, gives us spiritual life and strength. It gives us inspiration to know God's will, courage to do God's work, help to live the life God wants for us, a deeper understanding of the mystery of Christ's presence, encouragement to love others, grace to overcome temptation and avoid sin, and joy and peace of heart knowing that Christ lives in us and will bring us to God's heavenly Kingdom.
The Mass moves in two directions. In the Liturgy of the Word, we speak to God, and God speaks to us. In the Liturgy of the Deed (Eucharist), we offer to God, and God offers to us. This action brings us into communion with God and with each other.
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