The Mass is Heaven on Earth
As I have mentioned in past newsletters, the Mass makes present on our altars the Sacrifice Our Lord made on Calvary now, in our time and in our place. One of the miracles of the Mass is that it “not only recalls the events that saved us, but actualises them, makes them present” to us NOW (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 1104). Therefore, Calvary and the Mass are one and the same. Every Mass is also a participation in the eternal Liturgy of Heaven where the Sacrifice Our Lord once offered to the Father on the Cross is perpetuated. So the Heavenly Liturgy prolongs the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Catechism also explains that our participation on earth in the Heavenly Liturgy means we are united with the whole Court of Heaven – Our Lady and all the Angels and Saints (CCC 1090).
So consider the dialogue between the Priest and Congregation at the Preface of the Mass:
- The Lord be with you. R. And with your spirit.
- Lift up your hearts. R. We lift them up to the Lord.
- Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. R. It is right and just.
We really are being invited to go to Heaven! The Priest then reads the Preface whose text varies according to the Sunday or feast, but it always ends with words like these: “And so with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the Hosts and Powers of Heaven, we sing the hymn of Your glory as without end we acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts…”
At that moment we are united in singing the “Sanctus” or “Holy, Holy” with all the Angels and Saints in the eternal Liturgy of Heaven. We are very blessed at St Mary’s that the beauty of our church does actually remind us we are in Heaven, because many modern churches simply don’t! Beautiful churches lead us to God. Think of the windows and statues of the Angels and Saints. Our Lord Himself is at the centre in the tabernacle which is why we genuflect to it. The altar, the candles, the incense, the Gospel book, the vestments and the kneeling before Our Lord are all mentioned in the book of the Apocalypse, the final book of the Bible which describes in detail the Heavenly Liturgy. Therefore, none of these details in the Mass are arbitrary or without reason. It is precisely because at every Mass Heaven and earth unite, that we hear and experience these Heavenly things in the Sacred Liturgy.
Fr Paul Gillham IC