And You’re Catholic … Why, Again?
WEEKLY BOOK PICK
by CARL E. OLSON
Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass
Edited by Scott Hahn and Regis J. Flaherty
Emmaus Road, 2004
204 pages, $15.95To order: (800) 398-5470
As the subhead indicates, the 12 essays in this book — the third in its series — cover a range of issues related to the Bible and the Mass. There are four major themes consistently threaded throughout the compilation: the biblical roots of the Mass, the Jewish background of liturgy and the Eucharist, the Eucharist as the eschatological sacrament (that is, a foretaste of the Second Coming and heaven), and the Eucharist as the dynamic heart of both internal spiritual growth and outward evangelistic activity.
Combined, the writings make for a worthwhile compendium of popular apologetics, theological examination and spiritual reflection.
In the opening essay, “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass,” Scripture scholar Edward P. Sri admits that, for many years as a young Catholic, he was largely oblivious to the biblical basis of the liturgy. As he began to study Scripture and the Mass, he came to see that “at almost every point of the Mass, God’s Word is jumping out in signs, gestures, words, and songs!”
He takes readers on an informal tour of the rubrics of the Mass, explaining, “Ultimately, the Mass is a participation in the heavenly liturgy.”
Curtis Mitch’s “The Mass and the Synoptic Gospels” focuses on the Jewish Passover as a celebration of the Exodus and how that feast is at the heart of the Last Supper — and, therefore, has so much to do with the Mass. It is Jesus’ “paschal blood that saves us from death, as well as the covenant blood that unites us with God,” Mitch writes. “By effecting the remission of sins, the blood of Jesus brings a new redemption from the death and bondage of sin. At the same time, it seals a new and everlasting covenant that makes us children of the Almighty Father.”
This overarching theme of covenant is, of course, essential to the book since the Eucharist is “the new and everlasting covenant.”
Tim Gray examines more of the Jewish character of that covenant in his essay “From Jewish Passover to Christian Eucharist,” while Thomas Nash, author of the recently published Worthy Is the Lamb: The Biblical Roots of the Mass (Ignatius, 2004), shows how Christ’s death fulfilled the need for a sacrifice and that the saving effects of that sacrificial death continue on today in the Eucharistic liturgy.
“We can speak of Christ’s heavenly sacrifice as ‘Calvary completed,’” Nash explains, “for the Mass does not re-crucify Christ. Rather, the Mass makes present the completed, glorified sacrifice of Christ that He forever offers to the Father in heaven.”
Readers who enjoyed Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper will appreciate his essay “Come Again? The Real Presence as Parousia,” as well as “The Mass and the Apocalypse,” written by Michael Barber, author of a new commentary on the Book of Revelation.
During the Year of the Eucharist, there will undoubtedly be many books published about the Eucharist and the Mass for popular audiences. This will likely prove to be one of the best because of the diversified unity of material, the biblical focus and the accessible and solid content.
Carl E. Olson is editor of
- March 6-12, 2005