The Mass is nothing less than awesome! All of it. Time is suspended, heaven and earth are joined, our Lord is literally present, He speaks to us through our priests, angels and saints worship with us, we are present at the Last Supper and kneel at Calvary. The Mass is not a play or re-enactment and is far more than just a worship service. It is an incredible, supernatural mystery.
Too many Catholics know the Mass mostly in a routine way. They know the “people part” of prayers, the flow and the essence of the big picture. There are some who would have a difficult time articulating the differences with a Protestant worship service. It is a serious problem of catechesis that can lead to loss of faith. It is so, so sad.
There are plenty of books on the Mass, many focusing on mechanics, history, vestments, vessels, trivia and so on. The supernatural aspects, the whole point of the Mass, are often under-explored. I am not talking about weird theories, but an orthodox, solidly doctrinal presentation.
There are probably others I have yet to find, but I have found one (thanks Rigsby!) and it is excellent: David DesOrmeaux’s Mass Appeal – The Depth and Beauty of the Eucharistic Celebration at an Understandable Level. As far as I can tell, this is David’s only book and was written 10 years ago when he was only 22. That makes him light in credentials, but is well made up for in enthusiasm. It is quickly evident that he knows his “stuff,” loves the Mass and has researched carefully listing over 60 references in the bibliography.
Structurally, the book is a 132 page paperback organized to follow the liturgy. Where options exist, David picks one such as Eucharistic Prayer II (the other 3 are in the appendix). The table of contents is extensive allowing quick access to any part of Mass. References to scripture are extensive.
Since the book is 10 years old, it is obviously does not quote the new, corrected English translation of the Roman Missal. It would be a nice touch if it were updated, but that is not a serious drawback.
This book is inexpensive and perfect for a wide audience. If you are “more Catholic than the pope,” you will still find this insightful and a good resource to tie together bits and pieces you already know. If you are interested in Catholicism, you will be surprised how the Mass is thoroughly based upon scripture and hopefully get a small taste of its wonder. Everybody in between will simply get a beautiful, deeper appreciation for the Mass. It would make a great gift too, especially for those being confirmed or returning to the faith.
The Mass is an essential part of this divine action, for in it Christ, the Son, true God and true man, offers Himself to God the Father for the sake of his Bride, the Church. Jesus was sacrificed at the Crucifixion and that sacrifice is eternal. He stands as the slain Lamb in Heaven (Rev 5:6) forever and ever. This sacrifice took place so that our sins, the sins of Christ’s Bride the Church, would be forgiven. Instead of us suffering, Christ put our burden on his holy shoulders and offered Himself to God the Father. “No greater love can a man have than to give his life for a friend” (John 15:13). Now Christ’s Bride is pure because of what He did and his spotless Bride is worthy to be his wife.
The offering that Christ makes of his own life to the Father is also eternal. It is the same action He makes as He returns the perfect life and love to the Father, for He is the perfect life and love. Jesus gives Himself in the Trinity just as God the Father gave Himself to the Son. This not only takes place in Heaven, it also takes place on the altar at Mass. Christ is offered to the Father by his earthly servant, the priest, who stands in his place (in persona Christi). Therefore, because the Mass imitates the perfect action, and the action that takes place within the Most Holy Trinity, it is the highest action that we as humans can participate in here on earth.