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Matter for Mass

How much does it matter what we use for Mass? What is the meaning behind the Celebration of the Eucharist? It is simply a meal? We are used to using bread and wine, but could we use Coca-Cola and Nila wafers to get the same effect?

Giving into gimmicks

It happens. It is easy to give into gimmicks. Somebody wants to teach a group about the beauty of the Mass. Rather than delving in and getting into the real miracle that is there, they resort to gimmicks to grab people’s attention. It is unfortunate, because it shows a lack of catechesis and understanding of the Mass. If we could fully grasp the miracle of the Eucharist, that would be more than enough to motivate us to want to participate fully every time we have the opportunity.

It is not indifferent what we use. As priests, we actually have to be very careful to make sure that what we use for Mass is correct for the sacrament. Otherwise, we risk the mass being invalid. For a sacrament to be valid, it has to have the correct matter and form. Matter refers to the material being used and form to the words that are pronounced, as well as having the correct minister.

Why bread and wine?

Why do we use bread and wine? We are respecting the millennia-old tradition that is grounded in the words of institution at the First Eucharist, in the Upper Room of Jerusalem, hours before the Passion of Jesus.

Passover memories

Using bread and wine recalls the Passover. After 400 years of enslavement of the Jews in Egypt, Moses led them out, under God’s guidance. To leave, they had to eat a special meal of unleavened bread. Every year after, they commemorated this night by celebrating Passover. Unleavened bread is bread made in a hurry. To remember that night and the protection of God, they continued to eat unleavened bread as part of the ritual. They would also bless cups of wine and drink them. This is a foreshadowing of the wine used in the Eucharistic feast.

Gospel foreshadowing of the Eucharist

In the Gospel, a few different scenes also prefigure the consecration of bread and wine. When Jesus is with the crowds who have nothing to eat, he multiplies the bread and has his disciples distribute it to all of them. The disciples take it out to the crowds and come back with more leftovers than the bread they had at the beginning. It’s a miracle.

At Cana, he turned water into wine. The wedding feast was going to be a sorry event without the wine that Jesus himself provided for the party. The servants at the party brought him jugs of water, which he turned into wine.

Overcoming the distance

One of the difficulties we experience as Christians is that the Bible seems far away and distant from our ordinary lives. It seems like ancient history. So, sometimes Christians might even have good intentions when they try to do something a little crazy. This is the case when somebody might use other snacks to symbolize what happened at the Last Supper. But, it can never take the place of the bread and wine consecrated at the hands of a priest and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Occasion for division

The Eucharist, just like the Cross, is an occasion for division. Not everyone wants to believe. The Eucharist cannot be reduced to a simply symbol that we use for remembering events of the past. It is something real that makes present the mystery of Christ on the Cross. This is why it is so important. A mere symbol could be ignored, without causing much uproar. But the Eucharist is actually the Body and Blood of Christ. It demands of us a proper and correct behavior.

The Cure of Ars and the Eucharist

St. John Vianney once remarked: “When we come away from our Communions, if anyone said to us: ‘what are you taking home with you?’ we should be able to reply: ‘I am carrying away Heaven!’” We do not need to leave Mass with party favors as if it is a child’s piñata party. Rather, we leave with the deep satisfaction of knowing that we have drawn near to the King of Kings and have received him worthily in our hearts.

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