Best-selling author Scott Hahn sheds new light on the Mass, offering readers a deeper appreciation of the most familiar of Catholic rituals.
Of all things Catholic, there is nothing that is so familiar as the Mass. With its unchanging prayers, the Mass fits Catholics like their favorite clothes. Yet most Catholics sitting in the pews on Sundays fail to see the powerful supernatural drama that enfolds them. Pope John Paul II described the Mass as "heaven on earth", explaining that what "we celebrate on earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy."
The Lamb's Supper reveals a long-lost secret of the Church: The early Christians' key to understanding the mysteries of the Mass was the New Testament Book of Revelation. With its bizarre imagery, its mystic visions of heaven, and its end-of-time prophecies, Revelation mirrors the sacrifice and celebration of the Eucharist.
Beautifully written, in clear direct language, best-selling Catholic author Scott Hahn's new book will help readers see the Mass with new eyes, pray the liturgy with a renewed heart, and enter into the Mass more fully, enthusiastically, intelligently, and powerfully than ever before.
In Heaven Right Now
WHAT I FOUND AT MY FIRST MASS
THERE I STOOD, a man incognito, a Protestant minister in plainclothes,
slipping into the back of a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness my
first Mass. Curiosity had driven me there, and I still didn't feel sure
that it was healthy curiosity. Studying the writings of the earliest
Christians, I'd found countless references to "the liturgy," "the
Eucharist," "the sacrifice." For those first Christians, the Bible-the
book I loved above all-was incomprehensible apart from the event that
today's Catholics called "the Mass."
I wanted to understand the early Christians; yet I'd had no experience
of liturgy. So I persuaded myself to go and see, as a sort of academic
exercise, but vowing all along that I would neither kneel nor take part
I took my seat in the shadows, in a pew at the very back of that
basement chapel. Before me were a goodly number of worshipers, men and
women of all ages. Their genuflections impressed me, as did their
apparent concentration in prayer. Then a bell rang, and they all stood
as the priest emerged from a door beside the altar.
Unsure of myself, I remained seated. For years, as an evangelical
Calvinist, I'd been trained to believe that the Mass was the ultimate
sacrilege a human could commit. The Mass, I had been taught, was a
ritual that purported to "resacrifice Jesus Christ." So I would remain
an observer. I would stay seated, with my Bible open beside me.
SOAKED IN SCRIPTURE
As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn't just
beside me. It was before me-in the words of the Mass! One line was from
Isaiah, another from the Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was
overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, "Hey, can I explain
what's happening from Scripture? This is great!" Still, I maintained my
observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest
pronounce the words of consecration: "This is My body ... This is the
cup of My blood."
Then I felt all my doubt drain away. As I saw the priest raise that
white host, I felt a prayer surge from my heart in a whisper: "My Lord
and my God. That's really you!"
I was what you might call a basket case from that point. I couldn't
imagine a greater excitement than what those words had worked upon me.
Yet the experience was intensified just a moment later, when I heard the
congregation recite: "Lamb of God ... Lamb of God ... Lamb of God," and
the priest respond, "This is the Lamb of God ..." as he raised the host.
In less than a minute, the phrase "Lamb of God" had rung out four times.
From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I
was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less
than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. I was at the marriage
feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the
Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever
as the Lamb. I wasn't ready for this, though-I was at Mass!
I would return to Mass the next day, and the next day, and the next.
Each time I went back, I would "discover" more of the Scriptures
fulfilled before my eyes. Yet no book was as visible to me, in that dark
chapel, as the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, which describes the
worship of the angels and saints in heaven. As in that book, so in that
chapel, I saw robed priests, an altar, a congregation chanting "holy,
holy, holy." I saw the smoke of incense; I heard the invocation of
angels and saints; I myself sang the alleluias, for I was drawn ever
more into this worship. I continued to sit in the back pew with my
Bible, and I hardly knew which way to turn-toward the action in the
Apocalypse or the action at the altar. More and more, they seemed to be
the very same action.
I plunged with renewed vigor into my study of ancient Christianity and
found that the earliest bishops, the Fathers of the Church, had made the
same "discovery" I was making every morning. They considered the Book of
Revelation the key to the liturgy, and the liturgy the key to the Book
of Revelation. Something powerful was happening to me as a scholar and a
believer. The book of the Bible that I had found most perplexing-the
Book of Revelation-was now illuminating the ideas that were most
foundational to my faith: the idea of the covenant as the sacred bond of
the family of God. Moreover, the action that I had considered the
supreme blasphemy-the Mass-now turned out to be the event that sealed
God's covenant. "This is the cup of My blood, the blood of the new and
I was giddy with the newness of it all. For years I had been trying to
make sense of the Book of Revelation as some kind of encoded message
about the end of the world, about worship in faraway heaven, about
something most Christians couldn't experience while still on earth. Now,
after two weeks of daily Mass attendance, I found myself wanting to
stand up during the liturgy and say, "Hey, everybody. Let me show you
where you are in the Apocalypse! Turn to chapter four, verse eight.
You're in heaven right now."
Excerpted from "The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth" by Scott Hahn. Copyright © 1999 by Scott Hahn. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.