Father Matthew Buettner: Paschal Mystery: the three parts of the Liturgy of the Eucharist
As we begin to examine the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are reminded that the drama of our redemption is accomplished by Christ in three distinct acts: His passion, death, and resurrection; Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday; The Last Supper, the crucifixion and death on the Cross, and the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. These three acts of our redemption compose what we call the Paschal Mystery. It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that invites us into the Paschal Mystery and unites us with the means of our salvation.
Within these three acts, the passion, death and resurrection, there are three movements in the Mass that perpetuate the effects of our redemption and apply them to our individual souls. These three movements – the offertory, the Eucharistic Prayer with the consecration at the heart, and the reception of Holy Communion – compose the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Together, they unite us with the mystery of the cross, continue to bring about our salvation by applying the fruits of our redemption today, and ultimately, express God's divine love and mercy.
To apply the merits of redemption to our souls, each of us must renew the death to sin which was brought about by Christ on the cross. Christ died once and for all on the cross 2,000 years ago. In imitation of His perfect sacrifice and in union with His self-offering to the Father, we offer ourselves in union with Christ.
In the early Church, this was accomplished by offering the same elements that Christ Himself offered at the Last Supper: bread and wine. Some of each was used by the priest to offer the sacrifice.
Today, we substitute money for these elements. The donated money purchases the bread and wine sacrificed at the Mass, but it also represents ourselves, since we receive money as recompense for our labor, our time and our talent. The material sacrifice that we make is still a symbol of our spiritual incorporation into the death of Christ. Through the free offering of ourselves to God in union with Christ, we find salvation.
The Eucharistic Prayer
The offertory leads us to the Eucharistic Prayer. The consecration of the Mass does not mean that Our Lord dies again, for He can never die again in His own individual human nature. But He prolongs His death in us. In the offertory we present ourselves for sacrifice with Christ; in the consecration we die and rise with Him. We apply His death to ourselves, so that we may share in His resurrection.
At the consecration, the eternal sacrifice of Christ punctures the time barrier, heaven dawns upon earth, and Emmanuel comes again to meet man. By the words of Christ speaking through a priest, the Holy Spirit changes the substance of bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is known as transubstantiation (from the Latin for "change in substance").
This is not simply a recited prayer, but a divine act which enables us to apply the merits of the cross to ourselves; the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ is brought into the present and relived in us. Why? The sacrifice is re-presented by divine command to receive Him as spiritual nourishment and as an antidote for sin and death.
In the offertory, we are like lambs led to the slaughter. In the Eucharistic Prayer, we are the lambs who are slaughtered in our old sinful selves. And in Holy Communion, we find that we have not died, but that we have come to life. In a certain sense, the substance of bread and wine must be sacrificed, must die, so that it may become the Body and Blood of Christ.
In the same way, our old habits of sin must also be sacrificed so that we might have new life in Christ. Chemicals must be sacrificed that plants might live. Plants must perish that animals might live. Chemicals, plants, and animals must be sacrificed that man might live. And our old sinful selves must perish for God to live in us. That is why we "receive" Holy Communion: we receive Christ, we receive divine life. But perhaps more importantly, it is Christ who receives us, incorporating us into His divine life.
In upcoming columns, we will discuss in detail each of these three parts of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Father Matthew Buettner is the pastor of St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton. This is excerpted from "Understanding the Mystery of the Mass – Revisited," available for purchase online at www.tedeumfoundation.org. Previous columns are archived online at www.catholicnewsherald.com.
New Redemptorist parochial vicar joins Concord, Kannapolis parishesCONCORD — Redemptorist Father Aldrin Christopher Roswell Nunes has been appointed parochial vicar at St. James the Greater Church in Concord, effective April 23, Bishop Peter J. Jugis recently announced. Father Nunes will serve both St. James...
Renewing roots in charityLearn about the new Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Since 2005 we have celebrated Catholic Social Services Week. Each year this week provides an opportunity for our parishioners to become more...
Photos: Honoring Mary, the Mother of GodWINSTON-SALEM — Students at St. Leo School in Winston-Salem celebrated Mary with a May crowning on May 10. (Photo provided by Donna Birkel) GREENSBORO — Our Lady...
Mecklenburg County Bar honors diocesan attorneyLucey recognized for distinguished service to families CHARLOTTE — It's hard to surprise a seasoned attorney, but the Mecklenburg County Bar managed to pull off an unexpected award presentation for Diocese of Charlotte attorney Richard Lucey...
Monroe pastor leads pilgrimage to National Shrine of St. DymphnaMONROE — On a blustery day in March, Father Benjamin Roberts made good on a promise made to St. Dymphna more than 14 years ago. Father Roberts, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Monroe, boarded a charter bus with 52 pilgrims from North...
PHOTO GALLERY: Crowning Mary during Family Rosary ProcessionCHARLOTTE — Patricia Jane (P.J.) Pickhardt crowns a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during the Family Rosary Procession sponsored by the Charlotte Catholic Women's Group on May 3 at St. Ann Church. Pickhardt, a parishioner at St. Ann Church,...
Charlotte food pantry gets refrigeratorsCHARLOTTE — Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte's food pantry in Charlotte now offers perishable goods to clients, thanks to several refrigerators that were recently set up in the pantry at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Charlotte. Catholic...
Asheville parishioners honor Father Thomas on his 40th anniversary as priestASHEVILLE — Member of Asheville's historic St. Lawrence Basilica filled the church's Laurentine Hall recently to honor their pastor, Father Wilbur Thomas, on his 40th anniversary as a priest. Pictured: Father Wilbur Thomas, pastor and rector...
Holy Cross in Kernersville responds to call for life, liberty and marriageKERNERSVILLE — Parishioners at Holy Cross Church in Kernersville have been active in the U.S. bishops' campaign "Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty" that began earlier this year. The campaign launched by the U.S. Conference...
Consecration to the Sacred HeartHUNTERSVILLE — Latino Catholics gathered at St. Mark Church in Huntersville on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, for consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through Mary. A similar gathering was held on Dec, 8, the Feast of the Immaculate...
St. John of Avila, diocesan priest, graces Our Lady of Lourdes ChapelMONROE — Thanks to an anonymous donor and the work of a talented North Carolina artist, parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes Church have an original commissioned image of St. John of Avila in the Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel. Father Benjamin...
Sacraments celebrated at St. Elizabeth of the Hill CountryBOONE — On May 1, 22 young adults at the parish received the sacrament of confirmation during Mass at St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country Church in Boone celebrated by Bishop Peter J. Jugis. Eight children received their first Holy Communion...
Bishop Morneau: 'Gratitude is the key to good stewardship'CONCORD — Gratitude is the key to good stewardship. That was the message from Auxiliary Bishop Robert F. Morneau of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., to more than 225 stewardship leaders from the Carolinas and Georgia who gathered in Concord...
Sylva Knights volunteer, raise money and give it awaySYLVA — Members of Knights of Columbus Council 9722 of Sylva volunteered April 12 at the Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville, a residential facility providing housing, food, job training and counseling to veterans who need a helping...
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy