Why do we say that the Mass is central to our Catholic Faith?
This is so because everything that God has ever done or said is encapsulated, summarised, condensed, in the one act or event of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.
God my Creator’s last word, final testament, definitive act, most visible demonstration of His concern, care and commitment to my total welfare is the crucifixion.
As St. Paul says in Rom. 5; ’For while we were still sinners, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.’
The Mass is what we do to remember, to re-enact, to re-present the crucifixion, in the way that Jesus of Nazareth asked us to do it.
At the Last Supper, taking bread he shared it among them to eat saying ‘this is my body which will be given up for you.’ ( given up for you tomorrow on the cross). Then taking the wine he poured some for each of them to drink saying ‘this is my blood which will be shed for you.’ ( shed for you tomorrow on the cross). Then he added ‘do this in memory of me.’
This act (the Mass) which we do in memory of him is the simple enactment or representation of the Last Supper. The Last Supper is the symbolic reenactment or representation of what was to happen the following day on the cross.
Therefore our eyes and mind should be focused on the crucifix during mass rather than on the bread and wine. The crucifixion is what is really happening, the bread and wine are symbols re-presenting the crucifixion.
(That is why there is always a crucifix on or near the altar during Mass.)
The original Mass was a group of people sitting round the kitchen table in a private house, reading from some part of the Old Testament, singing a few psalms and sharing a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine while repeating the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. The principal emotion or motivation was gratitude and thanksgiving for the great things God had and is doing for them. Then they left, each going their own way, to live and spread the good news of the kingdom of God.
Because of large numbers, big churches and the accumulation over the years of prayers and some out of date symbols, this simple act of remembrance and gratitude is not easily discernible today. One has to work at it and concentrate closely.
Human nature being human nature, one’s motivation and gratitude at any particular Mass, can vary from strong to non existent. The latter is where faith and raw commitment come into play. (One might say, just like married life ).