‘First of all, I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you, and to a degree I believe it; When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk. Do you not have houses in which you can eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed? What can I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this matter I do not praise you. For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
This is the earliest written account we have of the Last Supper.
All the Apostles and disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were practising Jews, as was Jesus himself.
The two big differences between the early Christians and Judaism was their belief in the Risen Lord and their practise of the Breaking of Bread (our Mass).In the beginning the breaking of Bread was essentially a very simple act of thanksgiving to the Creator. The Christians shared a meal of bread and wine while recounting and remembering the great things God had done, and continued to do, for them. This Breaking of Bread was doing again what Jesus had done and said at the Last Supper. This doing and remembering, again and again, of the Last Supper, culminating in the arrest and execution of Jesus of Nazareth on a cross, was for them the way par excellence of remembering the lengths their God was willing to go to, in His/Her desire for peace, happiness and justice for all human beings. For the salvation of us human beings.
The reading from St. Paul shows how, even early on, abuses began too creep in to this Breaking of Bread. In some places people began bringing their own food and drink and refusing to share with the less we’ll off, thus causing devisions and jealousy.
So to correct and prevent these and other abuses, down the centuries, the celebration of the Breaking of bread had to be regulated.
Over the centuries one thing led to another and as some of us will remember the breaking of bread became stylised, overloaded with obscure symbolism and celebrated by the priest with his back to the people in a foreign language which nobody in the congregation comprehended. For the congregation their participation consisted of their being present and ‘saying their prayers.’ For all any of the congregation knew the priest might have been darning his socks at the altar. Luckily for us, since Vatican 11, the Breaking of Bread, has been simplified to some extent and is celebrated facing the congregation and in our native language.
Nevertheless our Breaking of Bread celebration needs further modification to make its connection with the Last Supper clearer and the english used needs a lot of work as it is too archaic and tries to say too much in too few words. Also many of the set readings are unintelligible to the normal congregation.
Anyway we have to make do with what we have until such a time as you people demand something better.
So a few pointers for adults which I find helpful.
- You come to Mass because you feel a need to thank your God for existence, for life, for health, for family, for friends and neighbours, for peace and security, for work, for the gift of faith and eternal life etc. In other words you come because you want to.
- Above all, you understand that the pinnacle of God’s demonstration of His/Her love, concern and care for you is his willingness to endure death on a cross in his struggle against injustice, greed, unfettered ambition, and oppression. i.e. for your salvation.
- You understand that by his life death and resurrection he has secured for you resurrection from death and a sharing in the Eternal Life of God.
- You understand that the last supper, which Jesus celebrated with his Apostles, was the symbol of this – his total giving for your wellbeing – and was the way he wanted you to remember him.
- You understand that all this is not a private you/God exercise but the public act of thanksgiving and gratitude of God’s family here in Corsham – our parish congregation.
- That, in the event of their being no mass in your parish on a particular weekend, it is far more important to join with your parish in whatever service of worship they have than scooting off to a different parish, merely to fulfil an imaginary obligation.
This is what is called participation in the Mass.