Bible Study: The Bible and the Mass (Lesson 1, Part 3)
This is Part 3 to the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The other parts can be found here: Part 1 – How is the Mass Based on the Bible? and Part 2 – Why is the Mass Biblical Worship? Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass. This lesson points out how when St. Paul was correcting the Corinthians, he was explaining to them how to do the Mass correctly.
The Mass is also biblical worship in a more obvious sense.
This is the worship Jesus commanded at His Last Supper.
When he wrote to the Corinthians – to correct abuses in the way they were celebrating the Eucharist – Paul reminded them of the night the Lord was handed over (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Paul described Jesus taking bread, giving thanks, breaking it, and saying, “This is My body” and in the same way taking wine and saying “this cup is the new covenant in My blood.” He recalled Jesus telling the Apostles: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Though Paul was not there at the Last Supper, he tells them he received this teaching from the churches founded by the Apostles; they, in turn, received this teaching directly from the Lord: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you”
The Greek words Paul uses – translated as “received” and “handed on” – are technical terms the rabbis of his day used to describe the keeping and teaching of sacred traditions.
Paul uses these same words when he talks about his teaching on Christ’s death and Resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:2-3).
These two sacred traditions – the truth about Christ’s death and Resurrection and the truth about the Eucharist, the memorial of His death – were received from the Lord and and handed on by the Apostles.
These traditions were inseparable and crucial to the message of salvation they preached.
Through Christ’s death and Resurrection, Paul said, “we are being saved.” In the Eucharist, that saving event is “remembered” in a way that communicates that salvation to us: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,” Paul said, “you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes” (see 1 Corinthians 11:26).
Interestingly, the very next few verses (1 Cor 11:27-29) Paul tells the Corinthians that no one should consume the Eucharist unworthily (i.e. in mortal sin) or else he will be drinking his own judgment. I imagine St. Paul was trying to correct Christians even then who did not take the Eucharist seriously, who believed the bread and wine were just symbols and not really Jesus Christ. How can “bread and wine” judge you unless they were really God you’re putting in your body?