With the start of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, I got thinking about time travel and how the Catholic Mass is literally a time machine of sorts. I remember when I was living as a Jesuit at Georgetown University when an old Jesuit priest gave a captivating presentation about the parts of the Mass. Something’s different at Mass, he said. You’ve got candles lit (not 21st century lighting), we read ancient stories, and the priest is wearing clothing that looks like it’s from 1st century Palestine: we’re taken to a different time and place. True. But that’s not really what makes the Mass a time machine. It’s the Eucharist.
For Catholics the Eucharist substantially makes present Jesus Christ. We believe that the bread and the wine, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become the Body and Blood of Christ. (For an explanation on transubstantiation and real presence this is a good video). It’s not just a representational symbol. The Jesus who lived, died on the cross, and was resurrected becomes physically present to the congregation. It is the same Jesus who has been present with Christians in person and at Masses through the ages.
Jesus gave the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (also called Communion) [...] so that people throughout the generations can literally and physically be present with him during his Last Supper, and join with him in giving sacrifice to God. When a person attends a Catholic Mass, he is literally taken back in time to be with Jesus during the Last Supper.
- From the MaryMajor blog
The Eucharist transcends time and space; it connects us not only with Jesus at the Last Supper or at the cross but with fellow Christians from the past in different parts of the world and even from the future who will be celebrating Mass just like we are. And if Christ is present to all the saints in heaven, by being present with the Eucharist we also find a connection to them—in the eternal realm. It’s a lot to wrap one’s head around but that’s where we can embrace the mystery of what the Mass brings us each week.
If you consider the reality of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and its time travel elements, you’ll never see a Catholic Mass the same way again.