Part Two of an interview with Thomas J. Nash, author of Worthy
Is The Lamb: The Biblical Roots of the Mass | Read Part One
IgnatiusInsight.com: In your opinion, what needs to be emphasized
more in homilies and catechesis about the Mass?
Nash: In short, to summarize themes of preceding answers, to emphasize
the biblical roots of the Mass: to show that the Mass is profoundly rooted
in the Bible; to show how the Mass is truly the source and summit of the
Catholic life; to show how profoundly and wondrously Jesus loves us through
the Sacrifice of the Mass.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How do you think the Protestant idea of liturgy
corresponds to Biblical accounts of liturgical celebrations?
Nash: Its kind of like comparing a model airplane to an actual
airplane. Its not the real thing. Again, there are variations in
Protestant belief, with some having an imperfect view of the Real Presence
(Lutherans) and some espousing the Real Presence basically the same way
as Catholics (traditional Episcopalians). However, even with Episcopalians
there is not a valid Eucharist because they do not have validly ordained
priest. In general, with Protestant liturgy you can have Christians who
are sincerely gathered together to worship the Lord, but you dont
have the re-presentation and partaking of our Lords one Sacrifice.
As I note in my book, the common Protestant view of the Lords Supper
sees only the consumption of mere bread and wine and sees the same done
by our Lord and His apostles at the Last Supper. Consequently, the prominent
view of the Protestant Lords Supper has no impact on our salvation
and thereby becomes an anticlimactic fulfillment of the Jewish Passover
IgnatiusInsight.com: When did Catholic liturgy begin, and how has
it changed over the years?
Nash: The liturgy began at the Last Supper. The Last Supper is
the first Mass, in which Christ pre-presented and anticipated His Sacrifice
of Calvary. Mass after Christ lived out His Sacrifice re-present His Sacrifice
(Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], no 1366). In speaking
to Protestants and other non-Catholics, Catholics need to know how to
explain these profound realities, and I think my book will help them greatly
in that cause.
From the earliest days of the Church, we have the basic liturgical template
of the Mass: the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist
(cf. CCC, nos. 1346-47). Afterward, the Mass changed over time in terms
of the language in which it has been prayed and the prayers added and
developed to help deepen our participation. Yet, while arguments rage
today regarding the Tridentine Mass rite versus the Mass rite of Pope
Paul VI, and whether and how to reform the rite of Paul VI, Catholics
should remember that that the heart of the Massthe liturgy of the
Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist remains and will always remain.
And if we have that basic template, we have whats most important:
our Lord in Word and Sacrament.
Of course, the liturgical laws of the Church should be faithfully followed
to promote the reverent celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass and,
as part of that effort, to avoid needless distractions for the faithful.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How can Catholics be "welcomed forward"
for better instruction on the Eucharist, as well as a host of other catechetical
Nash: The Sunday homily is crucial in this process, because Sunday
Mass is the weekly celebration of the source and summit of the Christian
life, as noted above. The Sunday homily is an excellent place to talk
about the Eucharist because the Liturgy of the Word immediately precedes
the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass.
Once the faithful are better informed and formed regarding the Eucharist
at Mass, they will be much more likely to participate in other non-Mass
parish activities for further catechesis and invite others to do the same.
In addition, they will be more likely to live the faith outside Mass in
their homes and work lives, because they will have more intimately and
fruitfully encountered the Incarnate Word of God. Jesus teaches us that
He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6), and the
Eucharist provides us with a blessedly unique opportunity to receive the
life of Jesus so that we can follow His way. The Person of Jesusand
thus the Eucharistis fundamental to Catholic catechesis.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Why is it crucial that Catholics be aware of
the Biblical roots of the Mass?
Nash: First of all, we need to remember that the Bible is the written
Word of God, and as such has power in and of itself. It is living and
active (Heb. 4:12) and therefore simply reading the Bible and proclaiming
it can bring us and others closer to God.
In addition, in reading Gods Word, Catholics will come to appreciate
better how true the Mass is, how the roots of the Mass are deeply planted
in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Christs Sacrifice of Calvary.
The Bible tells the story of how God came to save us, and the biblical
roots of the Mass-the biblical story of the Mass-is central to that story
of salvation history, because the Mass sacramentally re-presents Christs
one Sacrifice whereby man was redeemed and salvation made possible.
If Catholics want to understand Gods great love for us, if they
want to better grasp the truly awe-inspiring nature of the Mass, they
need to know the biblical roots of the Mass. Further, when Catholics understand
better the biblical roots of the Mass, they will be able to give a more
compelling witness to both other Catholics and also Protestant Christians.
A biblical understanding of the Mass is crucial in interacting with Protestants.
In summary, in learning better the biblical roots of the Mass, Catholics
will be drawn into closer communion with Jesus, their Eucharistic Lord.
Consequently, they will be much better equipped to give witness to Jesus
and His Catholic Church in both their words and their daily example.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Talk about the idea of Catholicsand others
as wellgiving their "first fruits" to God and others,
what it means and why its necessary.
Nash: "First fruits" are not required because God actually
needs them or that we are trying to assuage His "ego." Rather,
requiring first fruits is Gods loving way of reminding us that everything
we have and are is ultimately from Him, and that we need to keep focused
on Him if we want to be truly fulfilled, both here on earth and in heaven.
Jesus illustrates this principle in the Gospel of Matthew: "[S]eek
first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be
yours as well" (Mt. 6:33).
A significant way we give God our first fruits is through donations to
the Church. Giving God ten percent of our gross income (a tithe), or whatever
we can afford, helps us become less detached regarding material goods
and more disposed toward relying on God and keeping Him centrally focused
as we plan our lives and individual days.
In addition, the concept of first fruits applies not simply to our treasure
(donations), but our time and talent as well. That is, do we honor God
in the use of our time? Do we fulfill our daily responsibilities according
to our vocation, e.g., that of a husband and father? In short, do we give
our bestour first fruitsto God in all circumstance so that
we can become increasingly conformed to and united with Him? We are reminded
that in giving to God we receive, and receive abundantly (cf. Jn. 10:10),
for who can out give God? Not giving God our first fruits, putting ourselves
first, will only lead to our unhappiness, both here on earth and potentially,
God forbid, in the hereafter. As Jesus teaches us, "For what will
it profit a man, if he gains the world and forfeits his life" (Mt.
26:16; cf. 7:13-14).
IgnatiusInsight.com: In your opinion, what is the overriding need
of Catholics today and what can the Church do to help?
Nash: To encounter Jesus personally within His Catholic Church,
the family of God. If they can come to know better how real Jesus is,
how much He loves them personally, guides them through the teachings of
the Church and is ready to nourish them through prayer and the sacraments,
particularly the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.
Regarding the latter sacrament, Catholics need to be reminded how they
should not approach the Eucharist unworthily, but rather first seek reconciliation
with God in Confession (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1385).
At the same time, they need to realize Gods great merciful love
for them, how much he desires them to be in right relationship with Him
so that they can fruitfully partake of the Eucharist. The Cross speaks
most eloquently in this regard.
If Catholics realize and experience Gods merciful love, they will
be well on their way to becoming joyful, zealous disciples of Christ in
the manner of St. Francis, who said, "Always preach the Gospel, and
when necessary use words." Apologetics are important, but encountering
the risen Lord, experiencing His grace, is primary and indispensable to
genuine and vibrant discipleship.
The Church can help by assisting the faithful to encounter Jesus more
fruitfully, both through general catechesis at whatever age level and
through the reception of the sacraments. Indeed, we most intimately encounter
Jesus in the Eucharist, for it is in the Blessed Sacrament that Our Lord
provides us eternal life in a unique Self-Gift of Himself to us (cf. Jn.
6:58). Given, as noted above, that the Mass is the source and summit of
the whole Christian life, Sunday Mass should be the fundamental place
that Catholics learn about and grow in love with God and His Church.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you hope Worthy Is The Lamb
Nash: I hope, with Gods grace, that many, many faithful Catholics
will be brought even closer to our Eucharistic Lord and His Church, whether
through personal reading, parish Bible study, college or seminary courses,
etc. I really hope a lot of priests and seminarians read it as well as
husbands and wives.
As a result, I hope that they will in turn be more energized to share
the biblical story of the Mass, with the fruit including stronger Catholic
families; stronger parishes and dioceses; many disaffected Catholics being
reconciled to the Church, many Protestants coming into full communion
with the Church, and many non-Christians coming to know our Eucharistic
Lord as members of His Catholic Church. With Gods help, I hope I
can directly impact some Protestants and non-Christians who providentially
come across my book. When it comes to promoting the mission of the Church,
I cant help but think big. After all, with God all things are possible
This interview was originally published on Ignatius Insight in August 2004.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles, Interviews, and Book Excerpts:
The Spirit of the Liturgy page
For "Many" or For "All"? | From God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart
of Life | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
U.M. Lang's Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer
| Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Music and Liturgy | From The Spirit of the Liturgy
| Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer | From The Spirit of the Liturgy
| Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The Mass of Vatican II | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Reform or Return? | An Interview with Rev. Thomas M. Kocik
Does Christianity Need A Liturgy? | From
The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy | Martin Mosebach
To Heaven Backward | Interview with Father Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory
Rite and Liturgy | Denis Crouan, STD
The Liturgy Lived: The Divinization of Man | Jean Corbon, OP
Worshipping at the Feet of the Lord: Pope Benedict XVI and
the Liturgy | Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D.
The Latin Mass: Old Rites and New Rites in
Today's World | Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D.
J. Nash, a former Senior Information Specialist at Catholics United for the
Faith (CUF), now works for Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). He is co-author of Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and
the Mystery of the Mass (Emmaus Road, 2004), and his work has appeared in
such publications as Catholic World Report, This Rock, the National
Catholic Register and Lay Witness. He has worked in both the
secular media (print and broadcast) and the Catholic media, winning/sharing
in several national Catholic journalism awards. A native of Detroit, Nash
holds degrees from the University of Michigan (B.A. in communication), the
University of Missouri (M.A. in journalism) and Franciscan University of
Steubenville (M.A. in theology).