The following poem is half-inspired by a lecture given by Archbishop Alexander Sample, at the Sacred Music Colloquium, in which he contrasted certain liturgical tendencies with the actual Catholic understanding of the mass. Certain people in modern Catholic circles seek to celebrate the mass in a sentimentally celebratory fashion; hence the all-too-common "happy-clappy" masses which are celebrated these days. But a proper understanding of the mass and its infinite gravity reveals that the joy of the mass is of a different nature. It is a joy indeed, but it cannot be separated from the sorrow of Christ's passion and death, His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary - the single most heart-wrenching drama in the history of mankind. Indeed, this is one of the most essential parts of the mass, as taught by the Catholic Church: it is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus, His passion and death on the cross. And yet, by the tragedy of His death, Christ merited for man the graces necessary to attain holiness and eternal salvation. Thus, He accomplished for man what man himself could never do: He satisfied the infinite justice of God, which had been grievously offended by the sin of Adam, and which continues to be offended by every sin committed by man.
Anyway, these are the essential thoughts which I have translated into the following poetic language.
The Mystery of the Mass
What celebrations here and now take place
Doth give us weighty cause for Christian joy.
For from this source doth flow God’s saving grace,
Which we for our salvation may employ.
But lo, what is this sacred mystery
Which hath such great esteem in Christian hearts?
What is the meaning of this liturgy,
Which hath in Christian lives so large a part?
Indeed, the tale behind this sacred prayer,
Upon which Christians spend their every breath;
What we do celebrate on this affair
Is nothing but the mystery of death.
Ah yes, but why so grim a thing, you ask?
What law doth bind us to so sad a feast?
Whence comes this great and weighty task
Of celebrating that which man loves least?
The story of salvation hath its source,
Not in mere lowly labors wrought by man,
(For man hath not the power nor the force)
But in the action of the God-made-man.
The work of man alone doth not suffice
To bring him to the end for which he’s made.
But if be made a Godly sacrifice,
‘Tis then at last that man can e'er be saved.
For Adam didst incur the wrath of God,
Offense against a justice infinite.
From that time forward, man was ever flawed,
His pow’r to save himself, inadequate.
In this most sacred rite which you behold
Are gathered all the fruits of God’s good grace.
For here a thing occurs of worth untold:
The sacrifice which saved the human race.
That gruesome death upon the altar-cross,
Didst win for man a glory radiant.
By taking on Himself so great a loss,
Christ gained for man a splendor eminent.
And thus Christ’s pain and passion, unsurpassed,
Gave cause for saintly joy, the greater still.
‘Tis this we celebrate at Holy Mass:
That Christ our retribution didst fulfill.