The ancient Greeks loved the theatre. Throughout Greece & Turkey today, and other countries of the Middle East, one can see the ruins of huge outdoor stadiums, where great dramas were once performed.
The theatre at Epidaurus in Greece is a classic example. It is in an excellent state of preservation, with its tiered stone seating surrounding the stage rising hundreds of feet into the air. Built in the 4th century B.C. it could seat fourteen thousand people and was famous for its superb acoustics.
The philosopher Aristotle used to say that every good drama should purge the soul as the onlookers at least for a time can forget all their troubles.
As Greek theatre developed, popular plays would be performed time and time again at many different venues by a variety of actors. And it seems the great dramas no matter how often they were performed, moved the hearts of people just as much as they did, at their first premiere.
The drama of the mass or the Eucharist is something like that. Jesus was crucified dead on a cross. It was the day we Catholics call Good Friday. The drama was played out on the hill of Calvary only once. But we re-enact the event every time we celebrate Mass. None of us were present on Calvary. But through the memorial of the Mass we are there in spirit. The bride and bridegroom are only married once on their wedding day, but thanks to the invention of the video camera they can film their wedding and then they can watch their wedding over and over again. They are able to relive the joy of their wedding day, and why not?
The drama of what happened on Calvary is so important that our Church is obliged to remember it forever. It began on the Thursday night during the meal we now call the Last Supper. It was here that
- "Jesus took some bread, and when He had Given thanks, broke it and gave it to them Saying, "This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me." He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you." (Luke 22:19)
By these words Jesus prophesied His death and His preparedness to offer His life as a ransom for us all. The priest every time he offers Mass imitates the gestures of Jesus and repeats the words He uttered at the Last Supper. It is Act One of the drama of Calvary as Jesus offers Himself as a victim in expiation of the sins of the human race.
Act Two is His crucifixion and death on the Cross when Christ's love for His heavenly Father is consummated. And Act Three is His Resurrection from the dead in triumph.
This is The Mass, the drama of all dramas that truly purges the soul. As we celebrate the Mass for a few wonderful minutes we are drawn into the very life and death of Christ Himself. If only we could see with our naked eyes the glory of God bathing us in light as we re-enact the sacrifice of His son. For when the Sacred Host and the Cup of Precious Blood is raised even the angels are kneeling in adoration.
Fr Barry Tobin PE