Catholics of a certain age will remember learning the Mass is “the unbloody sacrifice of the Cross.” While concise and accurate, this definition may require additional explanation. In such a case, we may turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches: “The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover … not merely the recollection of past events.… In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real” (Nos. 1362-63).
“Recollection” and “remembrance” are weak words in our modern vocabulary, because memories are what we put up with when the “real thing” is not at hand. But this is altogether the opposite meaning of these words in the Scripture and the liturgy. There, memory and recollection have immense power. At the first Passover, God told Moses, “This day will be a day of remembrance for you” (Ex 12:14). It is still so for Moses’ descendants today, and when they gather for their Passover meal, they relive the terror of a people in flight, and the relief of a nation saved. Likewise, when we gather for the Mass, Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” open a window onto eternity, and allow us to stand at the foot of the cross.