Mass: the Heavenly Liturgy

Friends in Christ, today and in recent days, we have been reading from the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is many things, but one thing it is: it is liturgical. It is a vision by St. John on the Lord’s Day – Sunday. This is a vision he had, of what is happening in heaven – on Sunday. He describes 7 lampstands, that is, candlesticks – there were 7 lampstands in the temple; how is it that he sees elements of the temple, yet he is looking into heaven – on Sunday? He is seeing the true temple, the true worship of God, which is in heaven.
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St. Paul says[i] that the temple on earth was only a copy, an image, of the true temple in heaven, where God is worshipped. At Mass we are as it were, ‘acting out’ the heavenly worship of God, participating in this heavenly worship. The book of Revelation was influenced by the Mass, and the Mass likewise, has been influenced by the Book of Revelation.
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Think about a big Mass, with the bishop and many priests concelebrating around the altar – in vestments. There are 7 candles as in the temple; the choir, up in the choir loft sings as if angels in heaven. John says: I looked up, and behold, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and a voice that said- on Sunday: ‘Come up here!’ There in heaven, is One sitting on a great throne in marvelous beauty – it is God. He sees 24 presbyters – that is, priests. They are worshipping God, and they are clothed in vestments.
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So we see the priests, 12 of the Old Law, and 12 of the New Law, worshipping God. We see One like a son of man, clothed with a garment reaching to the ankles and girt about with a golden sash.
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Also, four living creatures are worshipping God: one looking like a lion, one like an ox, one like a man, and another like an eagle. These come from Ezekiel, but the ancients also saw these figures, as symbolizing the four evangelists, authors of the Gospels.
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At Mass we have the reading of the Gospels: ‘Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals. The Book of the Gospel is opened. Servers are there with incense: ‘And the bowls filled with incense are the prayers of the holy ones.’
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On our altar, we see the ‘Lamb, standing yet slain.’ Jesus is slain, yet he lives, as we offer the ‘Living Sacrifice of Praise.’
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In 987, a Russian Prince sent out envoys to find the most noble religion they could. Having attended Holy Mass at the great Church of Hagia Sophia, they reported back to him: ‘In that place, we did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth.’
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At Holy Mass, we really approach heaven, and are invited in: ‘And I looked, and behold a door was standing open in heaven, and the voice said: Come up here!

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[i] Hebrews 8:5, 9:24

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