Mystagogy Series

Beautiful Light: A Paschal Mystagogy, Part V—Paschal Mystery

Welcome to Beautiful Light, a liturgical catechesis rooted in the Church’s mystagogical tradition. Mystagogy is an ancient form of catechesis that helps us go deeper into the mysteries we celebrate in the sacraments. Every week a new theme will help you focus on the graces available to you through the Mass as you prayerfully reflect on the content.

Imagine the Rite

As the Sacred Victim lies peacefully upon the altar, you remain kneeling, as moments of silence mingle with the prayers that evoke the drama of redemption. The priest stands in the “orans” position, hands at either side of his body, prayerfully erect. “Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of your Son, his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven… Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church, and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, grant that we... may become one body, one spirit in Christ.” You know this is real. You know this is true. Not only is the sacrifice of Jesus made present to you so that you may participate in it, but so is his triumph! Sacred, living memory draws you up and into this mystery, as heaven truly kisses earth. That desire deep within you for eternity is awakened, and you are sure in these moments that Jesus makes all things new.

Woman kneeling in church praying

Reflection Question

Consider the magnitude of the Father’s love as you behold Christ, his Son, offered as a sacrificial victim for you—to forgive your sins and reconcile you with God. How does your heart respond to the drama of redemption? What does it mean to you that redemption in Christ is made present and available anew on the altar at every Eucharist?

Excerpt from the Church Fathers

The Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will contend with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.

Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.

—Melito of Sardis

Close-up of a crucifix

A Catechetical Reflection on the Rite

At every Eucharist, the drama of redemption is made present anew as Christ offers his Body for the salvation of the world. The Paschal Mystery by which our redemption is accomplished is re-presented on the altar. It is this re-presentation, this remembrance, this anamnesis, which the Lord willed at the first celebration of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Fully aware of the sacrificial offering he was to make on the Cross at Calvary, Christ commanded his disciples to celebrate the Eucharist in remembrance—in anamnesis—of Him. Christ commanded that we celebrate the Mass as an act of remembrance of the Paschal Mystery he was to undergo and by which he reconciled us with God the Father. This act of remembrance was not intended to be, however, a simple calling to mind of an event that would take place at a single moment in history. At the heart of the anamnesis is the act of making present today an event that unfolded in the past. By the power of the Holy Spirit, therefore, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross—the redemptive event which both took place on Good Friday over two thousand years ago and by the power of God transcended time for the salvation of all mankind—is made present to us today at every Eucharist.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the sacrificial memorial of Christ at Mass as follows: “The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice... In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real” (CCC, 1362–1363). At the Eucharistic celebration, the Paschal Mystery breaks through the limits of time, space, and even human reason as we are made present to the moments in which Christ suffers, dies, rises from the dead, and ascends into heaven. Consider the depth of the mystery being made present. As we kneel before the Lord in the Eucharist, we are kneeling on the holy ground of Calvary as we behold Christ’s Body sacrificed on the Cross for our sins. Though overcome by the magnitude of Christ’s love revealed in his Passion and Death, we are not left in sorrow, for in our hearts ring out the saving words of Christ which return our joy: “I am the Christ… I am the Passover that brings salvation.” At the Eucharist, we are made present not only to Christ’s Passion and Death but also to his glorious Resurrection and Ascension! Kneeling before the Lamb who was slain, we also kneel before Christ the King who conquered death by the Resurrection in order that we may receive new life in him.

Living Christ Today

As a family of faith, we gather around the Eucharistic table in remembrance of the Paschal Mystery as we bear witness to Christ’s Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension made present on the altar. As witnesses of the Paschal Mystery re-presented in the Eucharist, we are sent forth on mission as disciples of Christ to proclaim the love of God to the world. 

Young man sitting in church with stained glass in the background

As we go forth from the Eucharist, let us take caution never to confuse anamnesis with amnesia. Imagine for a moment how this spiritual amnesia might unfold—you leave Mass in the peace of the Lord, ready to proclaim the love of God to anyone you see, only to feel yourself quickly overwhelmed and distracted by the piling demands of daily life. Before you know it, you begin to forget about the Lord as you struggle to balance the various responsibilities before you. This is a reality so many of us face. Amid the many competing priorities that fight for our attention—from family plans, to work deadlines, to health concerns, etc.—we are tempted to lose sight of the Lord and his mission for our lives. We must therefore go forth from the Eucharist ready to combat this spiritual amnesia with a resolved commitment to live in active remembrance of Christ’s saving mysteries at every moment of every day. As our days become busy, and our minds fill with noise, let us pause to remember the one who loves us. With our eyes always fixed on Christ, we can begin to live in remembrance of the saving mysteries which are not only made present on the altar but are also made manifest in our lives.

As reflected in the lives of the first disciples, the person who has encountered the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ is moved to proclaim this love to others. We too share in this apostolic mission to go forth from the Eucharist to proclaim the Good News of salvation to all the world. In word and deed, we proclaim Christ to those we encounter in the hopes that they too may come to know the saving love of God. This is our mission—to live from the anamnesis in active remembrance of the Paschal Mystery and to proclaim this Good News to others in order that they too may come to share in the joy of the Lord.

Through the Beautiful Light series, each week from April 13 to May 25, 2023, you'll be invited to go deeper into the mysteries of the Mass through four steps:

1. Meditating on a rite (or part) of the Mass;

2. Reading an excerpt from one of the Church Fathers related to the rite;

3. Engaging with a catechetical reflection on the rite of the Mass;

4. Considering how you can "Live Christ Today", bridging your experience of faith with your daily life of discipleship.

We also invite you to go even deeper by praying with our Eucharistic Prayer Companions for the Easter Season [English | Spanish] which connect every week to our Mystagogy series.