Online Edition – Vol. VII, No. 9: December 2001 – January 2002
The Lamb’s Supper: Heaven on Earth
Reviewed by Matt Grantham
The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, by Scott Hahn. New York: Doubleday Press, 1999. 174 pages. $19.95.
Those who read Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper will enjoy a basic discourse/meditation on the importance of the Mass itself, and one that encourages Catholics to take interest in the most important activity of their lives.
Readers involved closely with the Church’s intellectual life should not expect to find a theological treatise or a discussion on the finer points of the Liturgy, since neither of these is the primary goal of the author, who is a professor of scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
After giving a rather breezy overview of the origins and history of the Eucharist (which at times seems overly casual as when he refers to Christ as "The Killer Lamb"), Hahn compares the Mass with the imagery in the Book of Revelation, which he discusses in great detail.
Each Mass parallels the worship offered to God in the choirs of angels and saints, Hahn observes. At Mass, heaven and earth meet before the eyes of faithful Catholics throughout the world.
Hahn’s Scripture-based interpretation of the Holy Mass is refreshing, especially during our time, in which the sacred character of the Mass is often neglected, if not ignored outright. Exploring the New Testament eschaton in order to explain the Eucharist not only reinstills in readers some knowledge of biblical imagery and symbolism but also, more importantly, connects these images with the Liturgy.
An understanding of this relationship between the Liturgy of the Eucharist and biblical motifs can develop one’s awareness of the cosmic and eternal dimensions of Mass, since, as many Catholic Liturgies emphasize even today, the Scriptures reveal an eternal God working in and through time.
As Hahn points out, the celebration of the Mass turns the images about which we read into the realities that we experience first hand. Hahn also establishes a connection between an authentic understanding of the Liturgy and an authentic practice of the Liturgy.
Faithful Catholics need to hear that the Mass is "heaven on earth"; but they also must see this in the manner and disposition of the priest, the music selected, and in all other elements in the celebration of the Liturgy.
It seems unfortunate that Hahn fails to draw a connection at this point with current liturgical problems, such as banal and theologically inept music and defective translation of scriptural and liturgical texts. Even if the purpose in writing this book was not to promote authentic reform of the Liturgy, the book left this reader with the impression that public reverence in worship does not matter, as long as one is personally well-disposed and aware of the sacred character of the Mass.
But the experience of recent years has made it very clear that proper celebration of Mass entails not only being in the right spirit personally, but also proper reverence for the heavenly host that is gathered around every altar at every Eucharist. Thus details such as appropriate posture and music are not insignificant.
Hahn’s book, with its strong emphasis on the biblical symbolism as realized in the Mass, is highly recommended, particularly for prospective converts (especially those from "Bible-based" churches), and for Catholics re-learning their faith.
Matthew Grantham, a graduate student at Saint Louis University, is News Editor of the Adoremus Bulletin.