Question: There seems to be some controversy about the modern use of the term "paschal mystery" to describe the Mass.1 Isn't there an aspect of Easter in the Mass, and couldn't this term be used to describe It?
Answer: There are certain ways in which the term "paschal mystery" correctly describes the Mass. For centuries we have heard the words of Saint Paul that "Christ, our pasch, has been immolated."2 In at least two prayers of the Roman Mass, we hear that the Mass is offered as a memorial of "the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension."3 And, certainly, the Body and Blood of our Lord received in Holy Communion are, as they are in the present, in the resurrected and living state.4
The concern is that the term "paschal mystery" is used as an ambiguous and loosely defined term by modern theologians. We have a similar problem with the word "Eucharist," a perfectly orthodox word when properly used, but made to mean any number of things by Modernist writers. One is never quite sure whether they are writing about the Mass, the Sacrament, the reception of the Sacrament, the Body and Blood of Christ, the community celebration, or what.
Or take the phrase "Mystical Body of Christ." Going back to Saint Paul, the term is used in an orthodox manner to describe the relationship of Christ who is the Head, to the baptized who are the members of His body in the corporate sense. But it is not unusual to hear of Modernists reducing the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to the presence of the body of believers in attendance when they "do eucharist" -- "the people are the body of Christ."
Ambiguity is an important part of Modernist theology, for it allows people with highly divergent ideas to "dialogue" and reach false agreements about things on which they do not really agree. As used by Modernists, terms like "paschal mystery" and "Eucharist" can mean anything, everything, or nothing.
The word "paschal" could refer to the Passover Sacrifice, offered by the Jews before the Exodus, the poured out lambs' blood which brought about their deliverance from bondage. In turn, that might be an acknowledgement that the Passover was a foreshadowing of the Good Friday Sacrifice of the Cross, the Lamb's Blood which was the price of our redemption from sin. It might be an acknowledgement that the Old Covenant gave way to the New as the Passover sacrifice became the Sacrifice of the Mass on Holy Thursday as our Lord celebrated Passover and His first Mass at the Last Supper.
But on the other hand, one could, as Modernists do, use the word "paschal" as nothing more than a Christian version of the Passover seder celebrated by modern Jews -- a pleasant gathering with friends and family to recall an historical event, much like the American celebration of Thanksgiving day.
Such a view might also overlook the reality that the Jewish Passover sacrifice was only the beginning of a lifetime's journey -- forty years of struggle in the desert, much like the lifetime of grace that must be lived by those redeemed by the Sacrifice of the Cross if they are to achieve their eternal salvation -- an oversight that seems to have informed the Modernist notion that "all men are saved", and brought about the mistranslation of the consecration in the new mass.
To most Catholics, the word "paschal" evokes the meaning "Easter" and not Holy Thursday or Good Friday. It would be absolutely wrong to think of the Mass in terms of the post-Resurrection glory of Christ while overlooking the essential meaning of the Mass and the Cross as our Lord's propitiatory sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. But, again, this seems to be a predominant theme of Modernism, which ignores the damage done by sin and the frightful price paid by our Lord for the sins of mankind -- the modernism that speaks so often of "human dignity" without pausing to recognize that our "dignity" was bought for us with the Precious Blood (and not the happy thoughts of "the acting person").
One must also question: If the Mass is reduced to a commemoration of the Resurrection, what role can there be left for the Catholic priesthood? It is one thing to say that the priest is "acting in the person of Christ" as he re-presents the Last Supper: "This is My Body which shall be given up for you....My Blood which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins." It is quite another thing to assign a priestly role to a celebration of the Resurrection. (Perhaps, "this is my body which is no longer here"?5) Not surprisingly, the New Order refers to the "presider" or the "president of the assembly."
What of the power to forgive sins, possessed by human priests because of their association with Christ in His priesthood? Do presiders over the Sunday celebration of Resurrection and community possess this same power? Is there any need of an ordained priest? For what? Why not pick a presider by lot from among the assembled men and women?
At a time when the world needs to be reminded of the truths given to us by Jesus Christ, Modernism seeks to unite all mankind in a false religion that agrees about everything because it holds nothing; a cult that offends no one because its terminology can mean anything.
A plain wooden cross is surely not heretical. The Catholic can imagine on it the sacrifice of his crucified Savior. The Protestant can look at the same plain cross and see none of the "Romish superstition of sacrifices of masses," thinking only of his resurrected Lord. With a few apologies for past Catholic behavior, the Modernist Jew might be persuaded to recognize the same cross as a symbol of inclusion, a "plus sign" on a stick. One can say much the same about the term "paschal mystery" -- if the truths of the Faith are to be taught authentically there must be a corpus and an INRI on the cross, and our terminology must make it clear that the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice of the Cross.