I don’t know about other denominations but the Catholic Church made the Mass life’s centerpiece, it is its center as though it’s an oasis or isolated island carefully tucked away from the life of the world.
Having fun with pronouns, let’s try this out. There would be no “this” (the Church) without “there” (beyond Church walls) and without “this” (the Church) “that” (the altar) would be rendered meaningless.
Growing up we’d goof around for an hour, grab a church bulletin and go home. “Did you go to Mass?” mother would ask as we showed off the bulletin. Never asked was “Did you pray, worship your Creator, thank God for the past week or pray for a successful new week?” Nope. Never asked in all my years with all ages. The question is always, “Did you go,” followed by the bland response, “Yeah, I went to Mass. Go and went are the Catholic verbs giving thanks and praise to God. Catholics have made the Mass the end instead of the means which it was created to be.
Priests having a Mass alone, I hope are over but very popular in its day. What a contradiction between the word “mass” or assembly and doing it privately. “The Lord be with me,” “And also with my spirit” just sounds weird to me much less the sign of peace and two of the same hands from one person trying to shake as well as the awkwardness of the final blessing with the hand turned inward. Whewww. Who needs exercise after those contortions.
We have the this because of the there which gives meaning to the that. (I hope no one read this paragraph first.) A favorite story is vacationing in London with a priest friend and his urgent need to find a Church on Sunday. I still smile at the episode. A man comes to confession and tells me that his last confession was a month ago and that he’s missed Mass four times. I think to myself, “I think that’s a perfect record for missing the this. I wonder what’s going on out there that this and that isn’t important to him yet it is for his confession?” (Yes, I do have thoughts like that in the confessional.)
When the means becomes the end then there is really no where to go except keep coming to the end hoping that your end ends up in eternal happiness. Like any organization, the Church has a product, the Mass. Making missing just one of them a “mortal” sin, right along side murder then the organization misses what Jesus was trying to tell us when he said that his “kingdom was not of this world” and how many other passages trying to link there with this and that.
I love that we have this and that to ground and renew us each week or each day but I hope we never miss the linking of the purpose and meaning of this and that was to transform and renew there.