What happens at Mass? That is the question Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB offers an answer to in his book sharing the same title. A professor at Sant'Anselmo and a monk of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, Fr. Driscoll has written a very accessible survey of the richness which is the Mass.
Though published in 2005, Fr. Gallagher, CSC brought it to my attention late this summer. He has used the insights of the book for catechizing the residents in his dorm, which is a good use for this book. Only 131 pages in length, 11 of which are spent analyzing the individual lines of the Lord's Prayer, this work is quite accessible. Driscoll organizes his text on the ritual structure of the Mass, adding at first, an opening chapter dedicated to the overall context of the Mass and his hopes for the book. It was there in its opening chapter that I most enjoyed the book. Driscoll writes:
The whole Church has gathered; the Church in heaven and on earth, the Church across the world and across the centuries. And in that Church is gathered the whole creation and the desires of every human heart. The Mass prepared from the beginning of the world is about to begin. The meaning of the whole creation and the whole of human history is contained here in ritual form and in the people who enact the ritual. This action will cause the Church to be: to do Eucharist is to be Church. To be Church, to be assembled into one, is what God intends for the world. The Eucharist is celebrated in thanksgiving and for the glory of God, and it is done for the salvation of the whole world (pg 10).
Driscoll does not want to, nor does he, get mired by debates on what makes for an "ideal celebration". Rather, he writes on the overall structure of the Mass and its individual parts. In this age of liturgical debates it is worth repeating his statement: "Problematic liturgies that have been poorly celebrated, even when that is the dominant experience of a person's encounter with the Mass, are not the basis on which good theological reflection can be built" (pg 13). I give a resounding "Amen" to that!