Pope John Paul II has dedicated October 2004 to October 2005 to be "Year of the Eucharist" for the faithful's more profound study and understanding of the Holy Eucharist as the Church's greatest "Mystery of Faith". Earlier in his encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" (Holy Thursday 2003), as Msgr. James Patrick Moroney points out in his Foreword to Tom Nash's superb book, the Pope had called on all:
"to deepen our appreciation, amazement, and gratitude for the Eucharistic Mystery... In this book... we journey with the author in an explanation of the many dimensions of the Catholic faith in the Mass, 'the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord's Body and Blood.'"
In his encyclical the Pope had once again lamented the weakening of faith in the Mystery of the Eucharist that underlies many of the liturgical abuses and disorders that have marked the celebration of Holy Mass in places where the spirit of Naturalism has obscured the reality of the supernatural order revealed in the life and teachings of the God-man Jesus Christ.
No one acquainted with the catechetical literature read by both adults and children these last 40 years can deny how the Mass and Eucharist were subjected to alarming ambiguity and grievous distortion at the hands of certain irresponsible theologians, catechists, and religious education writers. In "Mysterium Fidei" (1965) Pope Paul VI had seriously warned against the assaults being waged against the Church's "dogma of Transubstantiation". Regardless, "modern catechisms in the spirit of Vatican II" proceeded to strip the Mass of Mystery and sacrality. The Mass was no longer primarily a Holy Sacrifice that renewed Calvary; it was rather a mere "meal", a "special [not sacred] meal", a meal intended to reflect fraternal solidarity in the pursuit of Leftist programs for social and economic justice. It was a "community meal" which would later draw from Cardinal Ratzinger the sharp rebuke:
"To speak of the Eucharist as the community meal is to cheapen it, for its price was the death of Christ."
For the writers of leading American catechetical texts, the Mass provided a "eucharistic meal of bread and wine". A Protestantizing treatment of the Eucharist resulted in spreading among Catholics the Lutheran view that Christ was present in the bread and wine. The emphasis placed on the Eucharist as a "fellowship meal of bread and wine" similarly ignored the truth of Transubstantiation wherein after the consecration in the Mass the elements of bread and wine no longer exist. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist – understood in the sense that Christ is rendered Substantially present with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – was further undermined by confounding it with Christ's "spiritual presence" in the Church, i.e., in the prayer of the assembly of the faithful, in His pastors, in Scripture, in the other Sacraments, and in the Church's performing works of mercy. Incredibly, the adoration due Christ in the Eucharist was downplayed or outrightly ignored. As author Thomas J. Nash observes:
"Unfortunately, given their faith formation, many Catholics understandably do not have 'eyes to see' the Mass' biblical roots, nor do they really grasp how Christ's Sacrifice can be made present throughout time."
"Worthy is the Lamb" constitutes a splendid exposition of the teaching of "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" (CCC) regarding the Mass as a Sacrifice, tracing "the biblical story of the Mass by following the 'sacrificial lamb' motif - from the Book of Genesis to the Gospels and beyond". Drawing upon the many texts of the Old Testament dealing with sacrifices and upon Jewish tradition concerning the Passover and the Messiah, Mr. Nash especially throws light on the mysterious priesthood of Melchisedek. He explains how Christ's priesthood did not end with His death on Calvary, how Christ's Paschal sacrifice continues forever on earth according to the order of Melchisedek, and how Christ transformed the Jewish Passover rite of the Old Testament to bring about sacramentally the Paschal Sacrifice of the New Covenant which redeemed all mankind.
Mr. Nash observes with great insight that:
"Some who do not accept the Eucharist seem to forget that Christ is first and foremost a Divine Person, One for whom all things are possible."
A distinct aid to the reader are the "Questions for Reflection and Group Discussion" following each Chapter. Readers will be indebted to the author, Senior Information Specialist for the lay organization Catholics United for the Faith (CUF), for a superb volume that will stimulate love and appreciation of the Mass which the Fathers of the Church correctly viewed a "foretaste of heaven".