I love learning. That sounds so cheesy, but I really do! My favorite learning experiences are always connected to finding out earth-shattering new information about something I thought I already knew well. I used to think that car turn signals were activated by the car (not the driver; in-car navigation systems seemed unremarkable at first!), and I used to know that the “Holy, Holy, Holy” at Mass came from Scripture, but not how. Thanks to a long-term book loan from a friend and the Catholic 20-Somethings summer book club, I have now read The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, by Scott Hahn, and I have learned so much.
You may remember my review of Rome Sweet Home, also by Scott Hahn, from the beginning of the year. Hahn is a former Presbyterian who reasoned his way to Catholicism based on his understanding of covenant theology and his deep knowledge of Scripture. I expected more of the same in this book, and I was proven correct. In The Lamb’s Supper, Hahn tackles the Book of Revelation (which is singular—no “S”) and reveals that the fullest understanding of the book must be united with our understanding of the Mass.
My first encounter with the Book of Revelation was in my children’s picture Bible. It was a gift from my mother’s second cousin, who was like an aunt to me. We didn’t go to church, but I liked looking at the pretty pictures of animals and lush vegetation in Genesis, and I even got into the story of Samson and Delilah when I continued on. I was afraid of the end, though: the pages on the Book of Revelation. There was fire and scary animals and I didn’t like it at all. As an adult, I’m not scared of Revelation anymore, but I don’t read it very often, either. I like the part about Mary (the woman crowned with stars in Chapter 12), and I can handle the parts that show up in the lectionary (Sundays of Easter and the last dozen weekdays in Ordinary Time), but that’s about it. Seven years on my Bible-in-a-year plan hasn’t gotten me that far yet!
Now that I’ve dug into Hahn’s analysis, I’m less afraid and actually kind of excited to read through Revelation. He begins by breaking down the Mass, which all Catholics ought to know. We speak of Mass as “the holy sacrifice,” but what are we sacrificing? We beg God for forgiveness, then immediately burst into a spectacular hymn of glory and praise. Why do our emotions do a 180? From where in Scripture do the words of the Mass come? So many Bible-steeped converts to Catholicism note that they saw heaven in the Mass; Hahn will help you see it, too.
Moving toward less familiar territory, Hahn introduces us to the Book of Revelation in all its strangeness. My favorite section of The Lamb’s Supper explains that, as with all of Scripture, Revelation can be interpreted on a variety of different levels. It might be a prediction of future world events. Then again, maybe it’s an allegory of first-century politics. Considering that the Revelation came straight from God, it could be the entire history of the world. Scripture is full of symbolism, though, so the apocalyptic battle might only be waged in the heart of every believer. Ultimately, it can be any of those or all. That’s the great thing about being Catholic: apparent contradictions are never cause for concern. From the Rapture to the whore of Babylon, Hahn has a road map to get you through the maelstrom.
Finally, he brings it all together. Now that Mass has been broken open and you can see the Bible played out in every liturgy, how will you let this knowledge change you? Take part in the sacrifice of the holy and terrible Lamb. Cast your sins upon the mercy of God and praise him in the same breath. Worship with the angels, not just as the angels do. Be transformed by God’s biblical endnote, and never be the same again.
Up next: Starting at the End, a guide by Brad Alles to developing a Christian worldview that starts with Christ