The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn
Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study
As Catholics, most of us are so familiar with the Mass that we might fail to see the powerful supernatural drama that unfolds each time it is celebrated. Saint John Paul the Great said that the Mass is “heaven on earth.” In the pages of The Lamb’s Supper, popular author Scott Hahn explores how what we celebrate on earth is actually a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy. He shows how the Book of Revelation provides the key to understanding the Mass—as well as how the Mass is the only way to fully understand the Book of Revelation. This study guide is designed to help you see the Mass in a new way, with the goal of participating more fully, enthusiastically, intelligently, and powerfully in the liturgy than ever before.
PART ONE—THE GIFT OF THE MASS
Chapter 1: In Heaven Right Now
- St. John Paul the Great said that the Mass is “heaven on earth.” Would you describe your experience at Mass each week as “heavenly”? If not, what keeps it from being so?
- Have you ever connected the Mass with the Book of Revelation? Describe and discuss the connection Scott Hahn made.
- Why did the ancient church fathers consider the Book of Revelation the key to the liturgy, and the liturgy the key to the Book of Revelation?
- Do you have questions regarding certain aspects of the Mass? Are there areas that don’t seem relevant or meaningful to you? Which parts of the Mass are the most meaningful and have the most significance to you?
Chapter 2: Given for You
- Look at the eight titles for God on page 14. The first seven seem appropriate for Jesus Christ, who is both human and divine (Lord, God, Savior, Messiah, King, Priest, Prophet). Why is he also called “Lamb”?
- Read the passage in Genesis 14:18–20 that talks about Melchizedek. What was different about his priestly sacrifice, and in what way is he a foreshadowing of Christ?
- List the ways that the story of Abraham and Isaac can be seen as a profound allegory for Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.
- Sacrificing animals was a central part of ancient Israel’s religion. What did all these sacrifices mean? (Hint: see if you can come up with four meanings.)
- What was the significance of the Passover—the pivotal sacrifice in Israel’s history? Why was Passover so central to Jesus’s mission? What should Passover mean to us today as Christians?
- Why does the Mass proclaim Jesus as the “Lamb of God”? And why does Revelation portray him as a “lamb standing as if slain”?
- Worship includes praise, atonement, self-giving, covenant, thanksgiving—and sacrifice. Sacrifice can seem outdated and ancient to our modern minds. What is the deeper meaning of sacrifice?
Chapter 3: From the Beginning
- Pagans sometimes thought the early Christians were involved in cannibalism and human sacrifice because the Eucharist was so central to their life and worship. How central is the Eucharist to your life—not just when you’re at Mass, but throughout your week?
- How would you define the doctrine of the Real Presence to someone unfamiliar with it?
- Scott Hahn says the todah can be called the liturgical “ancestor” of the Mass. In what way is the todah a powerful expression of confidence in God’s sovereignty and mercy? What are the similarities between the ancient Jewish todah and our Catholic Eucharist?
- In your own life, what are some ways you see evidences of God’s providential care?
- Think about what it must have been like to be one of the early Christians. You might not have been able to read—or even if you could, you probably couldn’t afford to have books copied out for you. How would you have felt about the words of the liturgy, so much of which came from the Scriptures? How might this be different from the way you hear the words of the liturgy today?
Chapter 4: Taste and See (and Hear and Touch) the Gospel
- How do you envision the worship of the early Christians? Do you imagine it to be spontaneous and improvised? How does your vision differ from a typical Catholic Mass today?
- What is the value of order and routines, ritual precision, and liturgical etiquette?
- In your own life, how is faithfulness to your routines a way of showing love to your family and other relationships?
- How does the liturgy make us more effective in the spiritual life and in life in general? How does it impact your life?
- How does the liturgy engage your whole person: body, soul, and spirit?
- What are the two distinct parts of the Mass, and what does each include?
- St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote that “in the . . . Sign of the Cross is all virtue and power . . . . In this Sign of the Cross is salvation for all who are marked on their foreheads.” What did he mean by this?
- Scott Hahn says that the Sign of the Cross is the most profound gesture we make as Christians. Have you thought of it this way? Why is this true, and what does this gesture signify? Why is the Sign of the Cross is a reminder of who we are? How is the Sign of the Cross like a solemn oath, and what is that oath?
- How is “hearing” the Word of God different from “reading” it?
- Origen said, “No one understands in heart . . . unless he is open-minded and totally intent.” Does this describe you during the readings at Mass? What could you do to develop a deeper attentiveness? How might these readings help you prepare for receiving Holy Communion?
- Scott Hahn says that just as Jesus comes to us through “humble, tasteless wafers,” so the Holy Spirit sometimes speaks to us through a “monotone, lackluster preacher.” What is your reaction to a dull, dry homily? Have there been times when a boring sermon ended up inspiring you, and if so, how?
- During the Offertory, how can your work, prayers, family life, mental and physical relaxation become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, as the Second Vatican Council said? How can offering all these ordinary things to God “consecrate the world itself” to him?
- What does the phrase “Lift up your hearts” mean to you?
- As you go through your days, how conscious are you of the presence of the angels and saints? What difference would a deeper awareness of them make in your life?
- Describe how the Mass fulfills perfectly the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
- In Jesus’s day, the word communion most often described a family bond. In what way does receiving Holy Communion renew this family bond today?
- How is the Mass a “sending forth,” not so much a dismissal, but a commissioning? What are we being sent forth to do?
PART TWO—THE REVELATION OF HEAVEN
Chapter 1: “I Turned to See”
- How do you feel about the Book of Revelation? Does it fascinate you? Terrify you? Frustrate you? Explain why.
- How do you feel when you think about the world ending? What hopes or fears does it arouse in you?
- Martin Luther, the very first Protestant, found the Book of Revelation to be so bizarre that for a while he even thought it didn’t belong in the Bible because he said that “a revelation should be revealing.” What does the Book of Revelation reveal?
- Scott Hahn says that the early Church fathers frequently associated the liturgy with the Apocalypse, making an explicit connection between the Mass and the Book of Revelation. Have you ever made such a connection? How might the Mass shed light on the Book of Revelation, and vice versa?
- Imagine yourself as a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian during the apostle John’s time. How might you view the vision John shares in the Book of Revelation?
- What did the temple mean to pious Jews during this time? Why did the early Christians consider the torn temple veil so theologically and liturgically significant?
Chapter 2: Who’s Who in Heaven
- What are some similarities between the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation?
- How can we become, like John, “beloved disciples” of Jesus? How can we develop an increasingly intimate relationship with him, and what clues does John’s response to seeing a vision of Jesus in his power and glory leave for us?
- The early Church fathers believed that when John describes the woman in Revelation 12:1–2, he was describing the Ark of the New Covenant as well as Mary. What similarities exist between the Ark and Mary?
- Scott Hahn says that “the woman” stands for more than Mary. What else does she represent?
- How can we answer the argument raised by some biblical scholars who say that the woman cannot be Mary since, according to Catholic tradition, Mary suffered no labor pains? How might we also address the argument that the woman in Revelation has other offspring, while Mary remained a perpetual virgin?
- Describe the ways that Revelation portrays Mary as the “New Eve.”
- How can we better understand the reality of the two hideous beasts in Revelation? How are they more than mere symbols? Who are these beasts in reality? What does Satan want to accomplish through the two beasts?
- What does the first beast—a seven-headed, ten-horned monster—stand for? What does the second beast stands for?
- What is the “mark of the beast,” and what does this mark represent?
- What does the number 666 have to do with work? What happens to our work when we fail to offer it to God—when we put it before him in importance?
- Scott Hahn says the Apocalypse should lead us to a greater appreciation of our priestly heritage and a sober consideration of our accountability to God. How well are you living out your covenant with God? How faithful are you to your “priesthood”? How might you live it out more faithfully?
- The beasts communicate to us that we are fighting spiritual forces—immense, depraved, malevolent forces. What instances of these forces do you see around you? How can you fight these forces spiritually?
- Scott Hahn writes that angels (meaning “messengers”) do not actually have bodies. In terms of the angels’ nature or mission, describe the significance of their wings and their multiple eyes. How does this significance serve to reassure rather than frighten you?
- Angels are might warriors, battling constantly on the side of God. Have you had any experiences where you sensed an angel’s presence of protection on your behalf?
- Revelation 6 talks about the martyrs being “under the altar.” Why would they be under the altar? What was usually under the altar of the earthly Temple?
- Scott Hahn says the meaning God intends us to get from the Book of Revelation is often plainly told in the text. What does he mean when he says we must “fight the temptation to strain for the extravagant while denying the obvious”? What can fighting this temptation help us to better understand about Revelation?
Chapter 3: Apocalypse Then!
- The author says that the futuristic interpretation of the Book of Revelation should not be our primary focus. Why do you think he says this?
- From earliest times, Christians have spoken of the Bible having both a literal and a spiritual sense. What does the Church mean by this? What does each of these “senses” describe?
- When it comes to Revelation, why are so many interpreters so sharply divided?
- How would you say Revelation offers encouragement to Christians undergoing persecution and trials? Are there particular verses that have spoken to you when you’ve experienced times of tribulation?
- What are some ways the Book of Revelation might be literally about the fall of Jerusalem?
- Both John and Jesus refer to a distant Parousia (return) and an ongoing Parousia, which still takes place today. How is the Church literally the kingdom of heaven already begun on earth, and what form does this take?
- Jerusalem is “allegorically called Sodom and Egypt.” What is it that these two places held in common?
- What does Scott Hahn mean when he says, “You cannot be a good Catholic until you’ve fallen in love with the religion and people of Israel”?
- Place yourself imaginatively in the time of John’s Revelation. Why would the very idea of Jerusalem’s fall make you anxious?
- In every age, the Church faces mighty persecutors, with ever more powerful armies and weapons. What are some of the persecutors the Church faces in our own day? How does the Mass enable Christianity to prevail over these forces?
Chapter 4: Judgment Day
- Do you find the severity of the judgments in the Book of Revelation to be incongruous with the idea of a merciful God? How can these two concepts be reconciled, and how do both concepts apply to our own lives?
- How is God’s judgment more than an impersonal, legalistic process? How can his judgment be an expression of love?
- How does sin destroy the family bond we have with God? How does it keep us from true life and true freedom?
- Describe what happens when we allow sin to become habitual in our lives and choose not to repent.
- Why would a good God allow economic depression, foreign conquest, or natural catastrophes in our world? Why might this be the best thing he can do for us?
PART THREE—REVELATION FOR THE MASSES
Chapter 1: Lifting the Veil
- Scott Hahn wrote that the realization that what takes place in the Book of Revelation takes place every time Mass is celebrated was life-changing for him. In what ways has this realization changed your life?
- As you look at the Apocalypse with a “sacramental imagination,” what small details in the Mass correspond with what you read in the Book of Revelation? Describe some ways the Apocalypse is organized like a liturgy.
- Why do you think John depicts celestial scenes in graphic, earthly terms in the Apocalypse? Why didn’t he use other ways to help us understand the transcendent, immaterial nature of heavenly worship?
- The Greek word apokalypsis means an “unveiling.” How is the Book of Revelation an unveiling about how the Church was to deal with the destruction of Jerusalem? How does Revelation guide Christians as to what to leave behind and what to bring with them as they embrace the New Covenant
- How did Jesus intensify, internationalize, and internalize the way Israel worshipped?
- Scott Hahn says that all scriptural roads seem to lead to the city of King David, Mount Zion. What is Zion a symbol of—what does it signify?
- St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that when we “lift up our hearts” at Mass, “we should have our hearts set on high with God, and not below, thinking of earth and earthly things.” What are some ways you can actively seek this “recollection”? How might this change your experience of being at Mass?
- How is the Book of Revelation a personal invitation from Jesus to each of us? What is he inviting us to? How can you more authentically respond to his invitation?
Chapter 2: Worship Is Warfare
- What are some of the ways today that people seek to flee real life? What are some ways you seek to avoid it?
- Why would we want to avoid the reality of being human? Do you agree with Scott Hahn that it is the seemingly omnipresence of evil and our own apparent inability to escape it? What is your typical escape route from reality, and what would you say is the root of it?
- Since we cannot avoid evil, how can we begin to conquer the forces that oppose us?
- Are there situations in your life where you feel that Jesus has delayed in coming to help you? What aspects of today’s world seem firmly in the hands of evil forces? Do you believe that the saints and angels direct history by their prayers? How would this belief change the way you view the world and its problems?
- How do you envision Jesus’s Second Coming? Do you think it will be anything like his first? When John speaks of the “wrath of the Lamb,” how terrifying does that image seem?
- The author says that the expectations of many Christians about the Second Coming of Christ need adjustment. What adjustments might your own expectations about this event benefit from? How does God mean us to view Christ’s Second Coming?
- Scott Hahn says that while hell may seem to prevail in the world, the Church is, in a sense, in charge, and our prayers and the sacrifice of the Mass are the force that propels history toward its goal. How effective and forceful are your own prayers? How can you pray more powerfully?
- In the Mass, the victory is already won. How then should we understand our ongoing combat? Why should we continue to fight?
- Scott Hahn says that God wills that each of us should play an indispensable role in salvation history. Do you see yourself in such a role? How might your unique place in the world affect something so important?
- The most dangerous enemies are within our own souls: pride, envy, laziness, gluttony, greed, anger, and lust. What sinful habits in your own life must you battle? How can you begin to root them out so you can truly advance in the spiritual life?
- Name some ways that you can prepare for Mass—both before you arrive and when you first are seated in church.
- The saints and popes teach that we should go to confession “frequently.” How frequently do you take advantage of this sacrament? If you don’t go very often, what might you do to rearrange your schedule so you can go more frequently?
- Describe some ways that we are on the winning side in spiritual warfare. How should this make you think, feel, and act?
- Even though we are on the winning side, the battle is still a battle. How does the evil one assault us, especially during Mass? What specific onslaughts have you experienced?
- How do small, ordinary things or people that distract, annoy, anger, or cause us to judge require heroism to fight against? Why does Scott Hahn say these are the tough battles?
- After reading this book, when you hear doomsday reports that the end is near, why might you be able to respond without fear? How can you choose to see the Apocalypse as something to run toward rather than away from?
Chapter 3: Parish the Thought!
- We are all part of the heavenly family, but before we can enjoy this bond, many of us must put aside modern, Western notions about family. How does the way we view family today differ significantly from the way it was viewed during Bible times?
- St. John Paul the Great said, “God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family.” Why is this such an earthshaking truth? What makes God “a family”?
- To prepare for our oneness with Christ, our mystical marriage, we must leave our old lives behind. Is there anything in your life that you need to leave behind so you can fully enter into the newness Christ offers?
- Marrying into the family of God is meant to completely transform us. In what ways has becoming aware of your new life in Christ changed you? What has it transformed?
- Do you truly see yourself as part of the whole family of God—from the angels and saints and all the Christians who have gone before you to the parishioners you worship beside today? Does this thought make you uncomfortable? Can heaven really be heaven if all your neighbors are there, too?
- Scott Hahn says that loving difficult people refines us. How is this true? Is there someone difficult in your life that you are striving to love? How has this refined you?
Chapter 4: Rite Makes Might
- We usually envision heaven as a place of joy, where God, “who will wipe away every tear” (Revelation 21:3) welcomes us. But Scott Hahn says that heaven is also where we see ourselves clearly and where the Judge reads our works from the Book of Life. He says our deeds go with us when we go to heaven, and also when we go to Mass. How can this awareness impact you and the choices you make?
- Describe what happens when you dip your fingers into holy water and make the Sign of the Cross. How have you thought of holy water in the past? Has Scott Hahn’s description given you a new perspective in any way?
- How are you more than a spectator at Mass? In what way are you a participant? How might seeing yourself as a participant change the way your experience of the Mass?
- We profess our belief in one holy catholic and apostolic Church during the Creed. Do you live by the teachings of that Church without exception? If not, what areas do you choose to ignore, and why?
- How attentively do you receive the Bread of Life? Do you receive Christ as reverently as you would an earthly king?
- How can you treat the mysteries of heaven with more respect? How can you teach your children to do the same?
- We are called to live like the martyrs lived—by offering ourselves sacrificially wherever we are. How can this martyrdom manifest itself in your everyday life? Name some tangible ways that you, like the martyrs and missionaries, restore all things in Christ.
- How has your understanding of the Mass changed through reading this book? How has your understanding of the Book of Revelation deepened?