A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Masses for the Living and the Dead
ROME, 5 JUNE 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Is the Mass offered for the living more powerful than after your death? St. Anselm and Pope Benedict XV said they are. Could you please comment. — S.T., Chicago
A: While our reader did not offer the sources of these comments by St. Anselm and Pope Benedict XV, I will take her word for them.
In what way can we say that one way of offering a Mass is "more powerful" than another?
First of all, it is necessary to clarify that in itself the Mass has the same value of Christ's paschal mystery of which it is the ritual re-presentation. Therefore its value is infinite, and one Mass is not more powerful than another.
Thus, any difference in value must be sought in the effect on the person for whom the Sacrifice is being offered.
In the case of the deceased in purgatory any benefit is received passively, since the soul is no longer capable of performing new meritorious acts. While such a soul is already saved, it cannot increase in sanctity but only purify those imperfections which impede its definitive entrance into glory.
A living person, however, is still capable of growing in sanctifying grace. And so a Mass offered for a person already in God's grace has the effect of offering a gift of increased grace which the person may willingly receive in order to become more Christlike.
As an intercessory prayer, a Mass offered for a person in a state of actual mortal sin may yet supply the grace necessary for repentance even though conversion is always a free acceptance of the grace that is offered.
While the Mass may be offered for other intentions as well (for instance, for those who are ill), I believe that the discourse regarding whether the Mass for the living is more powerful than for the dead lies principally in the above point regarding the possible increase in sanctity. The offering of the Mass may also assist in this increase of sanctity by helping people face their sufferings and trials more deeply united to Christ.
Only the living can become holier, even to the point of directly entering heaven after death. Some might be perplexed by the idea that there can be differences in sanctity in heaven. The saints sometimes used a useful image to describe this possibility.
During life, by freely corresponding with grace, each person prepares his or her own capacity of being filled with God. In heaven, some will be like liqueur glasses; others, beer tankards; others, barrels; and a few oil tankers. The important thing is that all will be filled to the brim, and none will feel the lack of anything necessary for happiness.
Of course, the Church recommends praying and having Masses offered for both the living and the dead, for none should be excluded from our charity. ZE07060529
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Follow-up: Masses for
the Living and the Dead [6-19-2007]
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