The best thing that anyone could say about Dr. Scott Hahn’s book, “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass As Heaven On Earth” is that he writes about worshipping, meeting, celebrating, and proclaiming—even eating—a God who is really there. I would say just that.
The interpretive key for understanding the whole Roman Catholic Mass is the Book of Revelation, Hahn says. If for nothing else, it should inspire Catholics reading this book to a greater eschatological hope in Christ, and a renewed understanding for the practical relevance of going to Mass. A huge benefit of this book is that it takes the Revelation to John out of the highly speculative, provincial, unbiblical realm of “prophecy” in which evangelicalism has largely marred it and given it back to all of us as a way to know who our God is and to be more certain of his promises.
This book is also a boon to so called biblical and covenant theology, whatever one’s confessional position, because it helps the average person view the Bible as an ongoing story, one that he or she is actually participating in, and one that is anchored and finished in the promises of God.
I could not help but recall a meeting with my own pastor, where the subject had been the words of Psalm 73. Though it is a very encouraging psalm for the troubled, I was stuck on these words:
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end. (Psalm 73.12-17, ESV)
I felt the need to plainly ask my pastor if the promise of verse 17 was fulfilled in this world (in other words, in our sanctuary as we worship) or in the next, and was relieved when he said it happens now, at least partially.
The hope for present fulfillment of God’s promise in this Psalm is what we can admire about Dr. Hahn’s book. He presents Revelation and the parts of the Mass as God’s holy intrusion into our world of disorder. That is, for those of us who believe (or who want to believe) that our worship actually matters, this is one of the books for you.
The most one could criticize Dr. Hahn for here is a certain romanticism in the face of so much evil. I can only imagine he would answer, “Guilty as charged,” and I don’t blame him.
The historical awareness present in this book is also welcome. I think all serious Christians desire to be as “apostolic” in their theology as possible, and Hahn definitely shows us a way to do that. Given the Catholic notion of “Sacred Tradition,” this is easy for Hahn to do.
As a Protestant, my only real critique of this book comes in the form of what seems to be special pleading for Catholic theology in general, and sacramentology in particular. Much of this is easily forgivable, given the intended audience. But while I do not discount the authenticity of his early experiences at Mass, (which strongly hint where the fulcrums of his Catholic conversion were) his portrayal of his former Calvinistic theology—and the average Calvinist’s attitude toward Catholics—is either outdated, or a kind of caricature. Still, Hahn is one generation older than I am, and things may be changing from the way they were in 1986.
Overall, this book will bless whoever chooses to read it, even Protestants, with an increased understanding of sacramental theology. The engaging, clear style will be appreciated by everyone. Though it is now ten years old, this book is one that I had missed, and I am sure most of my Protestant brethren could say the same. It is worth your time to not miss it any longer (New York: Doubleday, 1999; Estimated street price: $14.93).
Jason Kettinger is a contributing editor to Open for Business.