[Carl Jung on the Symbolism of the Mass]

On careful examination we find that the sequence of ritual actions in the Mass contains, sometimes clearly and sometimes by subtle allusions, a representation in condensed form of the life and sufferings of Christ. Certain phases overlap or are so close together that there can be no question of conscious and deliberate condensation. It is more likely that the historical evolution of the Mass gradually led to its becoming a concrete picture of the most important aspects of Christ’s life.

First of all (in the “Blessed is he who cometh upon them”) we have an anticipation and prefiguration of his coming. The uttering of the words of consecration corresponds to the incarnation of the Logos, and also to Christ’s passion and sacrificial death, which appears again in the fractio. In the “deliver us” there is an allusion to the descent into hell, while the “depository and mingling” hint at resurrection.

In so far as the offered gift is the sacrificer himself, in so far as the priest and congregation offer themselves in the sacrificial gift, and in so far as Christ is both sacrificer and sacrificed, there is a mystical unity of all parts of the sacrificial act.

The combination of offering and offerer in the single figure of Christ is implicit in the doctrine that just as bread is composed of many grains of wheat, and wine of many grapes, so the mystical body of the Church is made up of a multitude of believers.

The mystical body, moreover, includes both sexes, represented by the bread and wine. Thus the two substances the masculine wine and the feminine bread also signify the androgynous nature of the mystical Christ.

The Mass thus contains, as its essential core, the mystery and miracle of God’s transformation taking place in the human sphere, his becoming Man, and his return to his absolute existence in and for himself. Man, too, by his devotion and self-sacrifice as a ministering instrument, is included in the mysterious process.

God’s offering of himself is a voluntary act of love, but the actual sacrifice was an agonizing and bloody death brought about by men “Instrumentally and Minister” . (The words “bloodlessly sacrificed” refer only to the rite, not to the thing symbolized.)

The terrors of death on the cross are an indispensable condition for the transformation. This is in the first place a bringing to life of substances which are in themselves lifeless, and, in the second, a substantial alteration of them, a spiritualization, in accordance with the ancient conception of pneuma as a subtle material entity (the “glorification of the body”).

This idea is expressed in the concrete participation in the body and blood of Christ in the Communion. This unity is a good example of participation mystique, which Levy-Bruhl stressed as being one of the main characteristics of primitive psychology a view that has recently been contested by ethnologists in a very short-sighted manner.

The idea of unity should not, however, be regarded as “primitive” but rather as showing that participation mystique is a characteristic of symbols in general. The symbol always includes the unconscious, hence man too is contained in it.

~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Transformation Symbolism in the Mass, Pages 220-221, Paragraphs 336-338.

[Note: In some instances where Dr. Jung used Latin phrases I have translated them into English and placed them within quotation marks.]

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