One of my deepest desires in college was to be a part of the Church in the book of Acts. I wanted to re-live what they did. I wanted to be part of a group of people that was all about getting back to what it meant to be the early Church. This desire led me to a house church and then to a discipleship school, both of which focused on Acts 2:42 as a theme verse, but did not engage in all aspects of what that verse and what that book meant. It was not until I became Catholic that I finally felt my desires to be a part of the early Church fulfilled. When I went to daily Mass a few times in a row, I realized that it was in fact a fulfillment and extension of what I had read in Acts 2:42. Here is what that verse says:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
There are four aspects of the early church listed here: Apostolic Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread, and Prayers. During the Mass all four of these are manifested.
In the Catholic Church, the bishop traces his apostolic succession back to the apostles, particularly in the line of Peter through the Bishop of Rome. The priests and deacons of the church are delegates of the bishop that carry out that apostolic anointing to local parishes through their teaching and the Sacraments. Thus, we can truly say that we are under apostolic teaching not only during the homily, but also whenever the apostles’ letters are read to us in the Mass.
The Fellowship is present by virtue of us Catholics being gathered together for the Eucharist as a community. In each Mass, there is time spent “passing the sign of peace” where we greet one another and say “Peace be with you.” Before and after Mass is also a great time to engage in conversation, but it is during the Mass where we truly engage in fellowship around the Eucharistic Feast.
The phrase “Breaking of Bread” almost always refers to Holy Communion in Sacred Scripture. The early Church devoted themselves to the Sacrament of the Eucharist because Jesus was “known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). In every Mass, the central part and climax is the “breaking of the bread” where the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, throughout the Mass, we offer up prayers to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. In particular, we pray for God’s mercy at the very beginning of Mass, and in between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist we ask God to hear the many prayers we have for the universal Church, for our Diocese, and for our local parish community. Prayer is really the heartbeat of the Mass, and so we are devoted to it.
Each of these aspects of the Mass were carried out by the early Church on a daily basis, so we also participate in these things during Mass on a daily basis. It is incredible to me that what we read in the book of Acts is still being lived out in the Catholic Church today. May this serve as an encouragement to you to go to daily Mass and realize how ancient and how amazing it is that you get to be a part of the early Church right now.