We all know how Christ said the first Mass on Holy Thursday; that great Cosmic Passover that started on the first day of Unleavened Bread (Mt 26:17) and lasted until Jesus spoke His final word from the cross (Jn 19:30). But Acts of the Apostles reports a second Mass that is often overlooked.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma'us, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cle'opas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13-35)
Now, I could write about how this story includes all the elements of our Liturgy, but it would be long and awkward. Let's turn to a great theologian and see how exegesis is really done:
The inner rationale of the resultant liturgical pattern is presented in the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:25-31). First we have the searching of the Scriptures, explained and made present by the Risen Lord; their minds enlightened, the disciples are moved to invite the Lord to stay with them, and he responds by breaking bread for his disciples, giving them his presence and then withdrawing again, sending them out as his messengers. (The Feast of Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1986, pg 47)
I don't even know what to say. The brilliant logic of Luke's text is fully explained in one sentence by theologian Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI). The Liturgy of the Word, which enlightens our minds, followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where Jesus comes because He was asked to come; finally the sending out. Jesus says His second Mass. The opening verse (13) says, "That very day," i.e., the day of His Resurrection, the first day of the week, Sunday - the day which would become the norm for our Eucharist.
I might note that Jesus joined the disciples, but "their eyes were kept from recognizing him." So we do not recognize Christ in the priest offering the Eucharist, but he is acting in persona Christi, nevertheless. It is really Christ doing His work of redemption, through the priest.
This text is followed by the narrative of Jesus appearing to the Apostles in the upper room.
As they (the Emmaus disciples) were saying this," Jesus himself stood among them and said "Peace to you." (Lk 24:36)
In our liturgy, the "sending out" at the end of Mass is very important. We not only receive Holy Communion for our own good, but for us to take Jesus to all. Our Roman Liturgy sends us out, using the Latin phase, "Ite, missa est." This is normally translated into English as, "Go forth, the Mass is ended," plus some embellishment. But a more literal translation is, "Go, it is the sending out." The priest is sending us out as missionaries, to bring the Christ we just received into the world. Note the Latin word missa is the root of the English word missionary, one who is sent. This neglected aspect of the liturgy is so important, that our Roman Liturgy goes by the common name of Missa or Mass, using that key latin word. In Luke's text, the disciples are sent out and their "taking Jesus to others" is so effective that Jesus actually comes to the upper room in the flesh. In harmony with this concept, the "sending out" in the older Latin Liturgy concludes with The Last Gospel, the prologue of St. John's Gospel, which reminds us:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14)
We received Jesus in the flesh in the Eucharist; we take Him into the world in the same way we received Him.