Know Him in the Breaking of Bread | Fr. Francis Randolph | From Know Him in the Breaking of Bread: A Guide To The Mass
The First Mass
In the evening of the first day of the week, two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. And one came up beside them and began to explain the Scriptures that told of Jesus the Christ, how he was destined to suffer and rise again. And as he spoke, the hearts of the disciples burned within them; they were stirred and enlightened by the new explanation of scriptural words they had heard so many times before. But it was not until they sat together, and he took bread and broke it, that they recognized that the person actually present with them was the same Jesus about whom they had been speaking (Lk 24:13-35).
From that day till this, Christians have met to hear the Scriptures explained and to know Jesus in the breaking of bread. These three elements are the essence of the Mass: Christians come together and discern the spirit of Jesus in each other. They listen to the Word of God, and their hearts burn within them as they hear it. And in the breaking of bread they recognize Jesus himself actually present, given for them.
The coming together is vital; it is only in the Church that the Mass can take place. This does not mean necessarily in a special church building, though that helps. Nor does it mean that many people are necessarily gathered on any particular occasion, though that is desirable. It means that the Mass is celebrated within the unity of the One Church, that the celebration is not a private, exclusive affair but is in conscious union with the Church throughout the world. One of the most moving descriptions of the Mass I have read is by the American Jesuit Walter Ciszek, who was a prisoner in the old Soviet Union. He managed to slip away into the forest with only one companion and celebrated Mass quietly and secretly, using a tree stump as an altar. And in so doing he was far from alone; he was one with millions of Catholics all over the world. The whole Church came into the heart of that forest; Christ was made present among a people who were unaware of his existence. That lonely Mass was very much the expression of Christians coming together, uniting in the one sacrifice. 
Listening to the Word of God is vital; unless we have heard about Jesus, how can we love him? There may be only a brief, whispered passage from the Gospel, or there may be a long, drawn-out sequence of readings, but in one way or other the message of Scripture must be proclaimed. The Church first expressed her faith in the words of the Bible, and the long centuries of developing tradition have deepened and enhanced those words. We do not hear them alone but within the Church that gave birth to them, and even now, even after they have been spoken so many, many times, they are still capable of awakening our hearts to burn within us.