Monday, June 27, 2011

Understanding the Mass, A Five Part Series

A Unique Sacrifice Made Present
Understanding the Mass, Part I
By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Jun. 26, 2010 (  -  Even Catholics who don’t know much about their faith have some vague awareness that they’re supposed to go to Mass on Sunday. Ask them to describe the Mass, though, and they might tell you that it involves an introduction, a conclusion, and a collection! The Mass (also called the Eucharist or the Divine Liturgy) has two main parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But rather than analyze its parts, I’d like to examine the Mass as a whole in terms of its three principal aspects. Now and always, the Mass involves a sacrifice, the presence of Christ, and a meal.

It’s important to know what the Church means by the "sacrifice" of the Mass. The term is easily misunderstood and has caused much strife among Christians.

First of all, Church teaching reiterates what Scripture states very clearly: there is no other sacrifice except the one offered by Jesus on Calvary. Hebrews 10:12 says that Christ "offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins." That sacrifice cannot be repeated. The Mass, therefore, is not a repetition; it is a re-presentation of that sacrifice.

Because Christ was a unique human being, the sacrifice He offered on the cross once and for all is a unique act. He was a human being, so it was an act that took place in history and is therefore past. He is God, who is outside of time: past and future are always present to Him. This means that His death and resurrection are eternal acts that can be made present by the power of the Spirit.

This is exactly what happens in the Eucharist. The power of Calvary — the sacrifice that takes away sins, heals, and transforms — becomes present and available to us. It can be applied to our need.

But that’s not all. The cross is incomplete without the Resurrection. You can’t understand what happened on Good Friday apart from what happened two days later on Easter Sunday. This means that the Resurrection, too, is made present every time the Eucharist is celebrated. When we go to Mass, we’re present at the foot of the cross, watching the Savior give His life for us. And we’re outside the open tomb with the risen Jesus and the women who greeted Him on that resurrection morning. "This is for you. I give My life to you," Jesus is saying. "Receive My power."

Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice in order to bring us salvation and give us His Spirit. Pentecost is the fruit of the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the Resurrection. Thus, the Church teaches that every Mass is a new Pentecost, a new opportunity to receive the Spirit afresh (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 739).

To sum up, the Mass is Christ’s sacrifice made present again. It’s not recalled, as if it had been absent or were merely a past event. It’s re-presented.

Links to the Series
Understanding the Mass - Part I 
Understanding the Mass - Part II 
Understanding the Mass - Part III 
Understanding the Mass - Part IV 
Understanding the Mass - Part V

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass

A Biblical Walk Through the Mass
Interview With Author on Finding Scripture in the New Translation
By Kathleen Naab

LITTLETON, Colorado, MAY 5, 2011 ( Many Catholics might not realize just how much an hour at church on Sunday mornings puts them in contact with the Bible.

In addition to the readings and psalm, "practically everything in the liturgy has some roots in Scripture,” according to a scholar who has written a book to point out these connections.

Dr. Edward Sri goes into the biblical roots of liturgy in "A Biblical Walk Through the Mass." And he says the forthcoming new translation of the Mass makes these roots even more visible.

ZENIT: Will the new translation help us become more in tune with Scripture and see the links between liturgy and the Bible?

Sri: From the opening Sign of the Cross to the closing “Thanks be to God,” the prayers and rituals of the Mass are permeated by the Bible. Indeed, practically everything in the liturgy has some roots in Scripture. Knowing more about that biblical background will help deepen our understanding of what we are really saying and doing in the Mass.

The new translation of the Mass will help make the biblical background shine more brilliantly. It will convey more fully the rich biblical metaphors, images and allusions found in the Latin text of the Mass.

ZENIT: Can you give some examples?

Sri: In the prayer shortly before Holy Communion is distributed, the priest has been saying, “Happy are those who are called to this supper.” But in the new translation, the priest will say, “Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the lamb.” These new words more clearly recall a climactic moment of the Book of Revelation when Jesus, the Lamb of God, is depicted as a bridegroom joining himself to his bride, the Church. An angel announces this intimate union, saying, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb” (Revelation 19:19). The new translation more clearly echoes the angel’s invitation to the heavenly wedding supper of the lamb and reminds us that Holy Communion is an intimate loving communion with Jesus -- one that is likened to the union shared between husband and wife.

Similarly, the people have been saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you …” But in the new translation, we will say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” The new words reflect the humility and trust of the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant at home (cf. Matthew 8:5-13). As a Roman officer who was in charge of a hundred soldiers oppressing the Jewish people, the centurion humbly acknowledges, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” Like the centurion, we, at this moment in the Mass, recognize our own unworthiness to have Jesus come sacramentally under the “roof” of our souls in Holy Communion.

ZENIT: How did the history of this intertwining between liturgy and Scripture unfold? Masses were celebrated for decades before Scripture (the New Testament) was even written, so when did liturgical texts and Scriptural texts become so closely linked?

Sri: One could say that the Bible and the liturgy always have gone hand-in-hand. The intertwining of the Bible and liturgical worship is older than the Mass itself, for ancient Jewish worship was filled with allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper also contained numerous allusions to Old Testament passages and images. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the Eucharist was celebrated in the early Church, the various expressions of Christian liturgical worship continued to be shaped by biblical themes. Over time, as the rituals and prayers of the Mass developed, the Scriptures remained a key source of inspiration for these liturgical rites and played an important role in helping shape the liturgy that has come down to us today.

ZENIT: From blogs to books, happily there is a lot of information available on the new translation -- for anyone interested to find it. What about those Catholics who are not, perhaps, as interested as they should be. Are there practical ways the Church can take advantage of this catechesis opportunity?

Sri: I think we have a unique opportunity to help the faithful reflect more on the meaning of the Mass and how it relates to their lives. People will need to learn new responses and new musical settings. As they are taken out of their routine in the liturgy and will need to learn the newly translated Mass parts, there is a wonderful opportunity to teach about the meaning of what we say and do in the liturgy and to catechize on the Eucharist and the Mass itself. Thus, I hope the preparation goes beyond mere mechanics -- simply training people to say new responses -- and leads to catechetical and spiritual renewal.

ZENIT: You mention the importance of preparing ourselves, our families and children, for the transition to the new translation. What methods or resources would you suggest?

Sri: First and foremost, we need to take time to educate ourselves about the upcoming changes so that we are able to understand them and enter into the newly translated prayers ourselves. I recommend that people take time to seek out articles and books on this topic. Attending a workshop offered by one’s diocese or parish or by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also could be very helpful.

Moreover, by learning about the Mass changes, we can help others through the transition. Many people have questions about the various changes and about why we even need a new translation. Once we come to grasp the meaning of the changes, we will be better equipped to help explain the meaning behind the changes to others.

We also want to prepare our children for the upcoming transition. In my home, we have just begun talking about the new translation -- albeit in very basic terms that a 10- or 8-year-old might understand. Yet, we should not be surprised at how much children can perceive.

We recently discussed how the new words, “And with your spirit,” point to the unique action of the Holy Spirit working through the ordained priest to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Our children quickly saw, on their own, how the previous words, “And also with you,” did not convey that important point as clearly. But the key to having conversations like this -- whether it be with our children or friends or family -- is to educate ourselves on the meaning of the changes. The person who does not take time to learn about the new translation will not be able to help others. As the saying goes, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”

ZENIT: Would you say that "A Biblical Walk Through the Mass" is an ecumenical tool?

Sri: I have had a number of Protestant Christians express gratitude for this project. Some have noted how it has helped them appreciate the Mass more and how they never realized how biblical the Mass was. While the primary audience I had in mind was Catholic, I am hopeful that the book might be of service to our Protestant brothers and sisters, helping explain the Mass in Biblical terms that they may find more appealing.

ZENIT: You say your book could be viewed as a "Bible study" on the Mass. Do you see it as a good tool for group sessions?

Sri: The book is meant to be a biblical tour through the Mass parts, helping people understand the significance of all that we say and do in the liturgy. The book can be read on its own for one’s own personal study or devotion. But Ascension Press also has developed excellent supplemental resources that can accompany the book and be used in small group settings for catechesis. There are study workbooks for participants, easy-to-use leaders’ guides and DVD video presentations on the new translation and the Mass as a whole that go along with the "Biblical Walk Through the Mass" book. Parishes, schools and small groups around the country are using these additional components for adult education and to prepare people for the new translation.

--- --- ---

On the Net: "A Biblical Walk Through the Mass"

Monday, October 18, 2010

The perfect prayer is holy Mass

The perfect prayer is holy Mass
Sunday Readings for Oct. 17, 2010 (29C)
By Father Cusick

Sunday Mass Readings
Podcast of Readings Video Reflections
Lecturas y Comentarios
Sunday Readings Bible Study
Prayer of the Hours
Burning Question: What does "pray without ceasing" mean to you?

For bodily weariness there is rest and upon arising from sleep one is able to rejoin the human race with renewed vigor. One may even go apart from work and home for an extended period. But in the task of prayer there can be no rest, for Christ commands us "Pray always". Prayer is the vigilance of one in battle, defending the stronghold of the soul against temptation and sin.

In the Book of Exodus Israel is under attack; Moses, his hands aloft, is the figure of intercession and prayer on behalf of the people in the life and death struggle against Amalek. Only as long as he is able to hold his hands thus will the chosen people gain the victory over their enemies. That he may continue to pray and not grow weary he is seated upon a stone and his hands are supported with the help of Aaron and Hur. Aided thus he is steadfast and the chosen people are victorious.

"The prayer of Moses responds to the living God's initiative for the salvation of his people. It foreshadows the prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus." (CCC 2593)

Moses’ prayer in the battle against Amalek is a sign only of the greatest warrior and the most awful struggle. Jesus Christ upon His cross holds his hands aloft with the help of the nails; His feet are supported not by a stone but by a piercing nail. His hands are held in place in the perfect prayer for the sake of victory over the most terrible enemy of death which entered the world through sin. Until the last drop of His blood is shed and until His last breath His hands are held thus. There is no rest; the battle is total. All must be given to defeat the enemy of all.

The holy Mass is the experience here and now of this most glorious battle of God over the most fearsome enemy of death. But in order that His victory may be in us and that we may find life unending in Him we must pray always this prayer of victory. We must not lose the heart of sacrifice so that our sins may not tear us from His grasp.

A superficial or trite celebration of the holy rites can mislead and deceive the faithful, lulling us into a lax and casual understanding. The liturgy can become a mere social gathering, an opportunity for friends to say hello or a venue for trotting forth the latest fashions. The crowding of the faithful into the sanctuary, making of it a mere stage, have undermined the truths of the Mass, displacing Christ as the actor who saves sinful man. The role of altar server is for many just another activity for the boys and girls to include on their list of social services in anticipation of applying for high school rather than an opportunity to encourage young men to associate with the work of the priest as an opening to a priestly vocation. These things most assuredly have nothing in common with the death of Christ on the cross, relived in each Mass, and undermine what is most necessary in the life of the praying Church.

We have not been serious as a Church about what we say we believe about the Eucharistic Sacrifice. And we have paid the price. Attendance has fallen as uncatechised Catholics on the margins replace the Mass with sleep, shopping or other more satisfying social events. Young men have dropped out of service on the altar as young women, at such an age much more poised and socially at ease, have taken over their roles. Vestments, sacred vessels, and sanctuaries lack noble beauty. Lectors who have not practiced the reading of the Scriptures prior to Mass leave the people without a proper hearing of the Word. Priests replace prayer with banter and prescribed liturgical gestures are ignored.

The family is the unique school of prayer where the most lasting lessons are learned.

"The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of
marriage, the family is the 'domestic church' where God's children learn to pray 'as the Church' and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit."
(CCC 2685)

Family prayer leads to and flows from the perfect prayer of the Church which is every holy Mass.

At every moment, all over the world, the Body of Christ is at prayer. In churches, chapels, convents and monasteries, with soldiers in the field of battle or with the persecuted in hidden places, the hands of the faithful are raised aloft in union with the heart of the suffering and triumphant Lord. Our liturgy of the Mass is the upraising of the Lord’s hands on the Cross unto death, that He may then rise to give us life. We must never grow weary of a correct and dignified offering of the sacred rites. The Lord God has proved we are worth it with the payment of the most precious cost: His own Life Divine.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 695.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What to do at Mass?

Mass Class
By Jeff Guhin, Jennifer Nestojko, Mike Hayes

OCT. 3, 2010 ( - So once you get to mass, what do you do? Well, it’s helpful to think of Mass as you would a dinner party. Here are five tips that will make it go well.

1. Get There

Try to arrive about 10 minutes or so before the start of the Mass.

This allows you plenty of time to greet others and it gives you some time to center yourself and meditate. There may be some churches where parishioners are urged to greet one another and talk. Mass is about celebrating relationships both with God and with your fellow Mass-goers, so it’s nice to be able to catch up with people before you get started. Think of it like a birthday dinner for a good friend: you wouldn’t want to walk right in when the dinner starts. You’d want to come by early, wish your friend a happy birthday, and then chat with your other friends at the party before dinner starts. If you don’t come to Mass early, it’s like missing cocktails: sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot less fun.

If you are a regular, be mindful of new parishioners and visitors. Welcome them into our larger family just as God welcomes every one of us.

If you’re running late, you have a lot of options. First off, there are later Masses at just about every church. Check out your local diocese’s website or to find out what times Masses start. However, if you’ve really got to go to this Church for this Mass, just be sensitive to the flow of the service-try to hang in the doorway or in the back of the Church until a convenient time to quickly find a spot. Again, it’s a lot like a dinner party: if the host is giving a speech, you don’t want to walk up to your seat and distract everyone.

It’s always better to go to Mass than to not go to Mass, but sometimes it’s best just to reschedule. If you’re running late because of totally unavoidable delays-and this is the only Mass you can attend-then you can still receive communion even if you come to Mass after the Gospel is read (which happens about halfway through the service). If you could have come to Mass earlier and just didn’t though, Catholics consider it a sin, simply because you’re treating Mass like a job to get done and ignoring the importance of your relationship to God and your community. After all, if your friend were having that birthday party and you barged in 45 minutes late, shook her hand, gave her a hot dog you bought at the 7-11, and then stormed out again because you had something else to do, your friend would probably wonder why you came at all. The same is true for Mass.

2. Getting in the Door

A) Walking into the church

As you enter the church, a member of the parish may greet you, and someone might hand you a song sheet, encouraging you to sing. Any Christian community should welcome newcomers, but it’s just as important that you allow yourself to be welcomed. If you march into the rear pew, look really solemn, and then march right out again, you’re not exactly making it easy for people to get to know you. If folks don’t talk to you, check your breath, use a breath mint if necessary, and then shake someone’s hand and say hello. Mass is a lot more meaningful if you know the people you’re going to Mass with.

B) Holy Water

The Baptismal Font or some dispenser of “holy water” is located near the entrance in most churches. Catholics dip their fingers in the water and make a sign of the cross. The water reminds them of the sacrament of Baptism and unites them with Christ, who said “all you who are thirsty, come to the water.” The water is called “holy” simply because it is blessed.

3. Get Thee to a Pew

Catholics are a respectful lot. So before entering your pew, be sure to bow or genuflect as a sign of respect for what’s before you. It might be a little odd, but just think of it like having to kiss your grandmother on both cheeks instead of just one.

The rules are actually pretty simple:


1. When you pass the tabernacle, which is a box usually in the front of the Church that contains the Blessed Sacrament. This shows respect to the presence of Christ contained in the Tabernacle.
2. At the beginning of mass, as you sit down, directing your genuflect towards the tabernacle, if it contains the Blessed Sacrament. You will know if it contains the Blessed Sacrament because a candle will be lit right next to it, or because you asked someone, or because you are God. The candle thing is probably easiest.
3. At the end of Mass, as Mass-goers leave their seat, directing the genuflection towards the tabernacle if it contains the Blessed Sacrament. (There is no need to genuflect before or after receiving communion.)


1. When facing the altar, if there is no tabernacle behind it, or if the tabernacle does not contain the Blessed Sacrament.
2. If you have to cross in front of the altar as a lector or a speaker.
3. If you’re Catholic and choose to receive Communion, you also need to bow before receiving communion in most places.

To genuflect, drop to your right knee to the floor in a solemn, slow way. Go as close as you can if you don’t think you can do that-while God may appreciate your sacrifice, fellow Mass-goers probably won’t enjoy the ambulance that will come to pick you up if you bust your knee out backwards.

4. Wake Up and Smell the Incense


The mass is not like the movies, where you passively sit and watch, and it isn’t even like a melodrama, where you get to cheer and boo on cue. Even if some Masses, like Palm Sunday, may seem like a melodrama, Mass-goers are not an audience. They’re active participants who make the liturgy happen. At most masses, it’s important that a community of believers is present. A priest is necessary for a Mass, but so are the Mass-goers!

The words and actions of Catholics at Mass are an active form of prayer, and a real chance to build a relationship with those around them and with God. For Catholics, Mass is a lot of things at once: it’s a re-enactment of Christ’s suffering and death, a celebration of community, and the chance to connect with the real presence of Christ’s body and blood. Not only is your participation vital to making all of that happen, but it also will make your experience of the Mass much more exciting.

5. Mass Manners

Mass is like any social event. It’s considered good form to be attentive to those around you and bad form not to. So, unless you expect a call from God, it’s a good idea to keep the cell phones and beepers turned off (or set to vibrate if you have an emergency situation). You might try leaving your cell phone at home, unless you’ve already become so addicted to it you’d shrivel up. If the room is available, you might take your crying baby to the “cry room” where you can see the Mass but not disturb others or simply take him or her outside. It’s just like if your friend were giving a speech at a big dinner, save for his retirement. Sure, you want to hear the speech, but if your kid is crying really loud it hurts it for everyone.

Mass is actually not that hard. Just follow along with what other folks do, be respectful of traditions, and try to enjoy it. After all, the dinner party isn’t only for Jesus. It’s also for you.

Jeff Guhin, Jennifer Nestojko, Mike Hayes

Monday, September 13, 2010

Virtues of the Newer Vernacular Mass

Virtues of the Newer Vernacular Mass

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

As a priest I have been privileged to walk in the “wide Church.” That is to say, I have been able for all 21 years of my priesthood to say the Traditional Latin Mass while at the same time celebrating the newer, Ordinary Form of the Mass in some very dynamic parishes.

I have always loved both forms of the Roman liturgy and this sometimes gets me in trouble since there are dynamics within the Church where, at times, people on both sides want me to choose sides. I have no problem that people have their preferences, but as a priest I think I am required to serve a very diverse Church. I thank God too for the gift to be able to do this and to really love the current diversity. I realize too that diversity has its limits and, thus, I stick to the rubrics in both forms of the Mass: “Say the black, do the red!”

I have discussed in the past why I like the Traditional Mass and the video at the bottom of this post is a PBS interview where I speak of my love for it. I would like to take a moment however and also say what I like about the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass and also my acceptance of the fact that the old Mass did have need for some attention.

1. Rediscovering the value of subordinate roles and ministries in the Mass – There was a tendency in the Traditional Latin Mass for the action of subordinate ministers such as the deacon, subdeacon, choirs and cantors, to be non-effectual. In other words, what they did, didn’t really count. The schola (or choir) might sing the introit, the Kyrie and Gloria, but what they did still had to be recited by the priest quietly as well. In effect, their singing didn’t really count. It might sound pretty and all but it was really only what the priest recited that mattered. The last version of the Traditional Mass in 1962 had begun to remedy this. Thus the priest was no longer required to read the Scripture readings quietly if the Deacon and Subdeacon were chanting them. It was OK for him to listen to what they were chanting. But the schola’s chant still had to be re-read by the priest to “count.” The newer, Ordinary Form of the Mass has restored the subordinate ministries to their own proper function. Hence, if the readings are read by a lector or deacon the priest does not have to re-read them. If the choir sings the communion verse or song, this suffices and it is not required that the priest re-read it. I like this about the new Mass.

2. I love the cycle of readings in the newer Mass. It is rich in its sampling of Scripture. The three year rotating cycle means that most of the New Testament is read every three years along with a rich sampling of the Old Testament. The Traditional Latin mass usually offered only a brief reading from the New Testament epistles and a Gospel pericope. It is very limited compared to the richness of the current Lectionary which includes, on Sundays, an Old Testament passge, a psalm, a New Testament epistle and a Gospel passage. Further the sequential reading from one of the four Gospels along with a matching Old Testament reading is helpful. The readings from the Traditional Latin Mass tended to skip around and its logic was not always clear. As a preacher and lover of Scripture I have been richly fed by the new lectionary. I could wish for a slightly better translation than the current NAB we use here in the States but in the end I feel very well schooled by the newer liturgy when it comes to Scripture.

3. Restoration of the General Intercessions – There is a strange moment in the Old Mass when, after the homily and creed the priest turns and says to the people (Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you) and they reply et cum spiritu tuo (and with your spirit). He then says, Oremus (Let us pray). But there is no prayer. He simply turns back to the altar and the people are once again seated. Many centuries before there had been bidding prayers here similar to our current “Prayers of the Faithful” or “General Intercessions.” They had been composed by Pope Gelasius but were later suppressed by Pope Gregory since they prolonged the Mass. But somehow the call to prayer (that odd little “oremus“) stayed there all those centuries.

There was need to attend to this. Either restore the prayers or drop the call to prayer. The current, Ordinary Form of the Mass has restored these prayers or general intercessions. I think this is a valuable aspect of the Ordinary Form of the Mass if it is done correctly. We ought to to pray for others as is so beautifully done in the Eastern Rites of the Church. It seems suitable that, after hearing and reflecting on God’s Word, we be drawn to pray for ourselves and the world.

However there is a tendency in some parishes to misunderstand the nature of these prayers. They are general intercessions, not particular ones. The prayers ought to be of a general nature not for every one’s sick cousin, aunt, or brother, mentioned by name with a full medical report included in the prayer. Rather we pray for the sick in general, for the poor, for Church leaders, Government leaders, for abundance of the fruits of the earth, for peace and so forth. Specific political and idiosyncratic prayers are wholly to be avoided.

If these norms are observed, the general intercessions (or prayer of the faithful) is a beautiful and ancient practice restored in the ordinary and newer form of the mass and it also links us more to the practice of the Eastern Rites.

4. The general rediscovery of the existence and role of congregation is a good part of the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass. In the Traditional Latin Mass, especially in its recited form the congregation had little to do but watch the Mass. The priest interacted only with the servers who made the responses on behalf of the people. Even when the priest turned to say something to the congregation he was instructed to look down.

If members of the congregation did wish to interact and make Latin responses this was made more difficult by the fact that the Mass was largely whispered by the priest. In the 1950s attempts were made to remedy this by encouraging the people to learn their responses in the Mass and use missals to follow the Mass carefully. Permissions were given for the priests to say the Mass in a louder voice and microphones were even added to some altars. But the lengthier Latin responses were still difficult for many ordinary Catholics to make and keep up with.

Today, in the newer liturgy the role of the congregation is respected and they are expected to play an active role in the Mass and make responses proper to them. It is true that there has been some obsession with this by overzealous liturgists. At times some of them demand that the people do everything and that there is never a place for a choir to sing a more advanced setting of something. But in general, the integral involvement of the congregation in the newer and ordinary form of the Mass is something I value highly.

5. The Vernacular is also a positive development. I love the Latin Language but I also know that it is a great advantage to have many parts of the Mass in the local language. This has assisted in greater participationof the faithful in the Mass to an immense degree. It is difficult to expect the congregation to take a routinely active role if the Liturgy is almost wholly said in a language they do not know. Simple Latin responses are one thing, but try to get the whole congregation to say the confiteor (I Confess) well together. It can be done in some self-selected congregation where there is interest in Latin, but in more general settings it would be difficult.

That said, it is a true loss that most of the faithful have become completely separated from any experience of the Mass in Latin. This is something not envisaged by the Council which permitted a wider use of the vernacular but also commended the use of Latin and foresaw it’s continued common use in the liturgy.

A further point here is to lament how poor our vernacular translations have been for years and how good it is that a more accurate translation is on the way. Praise God.

6. Flexibility and the wider possibility for inculturation is also something I appreciate about the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass. Careful balance is needed here and rubrics need to be followed but the greater allowance for wider forms of music and cultural expression has allowed the Liturgy to flourish in different settings. I have a vibrant African American Catholic Parish wherein gospel music and extended preaching along with a charismatic enthusiasm give real life to the Mass in an authentic manner.

It is true that not every experience of inculturation with the new Mass has been as successful. This is especially true in more suburban American settings where culture is more secular and ephemeral and too many worldly forms find their way into the Mass. But where is a sacred tradition to draw on, it is nice to have some flexibility to incorporate this.

There is no doubt that the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass has some serious issues. It emerged in a time of great cultural tumult and emerged as if out of a whirlwind. We are still waiting for the dust to settle in many respects. But there are good and wonderful things as well. Pope Benedict is helping a great deal to reconnect us to tradition and to see both forms of the Liturgy as beneficial to each other.

It is fine to have a preference but I am blest to love both forms and serve vibrant and passionate communities using both forms. Both communities love the Lord and are serious about the liturgy and deeply connected to it. What a blessing to look out each Sunday and see, not boredom, but engaged and passionate people, alive and aware that the Lord is ministering to them in the sacred liturgy. What a blessing, a double blessing!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Biblical and Heavenly Roots of the Sacred Liturgy

The Biblical and Heavenly Roots of the Sacred Liturgy
By Msgr. Charles Pope

Catholics are often unaware just how Biblical the Sacred Liturgy is. The design of our traditional churches, the use of candles, incense, golden vessels, the postures of standing and kneeling, the altar, the singing of hymns, priests wearing albs and so forth are all depicted in the Scriptures. Some of these details were features of the ancient Jewish Temple, but most all of these are reiterated in the Book of Revelation which describes the liturgy of heaven.

The liturgy here on earth is modeled after the liturgy in heaven and that is why it is so serious to tamper with it. The Book of Revelation describes the heavenly liturgy and focuses on a scroll or book which contains the meaning of life and the answers to all we seek. It also focuses the Lamb of God, standing but with the marks of slaughter upon it. Does this not sound familiar? It is the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

We do well to be aware of the Biblical roots of the Sacred Liturgy not only for our own edification but also as an answer to Protestant Christians who have largely set aside these rituals and, some of whom, criticize our use of them. Many people consider our rituals empty and vain, “smells and bells.” Some consider austere liturgical environments devoid of much ritual to be “purer,” and closer to the worship in “spirit and in truth” that Jesus spoke of in John 4.

To such criticisms we must insist that these rituals, properly understood, are mystical and deeply biblical. Further, they are elements of the heavenly liturgy since almost all of them are mentioned as aspects of the worship or liturgy that takes place in heaven. In this light it is a serious mistake to set them aside or have a dismissive attitude toward them.

With that in mind we ought to consider the Biblical references to the most common elements of Catholic and Orthodox liturgies. I place an ocassional note in Red where it seems appropriate.

Candles -

  • Rev 1:12-13 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man. In traditional catholic parishes there are six candles on the high altar and a seventh candle is brought out when the bishop is present.
  • Rev 4:6 Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne.

Altar -

  • Rev 9:13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God.
  • Rev 8:3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.

Chair -

  • Rev 4:1 and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald….
  • Daniel 7:9 As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat;… In the sacred liturgy the Chair of the priest is prominent. But, as he takes his seat we are invited not to see Father Jones, but rather the Lord himself presiding in our midst.

Priests (elders) in Albs:

  • Rev 4:4 the elders sat, dressed in white garments…..

Bishop’s Miter, priest biretta –

  • Rev 4:4, 10 With golden crowns on their heads……they cast down their crowns before the throne…. In the Liturgy the Bishop may only wear his miter at prescribed times. But when he goes to the altar he must cast aside his miter. The priest who wears the biretta in the Old Mass is instructed to tip his biretta at the mention of the the Holy Name and to lay it aside entirely when he goes to the altar.

Focus on a scroll (Book) The Liturgy of the Word -

  • Rev 5: 1 And I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” In the ancient world books, as we know them now, had not been invented. Texts were written on long scrolls and rolled up.

Incense, Intercessory prayer -

  • Rev 8:3 another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God…..
  • Rev 5:7 and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;

Hymns –

  • Rev 5:8 – And they sang a new hymn: Worthy are you O Lord to receive the scroll and break open its seals. For you were slain and with your blood you purchase for God men of every race and tongue, and those of every nation.
  • Rev 14:1 Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads… and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth.
  • Rev 15:3 And they (the multitude no one could count) sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are thy ways, O King of the ages! Who shall not fear and glorify thy name, O Lord? For thou alone art holy. All nations shall come and worship thee, for thy judgments have been revealed.”

Holy Holy Holy

  • Rev 4:8 and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

Prostration (Kneeling) -

  • Rev 4:10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne.
  • Rev 5:14 and the elders fell down and worshiped - In today’s setting there is seldom room for everyone to lie, prostrate and flat on the ground. Hence, kneeling developed as a practical solution to the lack of space but amounts to the same demenor of humble adoration.

Lamb of God -

  • Rev 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain,

Acclamations –

  • Rev 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”


  • Rev 5:14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!”.


  • Rev 8:1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (and you thought your priest paused too long after communion?)

Mary -

  • Rev 12:1 And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.

Happy are those called to his “supper”

  • Revelation 19: 6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;… And the angel said£ to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Golden Vessels, vestments -

  • Rev 1:12 – And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
  • Rev 1:13 – and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest
  • Rev 5:8 – the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense
  • Rev 8:3 – Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, at the golden altar before the throne.
  • Rev 15:16 – The angels were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests.
  • Rev 15:17 seven golden bowls

Stained Glass -

  • Rev 21:10 [The heavenly city] had a great, high wall, with twelve gates,… The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. (The image of stained glass in our Church walls is hinted at here).

Here is but a partial list, drawn only from the Book of Revelation. I invite you to add to it. You might also read The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn, and The Mass: A Biblical Prayer,by Fr. Peter Stravinskas.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

350,000 Catholic Masses a day!

Now This is Communion

AUG. 31, 2010 ( - There is an estimated (at least) 350,000 Catholic Masses celebrated every day on planet Earth. It is celebrated in every nook and cranny on the planet, by every race and nationality, and using every language. And each of these Masses is celebrated (generally) using the same scripture readings and the same prayers.

Every single one of these 350,000 Masses is actually doing exactly what Jesus said to do in scripture (Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:23-29) when he said “Do this in memory of me.” Catholics live that out as a Church over 350,000 times a day. That means there are 4 priests saying those precise words, “Do this in memory of me,” every single second of every single day.

Every one of these Masses is literally and continually making present Christ’s (once and for all) sacrifice on Calvary for all mankind. At any second you can join your own prayers to one.

When you participate in a Catholic Mass, you are participating in the same celebration as these other 350,000 daily Masses all over the world (you wanna talk about a “mega-church”?). We are all joined in the same readings and prayers and we partake of the same, specific Eucharist. And the rest of the time, when we are living out our faith outside of Mass, there are (literally) a billion other Catholics around the world continually offering it up on our behalf.

Now that’s unity (John 17:11). That’s communion.

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