Friday, March 19, 2010

The Priest in the Communion Rites

The Priest in the Communion Rites
Liturgy Prepares for Reception of the Eucharist
By Paul Gunter, OSB

ROME, MARCH 19, 2010 ( The priest approaching the Communion rites in the Mass is disposed by the Eucharistic prayer, which he has just completed, to know that "the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's Body and Blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all."[1]

Moreover, as the moment approaches when priest and people receive the Holy Eucharist; that is, as they prepare to eat the Lord's Body and to drink his Blood, we might turn to Jesus' speech at Capernaum which presents the reception of the Blessed Eucharist as both a coming and an encounter.[2]

In the context of a coming, St. John's Gospel states: "For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."[3] As an encounter, the Eucharist is no less placed as an expression of the relationship within the Blessed Trinity and witnessed in the filial relationship of Jesus and his heavenly Father. Jesus explains: "Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life."[4] "As the living Father has sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me."[5] Consequently, personal and public preparation for the Blessed Eucharist, which the Communion rites so vividly amplify in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms, do not prepare the priest and others to receive a "thing" but a person. As Romano Guardini summed it up, "Not it but He, the supreme Person praised in all eternity."[6]

In the ordinary form (or the missal of Paul VI), the people stand to begin the Communion rites, which are led by the priest. Symbolically, the image of the priest, centrally at the altar, with the people standing around, anticipates the Church standing with Christ in heaven at the end of time. The priest introduces the Pater Noster according one of a number of formulas before it is said or sung by all. Various authors comment on the words Jesus taught us to pray with confidence and which we use before approaching the Blessed Eucharist.

Our Father

Texts from the commentary by St. Cyprian on the words of the Lord's Prayer are designated to the Office of Readings for the eleventh week of ordinary time in the Liturgia Horarum to catechize us into a greater appreciation of their meaning.[7] They counsel the priest to remember that every recitation of the Pater Noster is an ecclesial act that has its bearing on the lives of others. St Cyprian wrote: "Before all else the teacher of peace and of unity would not have us pray on our own and in private in such a manner that each prays only for himself. We do not say: 'My Father, who art in heaven', or, 'Give me this day my bread.' […] Our prayer is public and for all, and when we pray, we pray not for a single person, but for the whole people, because we are all one."[8]

The Libera nos continues in a gentle way to expound the resonances of the Pater Noster and describes the human unworthiness and need for deliverance with which we approach the Eucharist. The priest, who prays on behalf of everyone, acknowledges, on the one hand, the compromises that mar our peace in lives blurred by sins and anxieties, and on the other, the joyful hope that the coming of the Lord brings. The people complete the prayer with a doxology that expresses expectancy that the Lord will fulfill his promise to be glorified in us. The prayer, Domine Iesu Christe, takes the focus from our sins and anxieties and places it on the faith of the Church that awaits the peace and unity of the kingdom in fulfillment of God's will. Then the priest extends his hands and exchanges the greeting with the assembly: Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Sign of peace

The physical sharing of the pax is not an obligatory component of the liturgy. The deacon or the priest may invite everyone to offer a sign of peace.[9] Controversies about when the sign of peace might be deemed more appropriate in the liturgy remains a separate discussion from that which describes how it is done. The missal maintains ecclesiological distinctions. It is not a moment when formality gives way to informality but a moment when the human intimacy that is an intrinsic part of order reveals itself in just proportion. "It is a ritual exchange, not a practical greeting."[10] St. Thomas Aquinas expressed this relationship between intimacy and order in his beautiful hymn to the Blessed Sacrament "Pange Lingua" that is sung on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi in the Roman liturgy.[11] Verse three illustrates: "On that night of the supper, reclining with the brethren, observing the fullness of the law."[12]

The priest gives the pax to the deacon or minister. It is not envisaged he leave the sanctuary to greet the faithful in the nave, though the faithful exchange the pax with those nearest to them. The rubric distinguishes these parallel demonstrations of the pax that avoids the ecclesiological confusion that might arise from a purely horizontal model. Clear punctuation marks affirm the distinctions intended. "Everyone, according to their local customs, gives expression to communion and charity, the one to the other; the priest gives the peace to the deacon or minister."

The fraction that follows is both a practical and a symbolic moment. Ritually, in many circumstances, the celebrant breaks the larger host that he alone consumes. However, this rite allows for a larger host to be broken into the pieces that will be distributed to the faithful, while a particle is placed into the chalice when the priest says secretly, "May the commingling of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it."

Agnus Dei

The Agnus Dei which accompanies this action asks for mercy and addresses Jesus as the Passover Lamb whose sacrificed body has poured out his blood for the forgiveness of sins. The image of Jesus as the Lamb is outstandingly portrayed by an altarpiece in the Ghent's Cathedral of St Bavo where a lamb who stands on the altar pours out his blood into a chalice.[13] The Agnus Dei is the same as that cited in the Book of the Apocalypse which proclaims the worthiness of the Lamb that was slain [14] and the blessedness of those invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.[15] The antiquity of the Agnus Dei in the Roman rite is such that many scholars accept that it was Pope Sergius I, 687-701, who introduced it in the Mass. The third invocation, Agnus Dei, asks for peace because the Blessed Eucharist is a Sacrament of Peace because it is the means whereby all who receive it are bound together in unity and peace.[16]

The priest says secretly one of two personal preparatory prayers before Holy Communion. In the first, through the Body and Blood of Christ, he asks to be liberated from his iniquities and from any other evil, for the grace to keep the Lord's commands and that nothing may permit any separation from him. In the second, the priest prays that his receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ may not bring him judgment and condemnation but a defense and a cure for his mind and body.[17] The priest's communion, which precedes that of the faithful, always, consists in both species to complete the liturgical action of the Mass. He prays that the Body and Blood of Christ bring him personally to eternal life. However, at the purification of the vessels, he asks on behalf of all who have communicated, including himself, that what they have received with their lips may be received with a pure heart and that from being a merely temporal gift it may become for them an everlasting remedy. The sum of these words and actions announce that a great mystery has been celebrated where, in the Eucharistic celebration, kairos, the favorable time of the Lord, has intercepted chronos which is the time otherwise restricted by the successive events described around us. Nevertheless, before God, silence is ultimately the only appropriate personal response from the innermost part of our beings to express faith, reverence and loving communion in him whom we have received.

The period of silence should be carefully protected. It should last minutes rather than seconds to provide a clearly defined space for prayer.[18] In the prayer after communion, which also envisages a period of silence after the call to prayer Oremus, especially if a period of silence was not observed previously, the priest leads the thanksgiving of the Church and prays that the gift of the Communion that has been shared may bear its fruit in us. The Amen with which the faithful answer this prayer made by the priest concludes the Communion rites that began with the priest's invitation to pray the Pater Noster.

Extraordinary form

The priest in the Communion Rites of the extraordinary form performs more complicated gestures that no less indicate priestly identity and function in preparing for Holy Communion. As in the ordinary form, it makes coherent sense to consider its parameters as the same, namely, from the introduction to the Pater Noster until the conclusion of the Post-Communion prayer. However, allowing for the different mentalities of the forms that unite to construct the Roman Rite, certain differences are noteworthy.

Since the Tridentine Missal envisages celebrations of distinct grades of solemnity, the assistants perform surrounding actions that a priest would fulfill himself at a Low Mass. The priest recites the Pater Noster alone and the server answers sed libera nos a malo. The Libera Quaesumus includes the intercession of all the saints in general but beyond mentioning Our Lady also includes St. Andrew presumably because of particular devotion to that apostle.

When the priest prays "for peace in his day,"[19] he makes the sign of the cross on himself with the paten and kisses the paten at its upper inside edge prior to slipping the paten under the host before preparing to carry out the fraction. In his explanation of the prayers and ceremonies of the Holy Mass, Guéranger provides a commentary to describe the purpose of the Haec Commixtio at the commingling which is at once engaging even in its tendency toward allegory:

"The priest then allows the particle which he had in his hand, to fall into the chalice, thus mingling the Body and Blood of the Lord, and saying at the same time: Haec commixtio et consecratio Corporis et Sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi fiat accipientibus nobis in vitam aeternam. Amen. What is the meaning of this rite? What is signified by this mingling of the Particle with the Blood which is in the chalice? This rite is not one of the most ancient, although it is quite a thousand years old. Its object is to show, that at the moment of Our Lord's Resurrection, His Blood was reunited to his Body; by flowing again in his veins as before. It would not have sufficed if This soul alone had been reunited to His Body; His Blood must necessarily be so likewise, in order that the Lord might be whole and complete. Our Saviour, therefore, when rising, took back His Blood which was erstwhile spilled on Calvary, in the Praetorium, and in the Garden of Olives."[20]

Lord, I am not worthy

After the Agnus Dei, there are three prayers the priest says before Holy Communion with his eyes fixed on the Sacred Host and whose content is largely found in the Communion Rite of the ordinary form. Then holding the Host he says the Domine, non sum dignus three times when simultaneously striking his breast. As he purifies the paten into the chalice prior to consuming the Precious Blood he quotes from Psalm 115, "What return can I make to the Lord for all he has given to me. I will take the chalice of salvation and call on the name of the Lord" but adds "praising, I will call on the Lord for I will have been saved from my enemies."[21] During the purifying of the chalice, after the Quod ore sumpsimus, the priest prays that there remain in him no stain from his misdeeds and that the Body and Blood of Christ which he has received transform his entire being.

It can be seen that any emphasis placed on priestly character and on the priest's liturgical actions in the Communion rites are overwhelmingly encouraging. While they do not hide a priest's awareness of his unworthiness, they highlight his unique dignity and remind him of how he must strive to become pure and holy like Christ. Then they are inviting; that is, immediately inviting to the sacrificing priest to enter into a closer union with Jesus Christ The High Priest and Victim, and inviting to the faithful that they may recognize with joy the ministry of the priesthood whose mystery is essential for the Eucharist, the 'Source and Summit of the life and mission of the Church'.[22] In those different aspects of that invitation, the Church glimpses at the wonder of the love of God who humbled himself to share in our humanity, renewing his invitation each time his Covenant of Love is made present on the altar when Christ draws our human existence ever more deeply into his Risen Life. As the author of the Book of the Apocalypse testifies: "Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him."[23]

* * *

[1] CCC 1353
[2] John 6

[3] John 6:33
[4] John 6:46-48

[5] John 6:57
[6] GUARDINI R., Meditations Before Mass, tr E.CASTENDYK, reprinted Sophia Institute Press, Manchester NH 1993, 174

[7] ST CYPRIAN., «De Oratione Dominica» 4-30, PL 3A, 91-113
[8] ST CYPRIAN., «De Oratione Dominica» 8

[9] #128, 'pro opportunitate', Missale Romanum, Editio Typica Tertia, Typis Vaticanis 2002
[10] J. DRISCOLL, What happens at Mass, Gracewing Publishing, Leominster 2005, 123.

[11] During the Solemn Transfer of the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday and as the hymn at vespers on Corpus Christi.
[12] "In supremae nocte caenae recumbens cum fratribus, observata lege plene […]"

[13] J. VAN EYCK., The Adoration of the Lamb, detail from the Ghent Altarpiece, 1432, St Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium
[14] Apocalypse 5:11-12

[15] Apocalypse 19:7,9. The priest introduces the Domine, non sum dignus based on Matthew 8:8 and Luke 7:6-7 with the image of the Feast of the Lamb.
[16] St. Augustine, 'O Sign of Unity, O Bond of Charity' In Jo. ev. 26,13:PL 35,1613; cf. SC 47.

[17] #131 Missale Romanum 2002
[18] #139 Missale Romanum 2002 refers to sacrum silentium and temporis spatium.

[19] da propitius pacem in diebus nostris
[20] P. GUÉRANGER, Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass, tr. L. Shepherd, Stanbrook Abbey, Worcestershire 1885, 61.

[21] Laudans invocabo Dominum et ab inimicis meis salvus ero
[22] BENEDICT XVI., Sacramentum Caritatis, 3, AAS 98 (2006)
[23] Apocalypse 3:19-20

* * *

Benedictine Father Paul Gunter is a professor of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy Rome and Consulter to the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Father Gagliardi Explains the Eucharistic Prayers

The Priest and the Canon of the Mass
Father Gagliardi Explains the Eucharistic Prayers

ROME, MARCH 5, 2010 ( In this article, Father Mauro Gagliardi, a consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, explains the importance of the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass.

The article invites the faithful, and in particular priests, to recognized in the Canon of the Mass the heart and culmination of Christian life.


The heart and culmination

The Eucharistic Prayer, known in the Eastern tradition as Anaphora ("offering"), is indeed the "heart" and "culmination" of the celebration of the Mass, as is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.[1] In the Roman tradition, the Eucharistic prayer has been known as "Canon of the Mass" (Canon Missae), a term that is found in the early Sacramentaries and goes back at least to Pope Vigilius (537-555), who speaks of "prex canonica."[2]

The Anaphora or Canon is one long prayer has the form of thanksgiving (eucharistia), thus following the example of Christ himself at the Last Supper, when he took bread and wine and "gave thanks" (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23). St. Cyprian of Carthage (died 258), one of the most important witnesses to the Latin tradition, provided a classical formulation of the inseparable bond between the liturgical celebration and the institution event, when he emphasised that the celebrant of the Eucharist must imitate closely the acts and words of the Lord at the Last Supper, upon which the validity of the sacrament depends.[3]

Pope Benedict XVI expressed this essential truth of the faith in a homily in Paris during his Apostolic Visit in 2008: "The bread that we break is communion with the Body of Christ; the chalice of thanksgiving that we bless is communion with the Blood of Christ. Extraordinary revelation, which comes to us from Christ and is transmitted to us by the Apostles and by the whole Church for almost two thousand years: Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist on the evening of Holy Thursday. He wanted his sacrifice to be presented again, in a bloodless way, every time a priest repeats the words of the consecration on the bread and on the wine. Millions of times for twenty centuries, in the most humble of chapels as well as in the most grandiose basilicas or cathedrals, the risen Lord has given himself to his people, thus becoming, according to Saint Augustine's formula, 'more intimate to us than we are to ourselves' (cf Confessions III, 6.11)."[4]

The actual words of Christ's "thanksgiving," by which he instituted the sacrifice of the New Covenant, have not been handed down, and so there developed within the Apostolic Tradition a variety of liturgical rites that are historically associated with the most important primatial sees, which are named by the sixth canon of the Council of Nicea (325), Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and, a little later, Byzantium.[5]

Essential elements

The essential elements of the Eucharistic prayer are presented succinctly in the Catechism:

In the Preface, "the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation, redemption, and sanctification. The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the thrice-holy God."[6]

In the Epiclesis, the Church "asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit (some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis after the anamnesis)."[7]

In the heart of the Eucharistic prayer, the Institution Narrative, "the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all."[8]

After the Institution Narrative, follows the Anamnesis, in which "the Church calls to mind the Passion, resurrection, and glorious return of Christ Jesus; she presents to the Father the offering of his Son which reconciles us with him."[9]

In the Intercessions, "the Church indicates that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the whole Church in heaven and on earth, the living and the dead, and in communion with the pastors of the Church, the Pope, the diocesan bishop, his presbyterium and his deacons, and all the bishops of the whole world together with their Church."[10]

Since late antiquity until the liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council, the Canon Missae was the only Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman rite, and this is still the case in its Extraordinary Form according to the Missale Romanum of 1962. In the 1970 editio typica of the Missal, the Roman Canon has been retained with a few minor modifications (and a reduction of rubrical gestures) as the first of four Eucharistic Prayers. The new compositions contain elements both of the Latin and of the Eastern traditions. Subsequently, further Eucharistic Prayers have been added to the Missal.

The Canon Missae goes back to the second half of the fourth century, the period in which the Latin liturgy at Rome began to develop fully. In his De Sacramentis, a series of catecheses for the newly baptised that was held around 390, St Ambrose quotes extensively from the Eucharistic prayer employed at that time in his city.[11] The passages quoted are earlier forms of the prayers "Quam oblationem," "Qui pridie," "Unde et memores," "Supra quae," and "Supplices te rogamus" of the Canon found in the early Roman Sacramentaries.

In the oldest Roman tradition the Canon begins with what we now call the "Preface," a solemn act of thanksgiving to God for his innumerable benefits, especially for his works of salvation. The Sanctus was introduced at a later stage and separated the Preface from the subsequent prayers. It is a characteristic of the Roman Rite that the text of the Preface varies according to the liturgical season or feast. The earliest Mass collections had many different Prefaces, which were greatly reduced already in the early Middle Ages, so that the Missale Romanum of 1570 only retained 11 of them. Subsequently, a number of Prefaces were added, and it was certainly one of the gains of the most recent liturgical reform to enrich the corpus of Prefaces by drawing on ancient sources.[12]

Priestly prayer

As Pope John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter "Dominicae Cenae" in the early years of his pontificate, the Eucharist "is the principal and central raison d'être of the sacrament of priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist."[13] The Eucharistic Prayer is indeed the priestly prayer par excellence, for, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, the ordained priest, "acting in the person of Christ, brings about the Eucharistic Sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people."[14] The priest, who through receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders has been conformed to Christ the High Priest, acts and speaks as representing Christ the Head. It is for this reason, writes John Paul II in his last Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia that "the Roman Missal prescribes that only the priest should recite the Eucharistic Prayer, while the people participate in faith and in silence."[15]

In the consecration of the Eucharist, the ordained priest never acts alone but always in and with Christ's Mystical Body, the Church, whose members, through the infused virtues of faith and charity, participate in the action of Christ the Head as represented by the priest. Pope Pius XII states in his encyclical Mediator Dei, that the faithful too "offer the divine Victim, though in a different sense." This teaching is confirmed by reference to the writings of Pope Innocent III and St. Robert Bellarmine on the Mass. Pius XII also points to the fact that the liturgical prayers of offering are generally used in the first person plural, as in various parts of the Canon of the Mass.[16] The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy follows Mediator Dei when it proclaims that "Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith," which is the Holy Eucharist, "should give thanks to God [and], by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves."[17] As the Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium" teaches, "the faithful join in the offering of the Eucharist by virtue of their royal priesthood."[18] Through the indelible character they received in baptism, the faithful participate in Christ’s priesthood and hence also in his sacrificial offering of himself to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

This teaching of the Church's Magisterium provides also the foundations for a renewed and more profound understanding of the "participatio actuosa" (active participation) of the faithful in the liturgy, which is not merely external, but also, and more importantly, internal. From this perspective one also understands better why from the Carolingian period to the reform of Vatican II, and also today in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, the celebrant priest prays the Canon in silence. As the then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explained, thus communion before God is not denied: "It is not quite true that the uninterrupted recitation in a loud voice of the Eucharistic prayer is the condition for the participation of everyone in this central act of the Eucharistic celebration. My proposal then was: on one hand liturgical education must be such that the faithful know the essential meaning and the fundamental tendency of the Canon; on the other, the first words of the individual prayers should be pronounced in a loud voice as an invitation to the whole community, so that, then, the silent prayer of each one makes its own the intonation and can bring the personal dimension into that of the community, and that of the community into the personal dimension. Whoever has experienced personally the unity of the Church in the silence of the Eucharistic prayer has experienced what truly full silence is, which represents at the same time a deep and penetrating cry addressed to God, a prayer full of spirit. Here we truly pray all together the Canon, though in connection with the particular task of the priestly service."[19]

For priests, the celebration of the Eucharist is the most important moment of every single day. All other activities, indeed all aspects of their sacerdotal existence, must be intimately connected to the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. Here we find the heart of the priesthood and indeed of the whole sacramental nature of the Church, as the theologian Joseph Ratzinger put it so well: "In order that an event that occurred in the past is made present, the words must therefore be pronounced: This is my Body -- This is my Blood. But in these words it is assumed that the I of Jesus Christ speaks. Only He can say these things; they are His words. No man can pretend to declare the I of Jesus Christ as his own. No one can say here r many communities can transmit, rather it can only be founded on the "sacramental" authorization given to the whole Church by Jesus Christ himself. [...] And this is exactly the 'Priestly Ordination' and the 'Priesthood.'"[20]

Full Story in

Watch Saint Padre Pio celebrate Mass

Watch Saint Padre Pio celebrate Mass

An interesting video of Saint Pio in hjis later years.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Memorial and Presence in the Eucharistic Body of Christ

Memorial and Presence in the Eucharistic Body of Christ

By Mark Shea

Before I became Catholic, I was taught in my old Evangelical group that, of course, the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist was so much hocus pocus and that the whole notion of the Host and the Cup actually being the Body and Blood of Christ was a lot of superstitious hooey. So when Paul warned the Corinthians, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27), I was taught this referred, not to the Eucharist, but to the Church, the Body of Christ. Whatever you did to the least of the brethren, you did to Christ, etc.

Now, to be sure, Paul is not happy with the Corinthians’ rowdy behavior. The Corinthians were being grade A bozos during their Eucharistic banquets. They were factional, they got drunk, and they routinely humiliated the poorest members of the Body of Christ. But it is also worth noting that absolutely nowhere in Scripture or Tradition is the Church referred to as “the body and blood of Christ”. This is language that plainly refers to what the bread and wine consecrated at the Last Supper and consecrated ever since in memory of him.

In short, Paul warned the Corinthians that to sin against the body of Christ which is the Church is to sin against the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Conversely, to honor the body of Christ which is the Church is to honor the Body of Christ which is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is, for Paul, the beating heart of the Church. Indeed, it was what makes the Church the Church. Without it, we are a group of Christians who happen to pray together in the same room.

The reality that the Eucharist is done “in memory” of Jesus has thrown a lot of Christians out of whack via the process known as “heresy”. “Heresy” doesn’t refer so much to false teaching as to half-true teaching. A heresy fixates on some small aspect of Catholic teaching and declares that it is the only part that matters.

So some Christian traditions have fixated on the memorial aspect of the Eucharist and reduced it simply and solely to a memorial meal, as though Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a (very strong) audio-visual aid to remind us of his passion, death and resurrection. All we are doing, on this theory, is calling to mind the events that happened to Jesus during the Passion, two thousand years ago on the other side of the planet.

On this view, the Eucharist is nothing more or other than a symbol (to which the puckish Flannery O’Connor replied, “If it’s a symbol, then the hell with it.” And, indeed, Christian traditions which have arisen after the reduction of the Eucharist to a mere memorial symbol have said likewise and radically minimized or even abandoned the celebration of communion altogether.

My own church was living proof of this, concluding (quite logically given the premise) that Communion was unnecessary since it was a mere symbol and that truly spiritual people (such as ourselves, of course) did not require such symbols any more than Catholics felt required to engage in footwashing every week.

What nobody knew or told me (till I started to learn about the Church) was that this notion of “memorial” was massively inadequate to the ways the New Testament writers though about the Eucharist. For the word used to describe the sort of memorial it is is “anamnesis”. It doesn’t speak merely of remembering something long ago as we might remember a fond Saturday afternoon in our childhood or a battle or some other historic occurrence in the remote past. Rather, it means a “making present”.

It is the difference between remembering our childhood and remembering where we are right now. Precisely because the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ and not a mere symbol, we remember who Jesus is, what he has done and, most importantly, what he is doing right now in making himself present in our midst.

This “making present” is exactly what is occurring on the altar every time the Eucharist is consecrated. It is the fullest presence of Christ. How can there be “more full” and “less full” presence of Christ. As an analogy, consider the disciples, lurking around in their hidey hole on Easter morning and trying to make head or tail of the burbling of Mary Madgalene after she burst in them with the news from the tomb. While they sat there listening to her and not believing a word of it, Jesus was right there, as present in the room with them as he is with you while you sit reading this. Yet after that, he became even more fully present to them: he appeared to them and they realized that there were different ways in which he could be present.

The same thing happens now. Jesus is present in various ways: in his people, in his word, in the poor and needy and suffering, and in many other ways. But he is fully present in the Eucharist. It is, says Chesterton, the difference between saying “The spirit of God pervades the universe” and saying “Jesus Christ just walked into the room.”

Full Story at National Catholic Register

"Why do we call it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?"

Why do we call it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?
By Paul Dion, STL

This morning I started a new curriculum about the relationship between the Bible and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I was quickly surrounded by 15 eager adults, wondering what I was going to say first. I did what I always do, I asked the persons in the group if they had any questions.

The first question was, "What is a sacrifice". We discussed that for about 10 minutes. The
definition that were given by the people in the room were very good, exact and correct in fact.

The discussion went over to the next question which was, "Why do we call it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?" The person who formulated this question is a highly educated daily Mass goer with a high educational achievement and a strong spiritual life.

To this question, no one in the room had a really strongly acceptable answer. So I spent five minutes answering it. After saying all this, I invite you all to share your answer to the question:

"Why do we call it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?"

CLICK HERE to see the answer to this Burning Question.
to leave your comments or to see what others are saying.

The (Remarkable) Preface Dialogue

The Mass in Slow Motion

The (Remarkable) Preface Dialogue
By Msgr. Charles Pope

A short dialogue happens in the Mass just after the prayer over the gifts and the before the singing of the Sanctus. It is called the “preface dialogue” and it is really quite remarkable in its sweeping vision and heavenly call. Part of the reason we miss it’s significance is that the translation of the Latin is difficult to accomplish in English. Allow me to give the current translation so you’ll recognize it and then render a more literal version of the Latin.

* The Lord Be with you

* And Also with you

* Lift up your hearts

* We lift them up to the Lord

* Let us give thanks to Lord our God

* It is right to give him thanks and praise

A fairly familiar dialogue to be sure. But to some extent it fails to take wing because of the rather earthbound notion most moderns have of the Mass. Very few attending mass today think much of the heavenly liturgy. Rather they are focused on their parish Church, the priest in front of them and the people around them.

But this is NOT an adequate vision for the Mass. In the end there is only one liturgy, the one in heaven. There is only one altar, the one in heaven. There is only one High Priest, Jesus in heaven. In the Mass we are swept up into the heavenly liturgy. There with myriads of angels and saints beyond number we worship the Father through Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus. In the Mass we are swept into heaven!

With this in mind consider a more literal rendering of the preface dialogue. Pay attention especially to the middle dialogue:

* Dominus Vobiscum (The Lord be with you)

* et cum spiritu tuo (And with your Spirit)

* Sursum corda (Hearts aloft!)

* habemus ad Dominum (We have, to the Lord!)

* Gratias agamus, Dominio Deo nostro (Let us give thanks to the Lord our God)

* Dignum et justum est (It is right and just).

What is the celebrant really inviting us to do? After greeting us in the Lord he invites us to go to heaven! But remember the priest is in persona Christi. Hence when he speaks it is really the Lord Jesus who speaks making use of the voice of the priest. And what does the Lord really say to us in the magnificent dialogue and preface that follows?

Allow me to elaborate on the fuller meaning of this text:

“Let your hearts be taken up! Come and go with me to the altar that is in heaven where I, Jesus the great High Priest, with all the members of my body render perfect thanks to God the Father! You are no longer on earth, your hearts have been swept aloft into the great liturgy of heaven! Come up higher. By the power of my words you are able to come up higher! Since you have been raised to new life in Christ, seek the things that are above where I am at my Father’s right hand. Come up now and enter the heavenly liturgy. Hearts aloft!”

The congregation’s response is meant to be a joyful acknowledgment and acceptance of the Lord’s action in summoning us to the heavenly liturgy. Here too allow me to elaborate:

“We have our hearts lifted to the Lord. We have entered the Heavenly Liturgy by the power of your grace, for you our head have taken us, the members of your body there. We are in the heavenly realms with you, worshipping the Father and giving him perfect thanks and praise. It is right and just that we should do this through you, with you and in you!

Then the celebrant sings or says the preface wherein some specific things for which we are thankful are enumerated. The text of the preface changes based on the season or the saint or feast of the day. But it always ends in this or a similar manner: and so with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven we sing the unending hymn of your praise: Holy, Holy, Holy…. And thus we are reminded that our worship is caught up into the heavenly liturgy where our voices join innumerable angels and saints in the glorious act of praise. We are in heaven! Our hearts (our very selves) are aloft!

Hence the Mass is never just the “10:00 am Mass at St. Joe’s” It is the heavenly liturgy.

Until recently Churches were designed to remind us that we were entering heaven. As we walk into older churches we are surrounded by windows and paintings that depict the angels and saints. Christ is at the center in the tabernacle. And all the elements that scripture speaks of as in the heavenly liturgy are on display not only in the building but in the celebration of the liturgy: Candles, incense, an altar, the hymns that are sung, the Holy Holy Holy, the scroll is brought forward in the Book of Gospels, the lamb on the throne-like altar, the prostrations and kneelings of the saints before the Lord.

All these things are described in the Book of Revelation descriptions of the heavenly liturgy. None of these things are in our churches or the liturgy for arbitrary reasons. We are in the heavenly realms and the heavenly liturgy and so we see and experience heavenly things.

Hearts aloft!

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Is the Mass a Eucharistic Banquet or a Holy Sacriifice?

Is the Mass a Eucharistic Banquet or a Holy Sacrifice?
By Paul Dion, STL

1. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
2. a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3. a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4. a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5. a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6. a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7. a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8. a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace
(Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3)

There is also a time for naming things and a time for remembering what the name was before the name we now use. I am giving you the opportunity to participate in this exercise in the following manner.

What is the name that defines our central act of worship, the Mass?
Is the Mass a Sacrifice or is it a Banquet?

Tell us what you think and please elaborate on your answer.

Cliock here to post a comment and to see what others are saying.

How to Participate More Actively in the Celebration of the Mass

From Spectator to Participant
How to Participate More Actively in the Celebration of the Mass
By Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D.

What does "active participation" at Sunday Mass mean for space-age Catholics—especially those who, on a particular Sunday, do not have a special ministry to perform? It is easy to see what "active participation" means for an usher, reader, server, choir member or special minister of the Eucharist. But what is the "activity" of the ordinary Christian in the pew? What does active participation mean for me when I am simply "going to Mass" like everyone else?

The question needs to be answered by every Catholic. Why? Because participation is fundamental to all the changes we have experienced in Sunday Mass over the 20 years since the Second Vatican Council. At the outset of the Council the bishops made this a pivotal point of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. They declared that the "restoration and promotion of the full and active participation in the liturgy by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else" (#14).

From Spectator to Participant

Baptism gives us a share in the priesthood of Christ. All of us pewholders—male and female, school kids and adults—exercise that priesthood in the liturgy, which is "the full, public worship of the Father performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ: the Head and his members" (#7). That's quite a challenge! If we are the Body of Christ, we can be mere spectators at the Eucharist no more than Christ himself could be a passive spectator at his holy sacrifice. The Council teaches that active participation is not only our right but also our obligation by reason of our baptism (#14).

For 20 years "active participation" has been the aim of liturgical reform. Yet many educators, pastors and parishioners sadly admit that it is the hardest of all reforms to bring about. Changing languages, using a different style of music, changing the position of the altar—these were easy reforms when compared to the task of changing our posture at Mass from one of watching to doing. Doing not only requires more effort on our part than watching, doing also requires more understanding of what it is that we are supposed to do.

The following suggestions for fuller participation in the liturgy will focus on the three major actions of our Sunday Mass:
1) We come together
2) to hear the Word of God,
3) and to share our Eucharistic bread and wine in obedience to the Lord's command: "Do this in memory of me."

We Come Together

1) Being there. The first action required of us is being present. We need to be there because of the importance of our presence as a sign of our faith to the other members of the congregation. The catechism taught that the sacraments were "outward signs," and we often thought of Eucharist in terms of the bread and wine as the signs of the sacrament. The Council has made us aware that the sign is larger: Christ is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the consecrated bread and wine but in the Word and in the assembly (#7).

When we are present at Sunday Mass, you and I are part of the outward sign of the Eucharist. In recent years we have seen efforts to improve the signs of sharing the bread and the cup; we must also make an effort to improve the most basic symbol of all: the assembly.

At Sunday Mass we "make visible and manifest to others the mystery of Christ's Body" (#2). The Council tells us that our coming together for liturgy is something like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The picture is there even when the pieces are not put together, but when the puzzle is assembled the picture is easily seen. So we, the Body of Christ, make the Church visible when we "put ourselves together" to form God's Holy People.

Your presence makes a difference. Your presence is needed if the picture is to be complete. Your presence is needed not just to fulfill a moral obligation but to witness to the community that you care enough to get out of bed and come to church. Your presence says that you believe enough to plan your weekend so that you can be here with us to proclaim the death and resurrection of the Lord. This sign, this witness, strengthens the faith of those who see it.

2) Being prompt. Being present on time and ahead of time says that we consider what we are going to do to be important to us—more important than the things that would keep us at home.

3) Being friendly. Taking time before Mass to say hello, to greet others (not just our friends but especially visitors and people we do not know), to offer a handshake of welcome and a friendly glance—these acts are an essential part of our participation. When we assemble we make visible the Body of Christ, and we must make visible that Christ who welcomed all who came to him—even sinners.

The ministry of hospitality can no longer be left to the priest greeting people at the door or to the appointed ushers. There are so many among us on Sunday who feel isolated and alienated, so many hungry for a sign of welcome. You and I know that when we pray God listens, God has time for us. Not all of our brothers and sisters believe this; they need signs in order to believe. We, the assembly, must be the sign and sacrament of God's hospitality. A friendly smile, a handshake can show our appreciation to others that they have come to give witness of their faith to us. "Mrs. Weston, how happy I am that you could come this morning...and with your husband being so ill...." We must not let our hello wait until the Sign of Peace.

4) Being well located. Where do we sit? Do we find a place which facilitates our singing and our interaction with the other members of the community? Do we make it easy for those who come late to find a place?

5) Being a singing believer. Singing gives witness to our faith. At most Sunday Masses one of the first things we hear is the invitation to join in the singing. We are not asked merely to sing as though taking part in an off-Broadway musical. We are being asked to give witness to our faith, to express that faith with the other believers around us by joining with them in the same rhythms and melodies. It is perhaps more important how we look when singing in church than how we sound. By our body language and by our voice we give witness to what we believe.

Even if we feel that we cannot sing and our voice would hurt more than help, we must not let our not singing look like not believing. Picking up the book is a witness in itself. We should not put our attention on how we sound but upon the meaning of the text we are singing. We can make the thoughts and feelings of the hymn our own. More and more the faith content of the text and its relation to the Liturgy of the Word are becoming the criteria for the selection of the music we use at Mass. This will facilitate the participation of a large proportion of the faithful in the singing.

We Hear the Word of God

Hearing the Word of God is an essential part of "doing" Eucharist. Our stance before the Word is not passive but an active, attentive listening. When God speaks we have an obligation to receive his message; we must prepare ourselves by knowing the language in which God speaks, that is, we must become familiar with the Bible and its expressions and symbols.

1) Preparing to hear. Many Catholics never had the oppurtunity to learn how to read the Bible. However, since a recent Gallup poll indicated that one out of every four Catholics would join a Bible study group if one existed in their parish, more and more parishes are offering opportunities to learn about the Word of God and to pray together using the Scriptures.

Even if such a group is not available in your parish, there are other ways in which you can prepare yourself for the Sunday readings. St. Anthony Messenger Press publishes Homily Helps, which gives an easy, one-page background and commentary on each of the Sunday readings. Share the Word, published free of charge by the Paulist Catholic Evangelization Center, gives not only commentary on each of the readings but includes materials to enable anyone to share their reflections with a group of friends or with the members of the family. In order to really hear the Word when it is read in church, we must have already read and studied and prayed with the Word at home. Many parishes print the readings for the following Sunday in the parish bulletin. We do well to take the time to look up the readings for next Sunday in the Bible and use these texts for our prayer during the week. What homily or sermon would we give on these texts? We might compare our homily with that we hear in Church and experience the various, multiple ways in which the Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures.

2) Receiving the Word respectfully, silently. During the reading we need an atmosphere of quiet, free from distracting movement. Silence doesn't just happen in church—it must be created. Before the reading starts we must prepare ourselves to be quiet, putting away things that are going to make noise. The sound of 700 missalette pages turning at once can drown out the Word of God. If someone has a tickle in the throat and feels a cough coming on, he or she can take a cough drop or a mint before the readings start. (This does not break our Communion fast, for our concern for the presence of Christ in the reading of the Scriptures and our concern for the ability of others to contact that presence balances our concern for the presence of Christ in Holy Communion.)

Some members of the parish community may not be old enough to actively help create this silence, and the prish must provide ways for them to hear the Word according to their capacity, and also provide ways which enable their parents to hear the Word and be moved by it.

If we come late, we ought to wait until the reading is over to be seated. This is another way in which we show our concern for the presence of Christ both in his Word and in the assembly.

3) Being and looking attentive. There is a relationship between the effectiveness of the speaker and the attention of the listeners. A good listener makes the speaker want to do better. I can still remember the first time I was in a parish where the people really looked at me during my homily and told me by the look on their faces that they were hungry for the Word of God and wanted to be nourished by it. It is so much easier to really put myself into my preparation and delivery when there are people who show me that they want me to prepare and to really give them something to nourish their lives.

We Share Our Bread and Wine

Even before the Eucharistic Prayer itself, we should see ourselves as being actively involved in the preparation of the gifts:

1) Identifying ourselves with the bread and wine. When we see these gifts being brought from the assembly to the altar, we see our food and drink—our very lives—being placed on the altar to be offered to God.

2) Making the collection part of the action. Giving our hard-earned money in the collection is a very real element of our sacrifice—especially in those parishes where the collection, or a proportion of it, is given to needs outside the parish. Often priests, who do not put of their salary into the collection, do not realize how powerful a symbol this is for those in the pew.

3) Participation in the Eucharistic Prayer. How to be active while the priest leading the celebration recites the Eucharistic Prayer is an especially important question. The Eucharistic Prayer is our central Christian prayer, the fullest statement of our belief. It is also a time when we can find our minds wandering.

Our participation in the Eucharistic Prayer is not just a "listening" and "watching" but a "doing." Jesus told us: "Do this is memory of me."

The first thing we do is to remember. The prayer begins by recalling the great saving acts of our God which culminate in Jeses. We must each recall God's activity in our lives. The test we can use to see if we are actively participating in this remembrance is a simple one. When participating well we should begin to feel gratitude, we should feel the need to give thanks. This is what Jesus did: He took the bread and wine and "gave thanks." It is this action that names our sacrifice: Eucharist comes from the Greek verb "to give thanks."

We give external expression to these feelings when we join with the angels and saints and exclaim: Wow! What a God we have! Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory!

We continue to gratefully remember the saving acts of our God. We recall how Jesus received everything from the hand of his loving Father. Even on the night before he died for us, he took bread and gave thanks. As we hear these words, we can place ourselves with the apostles at the table with Jesus. What were his attitudes and feelings and desires? Are they our attitudes and desires? In the second chapter of the Letter to the Philippians Paul tells us, "Your attitude must be that of Christ." What is the mind, the attitude of Christ?

Jesus gave thanks even with his death imminent. He knew that whatever was to happen came from the hand of his loving Father. In placing ourselves at that table with Jesus we are led to the heart of the mystery of our faith: Remembering God's love for us, we can give ourselves to God confident that no matter what happens, we are loved. We offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus in his Spirit.

4) Seeking the larger unity. I have learned from families who have taken me into their homes how it grieves parents when their children fight, when one refuses to share a toy, when kids refuse to compromise on which TV program to watch. From these human parents I can learn how God, who loves each of us with a parent's love, wants us to act as children of one family: not bullying the weaker ones, those not as smart, as powerful, as industrialized, as rich, as sophisticated.

If we are to have the attitude of Christ we must pray the prayer of Christ: "May they all be one, even as you and I, Father, are one" (see John 17:21). The Eucharist challenges us to look beyond our human family and circle of friends to see the entire human family. The limited horizons of our love and concern must be broken even as the bread is broken. This is our petition at every Eucharist: "Gather all who share this one bread and one cup into the one Body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise."

5) Giving ourselves through the responses. The enthusiasm with whch we join in the responses and acclamations is an essential part of our active participation. Even though on a particular Sunday we may not feel like proclaiming, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Chris will come again!" we know that we are not prisoners of our feelings. In order for an action to be authentic, it does not have to flow only from our feelings. We know that the feelings often follow the action rather than precede it. We know that a child bored on a summer afternoon will feel differently when the child begins to play at something he or she enjoys. The feeling will come when the behavior is changed.

Our participation in the acclamations is made easier for us when they are sung in true acclamatory fashion. Many ministers of music are aware of this and are providing acclamations that are "rhythmically strong, melodically appealing, and affirmative" (Music in Catholic Worship, #5).

6) Sharing the Eucharistic bread and cup. Our active participation culminates in our reception of Holy Communion. We get up, go to the altar and share the bread and the cup. The importance we give these actions, and the devotion and reverence with which we perform them, speaks not only to ourselves and fosters our own feelings of reverence and awe, but also speaks to those around us. We are all concerned about passing on the faith to the generations that come after us. Whether we can explain to our friends and our children what the Eucharist means in our lives or whether we find it very difficult to put this meaning into words, the faith and reverence expressed in our reception of Communion speaks louder than any mere verbal explanation.

Out Into the World

The ultimate in active participation is the renewed resolve at each Eucharist to go out into the world challenged by the Word that we have heard to share our lives, even as we have shared our bread and wine. The broken bread is the sign of how our lives are going to have to be poured out and "wasted" for the good of all men and women.

This is the ultimate participation, because only if we are breaking and pouring out our lives for the good of others Monday through Saturday will the breaking and pouring out we do in church on Sunday be real for us. And when we have tried, really tried to express love for our families, to be honest at work, to break through our narrow-mindedness, to share our gifts, and when we bring that brokenness to the altar, we will experience what "active participation" really means. And we will never go away empty.

Full Participation From the Pews

The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people" (1 Peter 2:9) have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (#14)

Taking Part in the Action

The Church earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith [the Eucharist], should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's Word, and be nourished at the table of the Lord's Body. They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves. Through Christ, the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and each other, so that finally God may be all in all.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (#48)

Rising Above Our Feelings

Celebrations need not fail, even on a particular Sunday when our feelings do not match the invitation of Christ and his Church to worship. Faith does not always permeate our feelings. But the sign and symbols of worship can give bodily expression to faith as we celebrate. Our own faith is stimulated. We become one with others whose faith is similarly expressed. We rise above our own feelings to respond to God in prayer.

Music in Catholic Worship (#5)
U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., has a doctorate in liturgy and sacramental theology from the Institute Catholique de Paris. A popular writer and lecturer, Father Richstatter teaches courses on the sacraments at St. Meinrad (Indiana) School of Theology.

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"Top 10" reasons to go to Mass

Why Go To Mass?
Here is a list of the "Top 10" reasons
By Steven R. Hemler

Not every Mass is going to be a great and deeply moving experience. Lifelong Catholics may have grown so used to the ritual that they aimlessly go through the motions and find their minds often wander. So, why bother going to Mass?

Here is a list of the "Top 10" reasons:

Reason #10: To Follow the Commands of God, Jesus, and the Church

The third of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God is, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day." Christians observe Sunday as a day of worship and rest in order to honor the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Before his Crucifixion, Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in memory of me." When we celebrate the Mass, we repeat the Last Supper, as Jesus commanded us to do. In doing this, we remember his great act of love for us on the Cross - taking our sins upon himself so that we can live with him forever in heaven. Therefore, the Church teaches that we must fulfill the command of Jesus by attending Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2042) explains that attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is the first of the five Precepts of the Church. Willingly disobeying this precept is seriously sinful.

Reason #9: To Develop and Express Our Faith Commitment

Another reason to go to Mass is to develop the habit of worshiping and glorifying God. Human beings ordinarily develop by forming habits, some good and some bad. The discipline of worshiping God helps us to grow into being habitual "adorers of God," even when we do not feel like it. Like any other major commitment, our spiritual life involves discipline and restraint. Mass can sometimes be boring. Children and young people often wonder why the Mass can't be more "fun." But, if someone lives just to "have fun" they will most likely end up being selfish and unhappy. Focusing on our own selfish desires is empty and unfulfilling. It is only when we get out of ourselves and live for God and others that we truly find peace and happiness. Participation in the Mass is our duty as baptized Christians, but it is much more than that. It is an opportunity to actively express our commitment to Jesus Christ and to help fulfill our role in the Church.

Reason #8: To Gather Together in Christian Fellowship

Living a truly Christian life is not easy and a supportive community is vitally important. We cannot live as Christians just by ourselves. We are, rather, called to enter into relationships with others on our Christian journey through this life. Without fellow Christians, our faith would be stunted, fade away and die. It is while united in active celebration together at Mass that we will most powerfully experience the joy implicit in Jesus' saying "For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them." Active involvement in a broad range of parish activities, beginning with Mass, gives great meaning and support to our lives as Christians.

Reason #7: To Receive God's Help and Healing

It is hard to do difficult things alone. Following Jesus can be tough work. We go to Mass to receive the help we need to live the Christian life. Going to Mass gives us a sense that there are other people who are also struggling to live better lives and maybe we can all make it together. It's been said, "The Church is not a haven for saints, but a hospital for sinners." We don't go to Mass to proclaim our holiness, but rather we go to humbly seek God's help and healing. To change our lives - in Biblical terms, to repent, to convert - we need the help and support of others. At Mass, we join with others who are also trying to live the gospel and follow Jesus, and we share in the Spirit of Christ and we are empowered by that Holy Spirit.

Reason #6: To Celebrate With Song

Congregational singing has always been one of the most powerful ways to for the community to pray together. In the words of St. Augustine, "Singing is praying twice." Many find good liturgical music quite inspiring and an important part of worshipping God in a community of believers. But, liturgical music cannot be mistaken as entertainment. Music in worship is also a means towards prayer, contemplation and reflection. Good liturgical music is carefully selected to reinforce the central message of the Word of the Lord during Mass.

Reason #5: To Pray and Worship God Together

From the earliest days of Christianity, men and women have brought their deepest needs and desires to the table of the Lord, confident that they will be joined to Christ's great act of intercession before the Father. So, we can bring our deepest desires to the table of the Lord, confident they will be heard. St. John Vianney said of liturgical prayer, "Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that." So, we come together to join our prayers of Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (the acronym "A.C.T.S.") with the other members of our faith community. If we love God, we will want to spend some of our time with Him as He wants us to - giving ourselves to Him in worship.

Reason #4: To Receive the Word of God

During the Liturgy of the Word, we hear Christ's voice in the scripture readings. As Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states, "it is He himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church." We also hear Christ's voice in the homily, when the priest seeks to apply these inspired words to our lives. We know that if we listen in the right frame of mind, asking Jesus to open our hearts and minds, we will receive a message - a personal message.

Reason #3: To Commemorate Christ and Perpetuate His Sacrifice on the Cross

Whenever we gather together at Mass, we remember Christ. Furthermore, as the bishops said at Vatican II, "…it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is accomplished." At each Mass, God makes present and available to us, with lavish generosity, the saving power of the cross. Through the Mass, we offer God our praise, sorrow for our sins, and our deepest thanks for the gift of our redemption.

Reason #2: To Strengthen Us for Our Mission

The Mass provides us with a sense of why we are here, namely to love and serve the Lord and one another. When we hear the words, "Do this in memory of me," we hear God's voice not just challenging us to go to Mass but also challenging us to that self-giving love that the Mass celebrates. We are to live as Christ lived and act as Christ would act. The hard part of the Eucharist is not only believing that the bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, but the most difficult thing is accepting the challenge to "do this" - to live with that same self-giving love.

The Mass not only gives us a sense of what we ought to do, it also strengthens us for doing it. When we hear "The Mass is ended; go in peace" we know that Christ has come physically to the altar, then flows outward to the congregation, who carry Him out into the world. Our Lord does not send us out into the world as orphans. Rather, He equips us for the journey. He has formed us by teaching us through His Word, and He has fed us with His very Presence.

Finally, the #1 Reason to Go to Mass: To Be Filled with Jesus Christ

At the Consecration, the bread and wine, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Himself. He said this very plainly: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."

Without physical food we will die physically. In the same way, without spiritual food we will die spiritually. By receiving Holy Communion we receive the graces needed to become more like Christ. It's been said, "We are what we eat." St. Augustine expressed this well when he said about Eucharist, "Believe what you receive. Receive what you believe. Become what you receive." This is why we are called to receive Holy Communion regularly and frequently.

Vatican II emphasized that the Mass is the "summit" toward which all our activities point and it is the "source" from which all our blessings flow. The Mass is the Lord giving Himself to us in His Word and in His Real Presence, and calling forth our self-giving in return. Going to Mass allows us to meet Christ within His community and to be with others whose faith makes a difference. This enables us to make the lived Presence of Christ - going forth and doing God's work in the world - the central element of our lives.

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How the Fathers of Vatican II intended for us to celebrate the Mass

"Summorum Pontificum"
How the Fathers of Vatican II intended for us to celebrate the Mass
By Paul Dion, STL, ParishWorld Theology Editor

I enjoy reading the comments that my opinion I shared in my blog on the Latin Mass - QUIBUSCUMQUE MISA LATINA PRAEDILIGENT OFFERTUR - has elicited. They are polite, kind and well put. They also deserve a response, or at least a reaction from the author of the blog. Many, and I mean, many, say that it is not the Latin that they seek, but the spirit of sacredness and holiness that they get from the ritual. They are elevated by the quiet, the silence, the ability to pray and to prepare for communion. The atmosphere is so much more mystical.

I don't deny that. No one does. To be perfectly honest, I do have a corner in my heart that says that there is room for that in the church. Jesus Himself said, “There are many mansions in my Father’s house.”

I also know that it is not what the Fathers of Vatican Council II intended. They intended that the Mass should be a participatory celebration of the mystery of salvation, not a personal, mystical preparation to the reception of communion.

They intended the entire Mass to be Eucharist, priest and laity celebrating together. More community singing, more bible stories, mandatory homily, etc. That's why they put the priest as close to the crowd as they could, face to face, joy to joy. That is why we have what we have in this day and age.

Starting on September 14, 2007, those who want the peace and quiet of preparing themselves for communion while the priest turns his back to them, consecrates the bread and wine and prays in whispers in a foreign language will have more opportunities to do so.


I have had an interesting experience over the last week. I am a very staunch Roman Catholic who has reservations about the Pope’s opinion concerning the relaxing of the rules for the celebration of the Mass in Latin, according to the ritual which was installed by Pope John XXIII in 1962.

I found a deep, right-wing Internet site where I asserted myself and said that I did not agree with the Pope’s opinion as stated in the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. More than being a staunch Roman Catholic, I am a fluent reader of Latin. I wrote my opinions over my real name and my real academic credentials. It was a rather interesting give and take which lasted a while, but then ended abruptly for the sake of maintaining civility.

Since then, I have read some comments on my blog, one post which is entitled QUIBUSCUMQUE MISA LATINA PRAEDILIGENT OFFERTUR.

One of the faithful who made a comment asked me to write a more complete article about my opinion about the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass) so that my opinion would be more clearly exposed, and hopefully, understood. I am therefore going to plunge right into the project so that I can get it done before the reader loses patience.

I. Foundational theology of the Mass, Pre-Vatican II

Before Vatican II the foundational theology of the Mass was situated on the Old Testament concept of the Sacrifice. Just as the sacrifice was the supreme act of worship, reconciliation, intercession and petition, so was the Mass, the supreme act of relationship with God, the non-sanguinary sacrifice of the Lamb of God, offered to God by the Lamb Himself (Jesus on the Cross) for the salvation of Mankind. This act of worship is presented to us from the first pages of Genesis all the way through the Gospels.

Every seminarian who was ordained before 1970 was “formed” in this theology. I know, I was one of them.

This theology was the basis of our prayer style. The priest conducted the rite that made the sacrifice happen. Our priest was the replication of the Levite or the Aaronite and Jesus Himself was the true Priest who was at the same time the Sacrificial Lamb.

Every Mass then, was a sacrifice, a holocaust that was a memory of the holocaust that Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job and others offered. The problem was that not a single pew warmer knew anything about this theology. Every Mass was a sacrifice that reminded us of the demands of the covenant that God had made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus and not a single simple soul in the pew knew the background of what was going on.
II Foundational Theology of the Mass, per Vatican II

The Fathers of Vatican Council II took clues from Pope Pius XII who was a strong advocate and initiator of liturgical reform. He even created a liturgical commission of imminent scholars who had been at work for some 25 years before the council. Their efforts were so glorious and compelling that the Constitution on the Liturgy was the first to be discussed and accepted by the Fathers.

It was never the object of political wrangling by the autocrats of the Roman Curia. It is a Constitution that was ripe when it arrived in Rome.

"The Liturgy is defined as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of humans is manifested by signs perceptible to the senses and is offered in a way which is proper to each of these signs. (Liturgy, Section 1, #7) Pastors must then realize that when the liturgy is celebrated more is required than the observance of the laws governing valid and licit celebrations.

The presence of Christ is being celebrated, presence in the person of the priest, present in the Eucharistic species, presence in His word and presence when the church sings and prays. Christ associates the church with Himself in the truly great work of giving praise to God and making people holy." (Same section, same number)

Every Mass is sharing in the heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the heavenly city of Jerusalem toward which we all journey as pilgrims, encouraging one another on the way, singing to God’s glory, venerating the saints and hoping to join them one day in the Divine presence of God.

The theology of the Mass as described and exposed by the Fathers in Vatican II is a dynamic, participatory worship of the church exercising the fullness of baptism.

III Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people" (1 Peter, 2:9) is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” (Liturgy, Section II, #14)

This statement in the Constitution states the theological reason for the active exercise of the fullness of our baptismal grace. It is the celebration of our dying, rising and resurrecting with Christ through baptism. The Fathers are telling the church that Mass is a celebration of our very existence in the presence of God. Mass is the celebration of the new covenant, reminding us that we have survived the Deluge, the slavery of Egypt, the exile to Persia, the oppression of the Greeks and the Romans and we are being guided to our Salvation in the sacramental presence of God Himself thanks to the passion, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This worship demands a liturgy which is celebrated in a language which can open as much as possible the understanding of the participants into its divine mysteries.

IV General Norms

“…both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify. Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.” (Liturgy, Section III, # 21)

It is interesting to note that the Constitution makes it a point to note that the liturgy will be conducted in Latin. Then, in the very next sentence it says that in order to help the people to better participate, certain important parts of the liturgy should be in the vernacular.

It is important to note that the Constitution leaves the degree to which the vernacular will be introduced into the liturgy is left up to the local ecclesiastical authorities. That freedom has now been trimmed back substantially.

V Sacred Scripture

I cannot emphasize this enough. From the papacy of Pius XII through the present day, the Bible has taken on greater and greater importance in our lives as Catholics. Pius XII in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu enjoined the church to turn to the Scripture as its basic source of learning about God.

This drive toward the use of Scripture as the source of our knowledge of God drove the Fathers of the Council to make it a greater part of the Mass than it had ever been. The council Fathers wanted us to understand just how radically important the Bible is to our faith.

When the reform of the liturgy was complete, a daily Mass goer would have heard stories from about every book in the Bible and have heard about 75 or 80% of the entire Catholic Canon.

That’s not all. The proclamations, the prayers, the psalms, the blessings and exhortations in the Missal were taken almost exclusively from the Bible. Sacred Scripture is of paramount importance to our faith and the expression thereof through our religious acts, i.e. the liturgy.

The Mass of today is constructed so that just about everything that is said either by the congregation or by the priest is connected to Sacred Scripture. The Mass is constructed in such a manner that everything that is prayed is aimed at strengthening the faith of the faithful thereby making their relationship with God more meaningful and more secure.

The Mass of today is constructed in the form of a celebration that leads to creating an internal happiness that is meant to strengthen the faithful for the mission. The Mass of today is a Banquet meant to strengthen the participants for the journey.

The Mass of today is structured to help the faithful come to know one another in their own community so that they will have fewer reservations about carrying its blessings with them throughout the rest of the week. The Mass of today is an inter-active liturgy of the communion of the saints. That’s why so many of us talk in church these days. That’s also why so many of us have “prayer corners” in our houses with open Bibles and candles so that we can pray as a family in our church of the home.

That’s also why so many of us have a Bible near our bed or in another quiet corner so that we can obey the evangelical counsel to pray in the privacy of our own room. That’s also why there are so many Bible studies in Catholic communities these days. There is so much Scripture in the Mass that we thirst for more contact with the Word at another level.

VI Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to point out that there are some things of the Mass that will not and cannot change. There are some things that can change, and they will. I have pointed out that the foundational theological point of view of the Mass has changed, but that both of these points of view do not change the essential underlying theology of the Mass.

The Fathers of the Council wanted to achieve two major goals:
They wanted to construct a more communal liturgical exercise of the priesthood given to us all in our Baptism. Secondly they wanted to construct a more scripturally based liturgical celebration in an effort to make Catholics more sensitive to the revealing power of the Sacred Word.

In so doing they kept in mind that there is an intimate connection between worship and belief, so much so that theologians, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) prominent among them, have repeatedly declared that the lex orandi (the way one prays to God) influences and indeed actually becomes the lex credendi (the way one believes).

I am convinced that the best way to achieve what the Fathers of the Council envisioned is through solidly celebrated liturgy in the vernacular.

Those of you who agree with me will know that I will die happy and you won’t have to cry at my funeral. Those of you who disagree with me won’t have the slightest inclination to cry at my funeral.

Istum quaeso vobis quia, Deus, Qui Mariam absolvit, Et latronem exaudit, Mihi quoque spem dedit.

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What really happens during each part of the Mass?

What really happens during each part of the Mass?
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The Catholic Mass is the most sacred act of worship a person can participate in upon earth. At the Last Supper, Jesus Christ, sat down with his chosen Apostles for what He knew would be their last meal together. At that supper, Jesus does something new, something never done before, and yet something which continues until the end of time.

Knowing more about the Mass, we can be closer to Christ and to the miracle He left us on that Holy Thursday night.

“The Catholic Mass…Revealed!” ( is designed to help all people, whether Catholic or not, to better understand the miracle of the Mass. We can come to appreciate its beauty, its rhythm, even why many in history have faced death rather than be deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Mass.

Our prayer is that you come to know and love the Mass as making present again the sacrifice of Christ’s love for us, and a continuation of His Last Supper with his apostles. You too can come to know and love Jesus Christ who both commands and invites us to encounter Him in this very special way.

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