Skip to comments.The (Catholic) Mass (as explained by a youth for Evangelical friends) [Ecumenical]
Posted on 12/28/2008 6:30:30 AM PST by NYer
The Catholic Mass is all Bible and all Jesus - Biblical references for the Mass are here - and we have the most kickin' altar call around - Holy Communion. Talk about getting up and coming down the aisle for the Lord. We actually meet Him in the Flesh when we hit the front.
Some Evangelicals make fun of the Catholic Mass and call it the "smells and bells."
But if we look at early Christians we also see quite a ceremony. They were men of their time and culture and heirs to the style of worship which Christianity inherited, naturally and organically, from its Jewish origins. Here is a written inventory of articles used by Christians in Certa from 303 AD, before the "legalization" of Christianity by Constantine. Apart from the Scriptures that were always used, the inventory is as follows:
(Gregory Dix, the Shape of the Liturgy, Pg. 24, Thanks to Mark Bonocore for this research)
This appears to be quite a ceremony! The Lord is cool with ceremony, incense, and official garments. Noah made a burnt offering and the "odor pleased the Lord." (Gen 8:21) Yeah, God can smell a faithful ceremony. The Lord did not come to abolish the law of Moses but rather to fulfill it. (Mat 5:17). The law had a ton of ceremony in it. Jesus taught in temples all the time. He didn't go in there just to pull out the faithful. He loved the temple and He called it "my Father's house" (Lk 2:49, Jn 2:16). He's into ceremony. Even in Heaven there is ceremony. "The twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense." (Rev 5:8). "Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the Prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne" (Rev 8:3). These are some of the reasons why Catholics are into ceremony.
In the first two centuries the Mass contained the two part formula we still use today. It began with teachings and readings from Scripture followed by the Breaking of Bread, and Wine. The Word of God in writing was followed by the word of God made flesh. Justin Martyr shows us this in 155 AD. And the Bible itself describes a Mass where they had teachings and readings 'til midnight followed by the breaking of bread. (Acts 20:7-12).
Incense: We find incense at the temple in Lk 1:10 and the Magi brought frankincense to Jesus' birth.
Visual art is for the eyes
Music is art for the ears
Perfume & incense are art for the nose
All art forms can be used in service to God!
I love a good high mass with beautiful music and incense.
Bells: Bells on the top of steeples are cool, they are simply a reminder that it is time for mass. Some fundamentalists claim they are of Pagan origin. But pagans also sang hymns and we wouldn't rule those out. Zachariah spoke of "bells" on horses being inscribed with the words: Holiness unto the Lord: (ZECH 14:20) Even the Lord directed that bells be attached to the hem of the high priest's garment! (Exod. 28:33)
Mostly, the opposition to Bells is that they are "Catholic" bells ringing in the neighbourhood. But many protestant churches have bells too. In recent years bells have fallen out of fashion because they "bother" neighbours who would rather sleep on Sunday mornings than go to Church. It bums me out that Churches don't ring bells in the neighborhood much anymore, but people blast their horns through the neighborhood when we win a hockey game.
Priestly Vestments: We see priestly vestments in Scripture (Ex 40:13-14, Lev 8:7-9) and also in history, as shown above from the Pre-Constantine Mass documented in 303 AD. Uniforms identify professions such as police, military and nurses. Evangelicals also use "appropriate" attire. On TV they wear suits, and in Churches they wear kakis and golf shirts :-)
Fr. Mark Goring, Companions of the Cross, Ottawa, Canada.
Mass has two major parts : 1) Liturgy of the Word 2) Liturgy of the Eucharist
1) Liturgy of the Word: Three Bible readings. OT, Psalm, NT, and a Gospel reading. Then and a Homily which comments on those readings. If I go to Mass every day, I get a lot of Bible.
2) Liturgy of the Eucharist: Scripture, prayer, praise & worship - and then the Lord Himself appears and we come forward to meet Him and accept Him. Talk about a "Personal Relationship" with Jesus.
Other parts of the Mass include the Penitential Rite where we repent before the Lord and ask his forgiveness and mercy. The Gloria (on Sundays) which is praise to glorify God. (From Luke 2:14). Alleluia Acclamation (praise to God), prayers of intercessions (standing in the gap), and the Lord 's Prayer (Matthew 6:9) See also the section on the Eucharist
Many Evangelicals say there is too much pomp and ceremony in a Catholic Mass. I play a lot of Christian music festivals in the Evangelical world (which I mostly love). I find that the Contemporary Christian music industry (which is 90% Evangelical) is full of "ceremony."
There are lots of lighting effects, costumes, dry ice smoke, sparkling things, and decorative art at these places of worship. I can't help but think these are similar to the incense, priestly vestments, and art we find in Catholic Churches.
I've played music for many Evangelical worship services. Each of these services has its own pattern (e.g., four fast songs, five slow choruses, a sermon and an altar call). It is not a prearranged "ceremony" but it is more or less the same each week. God is a God of order and pattern and that is OK. There appears to be something instinctive in the human spirit that draws us toward ceremony in honour of God.
I got an email that said Mass is:
...Boring. Incredibly boring. It's likeness is nest to the word boring in the dictionary. If I was a Catholic I wouldn't go to church... (original spelling)
I used to think that Church was boring. I've had a complete turnaround after I discovered Jesus in the Eucharist. When I share the Eucharist now I feel him moving through my entire body. I've had many experiences with the Holy Spirit outside the Eucharist celebration. But by far my most powerful experiences with the Holy Spirit have been right after Communion. Now I look forward to Church every morning at 7:30 a.m. before work. It is the best part of my day. I'm sorry that some "cultural" Catholics don't understand the mystery and the power in the Eucharist and that is why they leave the church. But that doesn't make me question the validity Eucharist. It only proves what Jesus himself said would happen. (Jn 6:56). Many disciples said it was a hard teaching the follow and so they left him. And they are still leaving him.
A good example of this is when I stopped eating sugar everything tasted like cardboard. But after several months, I bit into an apple and I could actually taste it. It was delicious. I had never tasted an apple before because my senses were so bombarded with sugar for many years. After I quit sugar, I could taste everything again. My senses came alive. It is very similar to that in Mass.
We in North America have very short attention spans. We are used to entertainment. We want cool music, and we want flashy teaching from the front of the altar. We want lots of hand waving and neat analogies. Quiet reverence is not valued anymore because we have big-screen TVs at home, which bombard our senses with excitement. So we are bored whenever there is something quiet going on. When I stopped bombarding my senses with television and movie theaters and other forms of entertainment, which society shoves down our throats, I was able to see the true beauty in the Mass. In this simple offering Jesus asked us to do 2000 years ago I have come alive. eucharist.htm
Well actually it's not always the same. There are seasons of the liturgical year. They are Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, and Advent. Each season has different theme colours, music, readings, prayers etc. There are also special days that have their own "look & feel." Every day has different Bible readings.
Sure there is a predictability to all of this. Catholics believe that there is strength in this familiar format just as Evangelicals feel there is strength in the repetition of a praise and worship chorus. It is actually a wonderful thing.
Perhaps there are not many external surprises in a Catholic Mass. But there are tons of internal surprises. I have experiences in Mass that are powerful openings for the Holy Spirit in my life. No two Masses are the same. Internally there is different stuff going on for me at each one - therefore each one is different.
I've played music for many Evangelical worship services. Each of these services has its own pattern (e.g., four fast songs, five slow choruses, a sermon and an altar call). It is not a prearranged "ceremony" but it is more or less the same each week. My favorite Evangelical praise and worship songs have a pattern - (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, optional bridge, chorus, open ended praises, finish). God is a God of order and pattern and that is OK.
Fr. Jeff, Companions of the Cross
No its not. He died once for our sins and his presence remains forever. We offer up the fruits of the sacrifice. In Catholic terms we say it is a "Sacramental Expression of a Pascal Mystery." (Paschal means "having to do with the Passover").
When Evangelicals say "I am washed in the blood of Jesus" (which I love) are they re-sacrificing Jesus who died 2000 years ago? No, they are experiencing the perpetual nature of his sacrifice for our sins. See also the section on the Eucharist
I got an email from an Evangelical that said:
Why do Catholics not receive the wine during Holy Communion?
Many Catholic Churches serve bread AND wine, in fact most do, but some do not serve the wine (to the congregation) at all Masses.
At every Mass in every Catholic Church in the world the Priest eats the bread AND drinks the wine.
Both the Bread and the wine are fully and completely the sacrifice of Christ. So if I take only the bread I get the entire body of Christ or if I get the wine only, I get the entire body of Christ. They are both complete and total in their manifestation of Christ's sacrifice, nothing is missing from the sacrifice of Jesus in either one.
I'm a recovered alcoholic, and I don't drink the wine even though my church serves it. The basic practical reason why some Churches don't serve wine is because some people are afraid of sharing germs and also sometimes there are not enough assistants to serve both. But the bottom line is that the bread is the full deal. It’s the full sacrifice and there is nothing morally or theologically wrong with only having the bread in the congregation, as long as the Priest has both. But I'd rather be at a Mass that serves both even though I don't drink the wine.
Sometimes Evangelicals look at beautiful Catholic Churches and ask "why can't Catholics worship in a humble building." They point out that in the first years of Christianity the places of assembly were peoples' homes. This is true. But Catholics don't think this was God's plan for "Church". It was a result of persecution.
The martyrs longed for the day when Christians could hold their services in public where they could be a better witness and provide a public venue that was welcoming to strangers. So it confuses me as to why people in today's society would like to go back to the days when Christians were oppressed, and forced to gather in homes. Constantine's legalization of Christianity ended the public and state oppression of Christianity that forced people to gather in homes.
People who grew up in communist Russia during the Cold War know what it is like to have the Church forced out of the public square and into their homes. The Russian Christians celebrated when they could go back to public churches after communism fell. Let us not get nostalgic and romantic about Christian oppression. This is currently happening in China, and in many muslim countries. ( "Oh Lord let your Church flourish in the oppressed regions of this world.")
When Jesus saw money changers in the temple. He didn't say "hey guys, its only a building, we can worship anywhere, lets go down the street to the community centre." No, He chased them out. (Lk 19:45) Scripture says "His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house has consumed me.'"(Jn 2:17) He had a passion for the Temple. He called it "my Father's House". (Lk 2:49, 16:27, Jn 2:16).
Church buildings began in the latter half of the second century during lulls in persecution. They became widespread after the Enactment of Milan in 313 AD when it finally became possible for the Church to emerge completely from the underground.
The big beautiful traditional Churches that receive the most complaints were not built with big bucks. They were built with the sweat of the brow of volunteers who worked 'til 11 PM every night after a full day of working their regular day jobs. They would do this for years until their community Parish was built. I wish I had that kind of tireless faith and dedication. That is the real wealth of the Catholic Church - the people.
Paradoxically, many new Evangelical churches are huge. They are like stadiums.
I recently was playing concerts in Guatemala city. The Evangelical organization "Fraterinidad Christian de Guatemala" is building a new Church that holds 7,000 people in its amphitheater. It has a hundred meeting rooms, two stages, a 1000 car parking lot, sleeping complex and dozens of other amenities. It is bigger than any Catholic Church in the Country. These Evangelicals are discovering what Catholics learned 1800 years ago. God loves a beautiful house of worship dedicated to him.
Genuflecting: Catholics believe Jesus is truly present in the Tabernacle. If I ask an Evangelical what he would do if he saw Jesus standing in front of him he would say "I would fall to my knees."
Although a Bible Christian may disagree on the real presence of Jesus, he will certainly not disagree that bending to one's knees is an appropriate response to the real presence of Jesus. One Evangelical told Father Bob Bedard,
"If I believed what you believed, that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, I'd be at Church every day and I would fall to my knees when I entered." Ditto, I go to Church every day and fall to my knees when I enter. (For more on this select the menu item "Eucharist" on the left.)
Sign of the Cross: Evangelicals see this as a way of spotting a Catholic from a mile away. But this is a very old practice.
Christians have been doing it from early times. The theologian Tertullian recorded it in 211 A.D. I got an email that said:
"I was wondering what is means when before the gospel we make a sign small sign of the cross on our forehead, lips, and heart." (original spelling)
Mark Bonomero responds that it is a silent prayer --a response to the announcement of the Gospel reading where the priest or deacon says: "A reading from the holy Gospel according to John." And the congregation, tracing the cross over their forehead, lips, and heart, is supposed to say to themselves (silently); "May the Words of the Gospel be on my mind, upon my lips, and in my heart." At the same time, of course, we vocally respond: "Gloria tibi Domine" ("Glory to you, oh Lord.").
Tracing the little cross over our forehead is actually the original form of the Sign of the Cross ---the one used by the earliest Christians, before the Council of Nicea. What it is is tracing where the bishop placed the oil (in the form of a cross) on your forehead at Confirmation. The present Sign of the Cross was developed around the time of Nicaea itself so as to deny the error of Arianism and express belief in the Trinity as the Council of Nicaea defined it.
The Mass can be roughly divided into 4 sections which can be summed up in one word each:
Entrance Procession: Priest, deacon, altar servers and lectors enter the church or designated place for celebration of the liturgy.
Entrance Hymn/Song or Gathering Hymn: The song/music which takes place during the entrance procession.
Veneration of the Altar: The reverencing of the altar with a kiss by the bishop or priest who presides at the service followed by the other bishops, priests and deacons, and the optional use of incense.
Greeting: The celebrant greets all present at the liturgy, announcing the presence of the Lord to the assembled community.
Penitential Rite: A general acknowledgment of sinfulness by the entire assembly, accompanied by requests for God's mercy and forgiveness.
Gloria: Ancient hymn of praise to glorify God. It is used on all Sundays (outside of Advent and Lent) and solemn celebrations. The text originates from the Christmas narrative in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:14).
Opening Prayer: This prayer by the celebrant expresses the general theme of the celebration.
Liturgy of the Word: The Liturgy of the Word consists of Scripture readings that are proclaimed and reflected upon. Usually, there are three readings: an Old Testament selection, a New Testament selection (from the books other than the Gospels), and the Gospel reading. A responsorial psalm occurs between the Old and New Testament readings.
Responsorial Psalm: Between the first and second readings, a psalm is spoken or sung by the entire assembly. The response is repeated after each verse. If sung, a cantor or choir sings the verses of the psalm.
Alleluia Acclamation: This acclamation of praise to God follows the second reading and prepares the assembly for the Gospel.
Homily: The homily (sermon) is a reflection by the celebrant or other minister on the Scripture readings and the application of the texts in the daily lives of the assembled community.
Profession of Faith: The assembly together recalls and proclaims the fundamental teachings of the Roman Catholic faith. The Profession of Faith, also referred to as the Creed, is used on all Sundays and Holy Days. The Profession of Faith may be either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed.
General Intercessions: Prayers of intercession for the Church, civil authorities, those with various needs and for the needs and salvation of the world. The celebrant invites all to pray, another minister proclaims the prayers of petition and the assembly responds by asking God to hear and to grant their requests.
Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the section of the celebration when the gifts of bread and wine are prepared and the Eucharistic Prayer is proclaimed by the celebrant, and the Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist, Communion) is distributed to the assembly.
Preparation of the Gifts: The bread and wine to be used in the celebration are brought to the celebrant, usually by representatives of the faithful.
Offertory Hymn/Song: Music used during the presentation of gifts to the celebrant and as the altar is prepared for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Washing of Hands: An expression of the desire for inward purification. The celebrant washes his hands in symbolic cleansing to prepare himself just as the gifts have been prepared as an offering to the Lord.
Prayer Over the Gifts: The prayer by the celebrant asking that the gifts to be offered be made holy and acceptable in the eyes of the Lord.
Preface Dialogue: The introductory dialogue between the celebrant and assembly in which all are invited to join in prayer and thanksgiving to God called the Sanctus or Holy, Holy, Holy. The community responds to the preface and continues the general theme of praise and thanks.
Eucharistic Prayer: The prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. It is the center and high point of the celebration. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the Church believes that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Included in the Eucharistic Prayer are the:
Consecration: The prayer and blessing during which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Memorial Acclamation: The Priest declares the mystery of faith and the congregation responds.
Intercessions: A series of prayers for the Church, the world, the Pope, clergy and laity, and the dead.
Final Doxology: A final prayer of praise of God.
Amen: Also called the Great Amen. It is the acclamation by the people expressing their agreement with all that has been said and done in the Eucharistic prayer.
The Lord 's Prayer (Our Father): The prayer of petition for our needs and forgiveness of our sins.
Doxology: The response of the people acclaiming the sovereignty of God.
Sign of Peace: Before sharing the Body of Christ the members of the assembly are invited to express their love and peace with one another, usually through shaking hands or a kiss.
Breaking of the Bread: The celebrant carries out the gestures of Christ at the Last Supper when he broke the bread to give to his disciples. The action signifies that in communion the many are made one in the one Bread of Life which is Christ.
Lamb of God (Agnus Dei):An invocation during the breaking of the bread in which the assembly petitions God for mercy and peace.
Holy Communion: After saying a preparatory prayer, the celebrant (or other designated ministers) gives communion (the consecrated bread and wine) to himself and the other ministers at the altar, and then communion is distributed to the congregation.
Communion Song: The music that is sung as the consecrated bread and wine - the Body and Blood of Christ - is distributed to the faithful.
Prayer After Communion: The final prayer by the celebrant in which he petitions that the Sacrament be beneficial for all.
Concluding Rite: The brief rite which consists of the celebrant's greeting to all present, final blessing and dismissal; followed by a concluding song and concluding procession.
While this is a youthful explanation of the Latin Rite Mass, he covers all aspects with historical background and scriptural references. The same elements of the Latin Rite (RC) Mass are found in the liturgies celebrated by the 21 Eastern Catholic Churches.
might I add that we (RC) forget that part of our Church is the Byzantine Church in Union with Rome. In addition, ANY Orthodox church/member, not in union with Rome IS allowed Holy Communion at our Mass.
Read back of your missal for the Cannon Law-the Latin rite(Western)Church is unaware of this as well as Rome allowing different interpretations of our Holy Days by 1)nation 2)Church as sited Byzantine-Ruthian.
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I was invited to visit a Coptic church a few years back. Let’s just say they are big on incense. It was a very beautiful service.
Bump for Mass being a feast for the senses.
ROFL!! The Eastern Churches use incense extensively in their liturgies. Your comment reminded me of Fr. Mark Gruber's journey to visit the Coptic monasteries in Egypt. He describes rising at 3am to join the monks as they chanted the Psalms.
Both in St. Macarius and in St. Bishoi Monastery, the monks rise very early in the morning. Here they arise at 2:30am and begin prayer at 3am. Morning Prayer consists of more than seventy psalms which are sung, one after the other, with various antiphons, short hymns, intercessions, and incensations from 3:00am until 6:00 am - all of this done while standing! Then, at 6:00am the Coptic Mass (the Kodes) begins and continues till long past 9:00am. So, in fact, the monks have six hours of standing in a very thick cloud of incense every morning before they can even have their first glass of tea! This is the routine from which they never deviate; this is the routine which is the rhythm of their life, and it is exhausting. Nevertheless, it is also very moving, and the manner in which the monks celebrate these prayers is altogether genuine and sincere - nothing affected, no sense of drudgery, either ...
Journey Back to Eden
My Life and Times amond the Desert Fathers
Mark Gruber O.S.B.
Excellent book; I promise you will enjoy it!
Although it is not widely known in our Western world, the Catholic Church is actually a communion of Churches. According to the Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, the Catholic Church is understood to be "a corporate body of Churches," united with the Pope of Rome, who serves as the guardian of unity (LG, no. 23). At present there are 22 Churches that comprise the Catholic Church. The new Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, uses the phrase "autonomous ritual Churches" to describe these various Churches (canon 112). Each Church has its own hierarchy, spirituality, and theological perspective. Because of the particularities of history, there is only one Western Catholic Church, while there are 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Western Church, known officially as the Latin Church, is the largest of the Catholic Churches. It is immediately subject to the Roman Pontiff as Patriarch of the West. The Eastern Catholic Churches are each led by a Patriarch, Major Archbishop, or Metropolitan, who governs their Church together with a synod of bishops. Through the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Roman Pontiff works to assure the health and well-being of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
While this diversity within the one Catholic Church can appear confusing at first, it in no way compromises the Church's unity. In a certain sense, it is a reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. Just as God is three Persons, yet one God, so the Church is 22 Churches, yet one Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this nicely:
"From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them... Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions. The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity" (CCC no. 814).
Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. A Rite is a "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony," (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). "Rite" best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite.
To learn more about the "two lungs" of the Catholic Church, visit this link:
The Vatican II Council declared that "all should realize it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve, and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition" (Unitatis Redintegrato, 15).
A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his of her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. I am a Roman Catholic practicing my faith at a Maronite Catholic Church. Like the Chaldeans, the Maronites retain Aramaic for the Consecration. It is as close as one comes to being at the Last Supper.
What is Noahchide and who is Fr. Smith?
This is a beautifully simple explanation of the Mass.
**I’ve had many experiences with the Holy Spirit outside the Eucharist celebration. But by far my most powerful experiences with the Holy Spirit have been right after Communion. **
The same is true of me. I look forward to receiving the Eucharist daily at Mass.
Thanks. I will get the book!
Excellent! I love this. Very clear explanation of the Mass especially helpful for Evangelicals. I like that the author is respectful of Evangelical Christians and helps them understand the Mass by comparing it to Evangelical practices.
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