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The Catholic Mass

The Catholic Mass



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Published by Des Gahan
An article on the Catholic Mass
An article on the Catholic Mass

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Published by: Des Gahan on Jul 18, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Mass is made up, as it were, of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and theLiturgy of the Eucharist. These however are so closely interconnected that theyform but one single act of worship.That the Mass is a composite of Word and Deed. The Word and the Deed are evidentin the episode in St. Luke’s Gospel, (Lk 24:13-35), where the two disciples meet astranger on the road to Emmaus:After his resurrection from the dead, two disciples recognised his presence inthese same actions: speaking, taking bread, giving thanks, breaking and sharing.In the Eucharist the Church to this day makes Christ’s memorial and celebrates hispresence in the same sequence of actions.The symbolic breaking of the bread speaks of relationship. “a sign belongs in theorder of knowledge; a symbol in the order of recognition.” Our God is primarily aGod of relationship – the Trinity is a Trinity of relationship, both internally asthe immanent Trinity and in history as the economic Trinity.Symbols by their nature are open ended; an individual may experience the Mass ascommunion with the suffering Christ, the risen Christ and a communion with hisfellow mass goers. “So the symbol brings me into contact with a reality,essentially by acting on me, in me.”The Mass is both a memorial and a celebration; a memorial to the Last supper andthe death of the Lord and a celebration of the coming of the Risen Lord. JesusChrist is again present as in the room at Emmaus. As celebration, the RealPresence of the Lord is acknowledged – the celebration moves us beyond a merememorial meal and into the presence of God himself. The Eucharist is both symboland reality.The Eucharistic celebration is an action of Christ and the Church, namely, theholy people united and ordered under the Bishop. It therefore pertains to thewhole Body of the Church, manifests it, and has its effect upon itThe Eucharistic celebration bespeaks a unity of mind, body, and spirit. The Massis the unity of the faithful with Christ. The body of the church, the people,becomes one with each other and their risen. The liturgy is a gathering of thefaithful, “engaging in a particular form of human behaviour which involvescorporate public prayer that also mediates the mystery of our salvation.”Liturgical Principles:The Importance of PrayerI think you could say that the Liturgy is prayer. It is an opening, an offeringand a receiving. It is not so much a prayer of supplication as that ofcelebration.In our prayers we bring our deepest feelings to God and share them. To pray is toexpress our most profound longings. To be continually awe-struck by the world isto pray, in that it helps our souls to fly. To be aware of our failings is topray, in that it helps our souls to grow. To be thankful is to pray, in that ithelps our souls to shine. None of these attempt to change the world, all of themreflect the fact that we have spiritual needs which only prayer can satisfy.Prayer itself does not need to be formalized or even mouthed in words. Our fatherin Heaven knows what we need. Prayer can be a longing of the heart and a silentpraise. Now as regards the Liturgy, it needs to have a more formalized structure,because we are dealing with community and commonly accepted meanings.Liturgy of the Word:The Liturgy of the Word is mainly composed of the following constituents:1.The Homily2.Profession of Faith3.Scripture Reading4.Prayer of the FaithfulA Homily is according to the Merriman-Webster Dictionary, “a lecture or discourse
on or of a moral theme.” A Homily is also a sermon of short duration. A goodexample of a Homily for Pentecost Sunday would be:The arrival of the Holy Spirit was affirmed in the First Reading [Acts 2:1-11]when we heard, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak inother languages. Being baptized in the Spirit was affirmed in the Second Reading[1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12- 13] when it was said, "In the one Spirit we were all baptizedinto one body." And being sent to proclaim the Word of God was affirmed in theGospel Reading [Jn. 20:19-23] when we heard, "As the Father has sent me, so I sendyou." These three passages are the gist of today's homily.The Homily is a guiding light for the community. The Scripture is expounded andmade relevant to the everyday lives of the assembled. The assembled know that theabove Homily is also telling them to forth and live the Gospel.The Profession of Faith is a summary of the faith that the people possess. It is acreedal prayer that gives voice to the central tenets of the faith. It is a publicacclamation of the community faith. “Such syntheses are called ‘professions offaith’ since they summarize the faith that Christians profess. They are called‘creeds’ on account of what is usually their first word in Latin: credo ("Ibelieve"). They are also called ‘symbols of faith’.” The most widely used Creedis that of the Nicene Creed. This the creedal statement used at all CatholicMasses. Prayer is always a statement of belief and the belief here is the classicTrinitarian formulation. “Before they celebrate the mystery of faith in theEucharist, they call to mind the rule of faith in a formulary approved by theChurch.” The Creed is a great preliminary to the Eucharist – the central truthsare vocally expressed and then crowned with the Sacrifice/Celebration.Scripture ReadingScripture reading is an important part of the Liturgy. The Faith is ultimatelybased on Holy Scripture. Scripture gives identity and tradition based solidity tothe proceedings.I think that we can say at this point that some of the primary principles of theliturgy are: Prayer, (also see Importance of Prayer above)The liturgy is the prayer of Christ. Every liturgical celebration is an action ofChrist and his Body the Church. (CSL 7.) Liturgical prayer is Trinitarian prayer;It is the voice of Christ addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. It is theprayer of the Body of Christ. The Assembly is the primary liturgical symbol.Active ParticipationIt is important to remember that liturgy is action – it is not a passiveenterprise. ‘Being there’ is not necessarily being ‘part of’. To be a truecommunion there must be a meeting of minds and hearts joined in prayerful worship.The Liturgy “in Christian tradition means the participation of the people of Godin ‘the work of God’”. Liturgical services are holistic in that they involve thewhole body of the Church and the whole body finds a unified purpose in the liturgyknown as the Mass.Liturgical SymbolsSacraments are particular kinds of symbols, just as symbols are particular kindsof signs. In a step-by-step approach, the author explores the meaning of symbolsin general, their role in human life, and how they differ from simple signs. Usingexamples, he stresses how they convey not only ideas but also feelings, values,beliefs, traditions and ideals. As such, they tend to take persons beyond thesurface of reality to its depth.Just about everything about the Liturgy is symbolic, from the vestments to themusic, candles and processional acts to the Holy Sacrifice itself. Symbols asopposed to signs go far beyond denotation; they can open cognitive vistas farbeyond the mundane. A good example here would be the symbolic language of the

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