Hello, People of the Resurrection...Teaching Mass ‘Notes’ – Week 1
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (November 22nd, 1963) from Vatican II, declares that the Sunday Mass is “the source and summit” (#10) of our life together in Christ, as the Church. Keeping the Day of the Lord’s Resurrection each week, we get our strength, direction & inspiration from this experience; & in this “Main Event”, we are most completely the Church – trusting with Jesus - love stronger than death; receiving what we need to let ourselves be ‘broken & poured out’; willing to die with Christ, because we trust that we shall rise with Him, by the power of Divine Mercy & Love! This is the great Truth & Mystery of our Faith!
These 3 weekends of “Teaching Masses” I’ll provide some ‘notes’ which may be helpful, so that this experience of explanation and even ‘dissection’, will help us to grow in understanding of why we do what we do, and appreciation & focus, as we celebrate Mass together each weekend, welcoming others to join us...“together in the Lord”.
So...‘by the numbers’ this week:
3 CONCEPTS by which to understand the Mass -
THE MASS IS A MEAL – First celebrated in the setting of the Jewish Passover Supper, the Mass is intended to nourish us, and draw us together in ‘communion’, around a table, a feast. Our bodies, minds, hearts, spirits and relationships are fed by food, drink, companionship - breaking bread together, and also by the Spirit of God, who is present “wherever 2 or more gather in His name”. (Matthew 18:20) And of course, who’s not thankful for a feast?
THE MASS IS A SACRIFICE – Jesus’ Body is broken; His Blood is poured - out on Calvary’s Cross, and once more, on the Altar. He models for us, and invites us to a sacrificial way of life, offering ourselves, ‘broken and poured out’ in loving Gospel Service.
THE MASS IS A SACRAMENT – Holy Communion is an outward sign of Jesus’ Real Presence with us and within us, so that we – the Church – can be the ‘Sacrament’ of His Presence in the world. Not just a symbol, Roman Catholic Christians believe that the Bread and the Cup are Jesus’ Real Presence! Transubstantiation – the substance which appears to be food and drink has been transformed by God’s Spirit into the Substance of Jesus, with us.
4 FOCAL POINTS IN A CHURCH-ROOM
ALTAR – The altar is Christ, the fixed and stable “Rock of our Salvation” (Psalms 16, 82, 89). We bow before it; we kiss it. It is the ‘family table’ from which the Eucharist is served, a kind of ‘magnet’, drawing us together as the Church.
PULPIT/AMBO - Another ‘table’ or ‘altar’ from which (only) the Word of God is proclaimed (not merely ‘read’).
PRESIDER’S CHAIR – A sign of the humble service & ‘priestly’ ministry to which each one is called by our Baptism.
ASSEMBLY/NAVE – The Assembly of the Faithful (All of us, together in Jesus) is the primary sign of Christ’s presence in the Church. Please give that some thought!
4 BOOKS REQUIRED FOR MASS
BOOK of the GOSPELS – The texts of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection; his teaching & powerful deeds. No other book takes precedence for us ahead of this one!
LECTIONARY – the 3-year cycle of Old Testament & New Testament scriptures which supplement the Gospel texts, and provide the Assembly with a rich sampling of the Bible’s books, stories and passages.
ROMAN MISSAL/SACRAMENTARY – the priest’s ‘playbook’, including texts for the specific seasons and feasts, and in red ink (rubrics) the instructions for gestures, actions, rituals and postures.
HYMNAL – since liturgy is not ‘theatre’ or performance, we all need to participate; St. Augustine observed: “Those who sing, pray twice”.
ALB – our white baptismal garment; any baptized Christian is entitled to wear it, especially in the service of a particular ministry.
STOLE – derived from a judge’s ‘mantle’, a rabbi’s prayer shawl, it is a long strip of cloth signifying the cleric’s ordination and ‘commission’ to serve and administer the sacraments in the name of the Church.
CHASUBLE – meaning “little house”, it is patterned after the Roman soldiers’ cloak – a simple sign of the Church’s charity, generosity and compassionate outreach.
DALMATIC – patterned after the Roman Senator’s garb, the outer garment of deacons, who initially assisted the bishops directly. Priests (presbyters) were assigned to the hinterlands to serve in the name of the bishops.
A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK AT ANY TIME DURING THE MASS
Since the Mass is a complex conversation between and among various ‘parties’, at any given time, who is speaking? To whom? On their own behalf or another’s? Who is listening?
The Entrance Procession really begins when we each step out of bed, and begin to head ourselves toward the church for Mass. The “Church” – The People of God - flows out of our homes and out of the world, bringing with us all of our lives, hopes, dreams, successes, sins and struggles, to be gathered into the church-building, in the Name of Jesus Christ. If anyone is stalled or absent, the ‘parade’ is diminished.
OK! Enough for the first installment! As we gather around the altar together...
“God bless us...EVERY one”!