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Allowing the Old Latin Mass is just “a first step” according to Kurt Cardinal Koch, an official of the Roman Curia. The time is however not yet ripe for the next steps Koch said on the Weekend in Freiburg. Liturgical questions are overshadowed by ideology especially in Germany. Rome will only be able to act further when Catholics show more readiness to think about a new liturgical reform “for the good of the Church.” The Cardinal spoke at a conference on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, which also considered Ratzinger’s pontificate as Pope Benedict XVI. In July 2007 Pope Benedict decreed that Tridentine Rite Masses according to the Missal of 1962 may once again be celebrated world wide. The Missal of 1970 is however still the “normal form” of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Roman Church. Koch is the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. He tried to refute the charge that Pope Benedict is going against the Council [i.e. Vatican II] in liturgical questions: “the Pope suffers from this accusation.” On the contrary, the Holy Father’s intention is rather to implement conciliar teachings on the liturgy which have been ignored up till now. Present day liturgical practice does not always have any real basis in the Council. For example, celebration versus populum (towards the people) was never mandated by the Council, says the Cardinal. A renewal of the form of divine worship is necessary for the interior renewal of the Church: “Since the crisis of the Church today is above all a crisis of the liturgy, it is necessary to begin the renewal of the Church today with a renewal of the Liturgy.

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Catholics are called to honour the Lord’s day by attending  Sunday Mass. Failing to do so, except where Mass is not available or due to a grave reason, is actually considered a sin according to the Catholic Catechism, because  God commanded us to observe the Sabbath.

But how much do we know about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Here is a brief overview of the holy Mass to guide those who would like to gain a better understanding of the Catholic worship, The Holy Mass:

The two main parts of the Mass are called the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Liturgy of the Word, God’s Word is read and preached. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is when the Eucharist is consecrated and Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful. These two parts make the core of the Mass, but there are other Rites that happen before and after them. Therefore,  the Mass is composed of a four-part structure: Introductory Rites, The Liturgy of the Word, The Liturgy of the Eucharist and Concluding Rites.

  1. Introductory Rites –  The purpose of this part is to prepare for the Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist. This tradition expresses the fact that the parish/community has come together to worship God and the we need to be purified for worship by remembering our sins and asking for forgiveness. In this part we also show that we want to give glory to God and ask Him to bless our worship. There are seven parts to the Introductory Rites:
  • Entrance (Introit – ‘He enters’ in Latin) : Mass begins when the priest who will celebrate it enters the Church and approaches the altar. He is often accompanied by the deacon, the altar servers and the lector. If there is a choir, at this point we usually sing.

  • Veneration of the Altar: When the priest arrives at the altar (or the Sacrificial Table) he kisses it as a sign of reverence to God for the place where Jesus will become present in the Eucharist. At certain occasions the priest incense the altar to symbolize prayer and reverence.
  • Greeting: The Priest greets the congregation, they all make the sign of the Cross as the Priest calls upon God ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’, to what all answer Amen. This is a reminder of baptism and help us consecrate our actions to God. The Priest then wish all God’s Grace by saying ‘The Lord be with you’, to which the Church responds ‘And also with you’.
  • Penitential Rite: The Priest exhorts people to prepare to worship God by recalling their sins, repent of them and ask for God’s mercy. There is a brief silence so people can think of their sins, and they pray together: « I confess to the Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault…» See full prayer here
  • Kyrie, Eleison – Lord, Have Mercy:  The acknowledgement of our sins is concluded by asking God for his forgiveness. At this point the people pray to the Lord Jesus, «Lord, have Mercy. Christ, have Mercy. Lord, have Mercy. We ask for Mercy three times in acknowledgement of the Holy Trinity, Three in One God. This can be either sung or said in Greek: ‘Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.’

  • Blessing and Sprinkling: At some masses the rite of Sprinkling is performed instead of the Penitential Rite. The Priest asks God to bless the water, which he sprinkles on the congregation. Again, this is a reminder of baptism, which washes us from our sins.
  • Gloria in Excelsis Deo – Glory to God in the Highest: After having purified our heart by recalling our sins and asking God’s mercy, it is a moment to praise God. The opening verse is the song of the angels at the birth of Jesus. (Luke 2:14) – « Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to his people on earth…»  This is the most commonly sung version of this ancient catholic hymn:

    Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to His people on earth. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, Heavenly King, O God, almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; You take away the sin of the world, receive our prayer; You are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One; you alone are the Lord. You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God, the Father. Amen –

  • Collect – Opening Prayer: The Priest brings the opening prayers to an end and invites all to pray: ‘Let us Pray’. There are different collects for different Masses and occasions. Collects to thank God, ask his blessings and so on. This often introduces the theme that will be part of the Mass that day. All respond ‘Amen’ and the Liturgy of the Word begins.

The Liturgy of the Word

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The Catholic Worship is called Holy Mass and, unlike what people might think, it is not the same as an ordinary  Christian ‘service’. In fact,  a Catholic Mass is not a service, but  both a Sacrifice and a thanksgiving celebration. However, even before Mass begins there are many things one sees in church, such as blessing with Holy Water, The Sign o the Cross and so on, that may seem strange at a first look, but all these ‘funny’ traditions can be easily explained as they all have a reason d’etre.

Candles in Church – Symbolize the Teachings of Christ, ‘the light of the world’ ( John, 8:12). They also symbolize prayer. Whenever someone cannot physically be or stay in church to pray for a special petition, it is common that they will light a candle to symbolize their prayer that will be said somewhere else whilst the candle burns out. 

Incense – Also used a symbol of prayer since biblical times. The smoke floats upward to God representing our prayers (Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4). Incense is also used as a symbol of purification.

Statues, Carvings and Pictures of Saints – This custom goes back to the Bible, when God commanded to the Israelites to fill their places of worship with images of angels (Exodus 25:18-20, 1 Chronicles 28:18-19, Ezekiel 41:17-20). This is because holy places symbolize heaven, and to remind us of that, God had them place representations of the inhabitants of heaven in their place of worship. Furthermore, the ancient Christians, before the Bible was compiled by the Church, were mostly illiterate people who could not read. Using paintings, statues and images to depict scenes of the Gospel or Biblical characters was a practical and effective way of teaching the Gospel, passing it on and keeping alive the teachings of Jesus.

The Tabernacle – Is the place where the Eucharist is kept for the devotion of the faithful and so that it may be taken to the sick. The Tabernacle is like the Biblical Ark of the Covenant that held the manna God send from heaven for the Israelites to eat ( Exodus 16:4). Jesus in the Eucharist is the manna that God had sent from heaven to the Christians to eat (John 6:32,41). In this way, the Tabernacle that holds the Eucharistic is like the Ark of the Covenant.  Catholics believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, this is why to show their respect, people genuflect or kneel briefly when they pass in front of the tabernacle.

The Priest Vestments – Catholic priests cannot wear just any clothing while performing ecclesial ceremonies, especially while celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The liturgical vestments have by no means remained the same from the founding of the Church until the present day. There is as great a difference between the vestments worn at the Holy Sacrifice in the pre-Constantinian period, and even in the following centuries, and those now customary at the services of the Church, as between the rite of the early Church and that of modern times. The liturgical vestments of the Latin Rite are: the amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, tunicle, dalmatic, chasuble, surplice, cope, sandals, stockings (or buskins), gloves, mitre, pallium, succinctorium, and fanon.

The Blessing with Holy Water –  Catholic Churches often have holy water fonts, or a baptismal font,  just inside the main Entrance of the church, in which the faithful will dip their finger into and bless themselves as they make the sing of the cross. Old Testament Jews washed with water before entering the Temple precincts.  Building on a ritual familiar to the Jews, John the Baptist used water to represent repentance of sin and purification. So when we cross ourselves with holy water entering and leaving the church, we recall that history.  But we also refer to our Baptism when the priest used water to symbolize the washing away of our sins and to protect us from evil.

 

 

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Funny how sometimes  we take things for granted to a point that something as wonderful as the Holy Mass can seem so  trivial that we don’t fully appreciate it, isn’t it?

 

The celebration of Mass

We hear the sad news of how many Parish churches are being ‘consolidated’ or even closed down permanently, as attendance to Holy Mass decreases in many parts of the Catholic world. I believe the neglect in the faith formation of modern Catholics, especially after the II Vatican council, might just have a big part  to do with this problem. Many Catholics these days are in need to re-learn about their faith in order to fully embrace their Catholic  heritage and thus become true Catholics and Christians. (more…)

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