The Catholic Defender: The Mass, God's Work of Love in the Bible
Have you ever listened to the radio or watched some television show listening to a minister inviting you to a "Bible Believing" church? Maybe a friend or perhaps someone at your door might have challenged you at one point or another? Usually, this would be an invitation to join their particular fellowship or denomination.
As Catholics, it is important to know our faith well enough to share what we have in the Mass, the most Biblical based faith of all. In fact, the Catholic Faith is the Church of the New Testament. What a pleasant surprise many have learned to find just how bible believing the Catholic Faith really is.
The Mass, which is central to Catholic worship that stems all the way back to Jesus and the Last Supper where Jesus conducted the transformation from the Old Testament Passover to the New Testament Holy Mass.
The Mass really is a series of rites or "Ordinary" parts:
1. Kyrie (Lord have mercy...)
2. Gloria (Glory to God...)
3. Credo (I believe in God the Father...)
4. Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy...)
5. Agnus Dei (Lamb of God...)
The words of the Mass that are not from the Ordinary are called the "Proper".
All this being said, the Mass is basically cut into two basic parts, the "Liturgy of the Word" and the "Liturgy of the Eucharist". How beautiful the Mass is in it's rich history and tradition, but what is so interwoven is how biblical it is.
The Mass begins with the entrance song, the procession of the Incense, the crucifix with the Altar Servers, and many places the Lector will follow boldly carrying the Word of God trailed by the Bishop/Priest at the end of this formation. As this procession moves forward towards the Altar, it is a reminder how the Mass transcends time and space. Catholic Apologist Steve Ray shares that when he was invited to Mass for the first time, when he witnessed this scene, his heart melted recognizing the priest coming from the Apostles.
Revelation 8:3-4 states, "And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God."
The Celebrant will then greet the altar recognizing that once consecrated, the altar represents the "most sacred" and "whatever touches it will be sacred (Exodus 29:37)." It is a holy event about to be celebrated. Hebrews 13:15 states, "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name."
The Celebrant after assuming his position behind the altar, will preside over the Liturgy of the word. He approaches the altar with the ministers and venerates it offers this the introduction with the Sign of the Cross and prays "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,and the love of God,and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
Then greets the people and all prepare to enter God's presence by a common confession of unworthiness. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 states, "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. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." We must recognize that we are sinners and needs the Lord's help (1 Timothy 1:15).
The Celebrant often combines the penitential act: "I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, (And, striking their breast, they say): through my fault,through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God."
This will be followed with the Kyrie Eleison prayer concluding the penitential rite. On Sundays outside of Advent and Lent the "Gloria" is prayed or sung which is a song of praise giving the composite of truths sung by the Angels on that first Christmas night.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. 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 sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins 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.
At this point the Celebrant collects the prayers of the assembly offering them to God. St. Paul states, "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling..." We together as one bring our needs and desires. The prayers are short, but pointed and forceful. This leads into the reading of the Scripture. The first reading is usually taken from the Old Testament. This reading is ordinarily preceding a message related to the Gospel message. All this following the Church Calendar giving us a very united message as one voice all over the world.
Once the Old Testament, or the first reading is concluded, we have the Responsorial Psalms. This is an antiphonal arrangement of a Psalm intended to be a meditation on the Word of God. This is either sung or recited alternatively by the Lector or singer and the congregation. I love St. Paul's admonition using scripture: "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)."
When St. Paul wrote St. Timothy, he was speaking of the Old Testament. The New Testament would not become part of the Biblical recognized Canon for nearly 400 years into the future. It is right to hold onto the Old Testament. The following reading are commonly called the "Epistle", always taken from the New Testament. It will give instruction for the Christian community to live the Christian life.
The New Testament begins with the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John followed by the Book of Acts, a book written by St. Luke as a historical record of the early Church. The next 13 books are letters written by St. Paul beginning with the book of Romans until finally, the book of Philemon. They are ordered by the length of the letter from largest to the shortest. Following the Pauline writings, the book of Hebrews is inserted. It is believed St. Paul wrote it, but scholars at the Council of Hippo (393-396) were not totally sure, so they ended up placing Hebrews at the end of St. Paul's letters.
The next books are called "the Catholic Letters" because these are written to the whole Church, not just to a certain church or individual. These books are James, Peter 1 and 2, John 1,2, and 3, a small letter from St. Jude, then finally, the book of Revelation written by the Apostle St. John. This is the baseline of Scripture that will be the Mass which is given in a three year cycle A, B, and C.
After the reading of the Epistle, all stand for the "Alleluia" and verse preparing for the Gospel. During the Season of Lent, the "Alleluia" is not given but instead a Gospel acclamation is used. The Celebrant or a Deacon proclaims the Gospel reading of the day. With the Gospel, the entire congregation stands to hear intently the words of Jesus. Once the Gospel is announced, we will respond making a sign of the cross on our forehead, mouth, and heart which means, "My mind believes the truth, my lips proclaims the truth, and my heart loves the truth".
With the Gospel proclaimed, the homily is given as a reflection elaborating on the message of the Church coming from the Scriptures giving practical application to the Gospel Message and the needs of the local church. Once the homily is completed, the Nicene Creed is professed by all the faithful. This is our profession of faith, a composite of truth that we Catholics have maintained beginning with Jesus and His Apostles.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, Consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, (At the words that follow, up to and including ‘ and became man’, all bow.) and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Hebrews 4:14-15 states, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." This drama ends with the petitions of the prayer of the faithful asking for the Lords help in the needs of the faithful. This ends with the Liturgy of the Word.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist, or part II of the Mass begins with the Offertory procession. The "tithing" and gifts of bread and wine are brought up to the Altar as a sign of the offering of our lives in union with Christ to our Heavenly Father. Usually a song will be sung at this time. Jesus tells this story about tithing: "And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."
We should offer ourselves totally, not just from a monetary (though one should give according to their ability), but of oneself. Let our offering not be like Cain's, but more like Abel's, a sacrifice pleasing to God (Genesis 4:4-5).
The Celebrant prepares the bread and the wine that will become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, also known as the "Eucharist" (Thanksgiving). Modeled after Jewish prayers, the priest proclaims, "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which will become the bread of life."
This phase is called "the preparation of the gifts" after having prepared the gift of bread, he now prepares the gift of wine that will be consecrated into the Blood of Christ. The chalice is filled with wine with a touch of water that demonstrates Jesus Divinity and His humanity. We unite ourselves with Christ offering ourselves to the Father. The priest prays, "Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God,the almighty Father." The faithful responds, "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church."
The Celebrant washes his hands which is a practice prefigured in the Old Testament. Exodus 29:1-4 states, "Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. Take one young bull and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil. You shall make them of fine wheat flour. And you shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, and bring the bull and the two rams. You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tent of meeting, and wash them with water."
This washing of hands by the priest is symbolic of the purification of the soul. Then the priest may approach the great sacrifice without blemish. 1 Peter 2:5 states, "and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
The faithful will pray, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.Heaven and earth are full of your glory.Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." As all kneel, the prayer over the gifts is the ultimate spiritual sacrifice offered. The Eucharistic prayer, which there are four important commonly ones used, consecrates the bread and wine, and all kneel.
During the Eucharist Prayer, the faithful will join at the appointed time praying "We proclaim your Death, O Lord,and profess your Resurrection until you come again."
The Eucharistic prayer is climaxed with the "Doxology" and the great "Amen" proclaiming, "Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father forever and ever."
The Celebrant leads the next prayer, all standing, "At the Savior's command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say:" The faithful responds, " Our Father, who art in heaven,hallowed be thy name;thy kingdom come,thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.
The Celebrant: "Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,graciously grant peace in our days,that, by the help of your mercy,we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress,as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." The faithful responds, "For the kingdom,the power and the glory are yours now and for ever."
The Celebrant: "Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. Who live and reign for ever and ever." The Faithful responds, "Amen".
The Eucharist, once consecrated is shared with all the faithful in Holy Communion. Psalms 116:13-14 states, "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people." What a great act of consecration giving ourselves offering ourselves to the Lord.
The priest leads the faithful "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,grant us peace."
The Celebrant proclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God,behold him who takes away the sins of the world.Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb." The faithful responds, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."
There is much more in the Mass that space does not permit here, but my purpose here is to show how biblical the Mass really is in it's Liturgy and Tradition.
The Celebrant offers a final blessing, "May almighty God bless you,the Father, and the Son, ✠ and the Holy Spirit." The Mass ends with the great Commission, "And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (Matthew 28:18-20). The final ending of the Mass ends with the Dismissal, "Go forth, the Mass is ended, go and announce the Gospel of the Lord."
At the conclusion of the procession from the Altar by the Crucifix, Altar Boys, Priest, the last song, then many Parishes are bringing back the St. Michael's prayer:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..