THE MASS AS THE BEGINNING OF HEAVEN ON EARTH – PART V
OF THE LITURGY OF THE WORD AND THE BEGINNING OF THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
I. The Creed, a term taken from the Latin word "credere," or "to believe," expresses both the individual faith, and faith within the context of the Church. See Catechism 166-167.
A. The current translation begins each section with the words, "We believe," but the new translation will follow the Latin in beginning with "I believe," or later "I confess,"
1. From ancient times, the profession of faith has been a prelude to baptism. See Act 8:37. From the early Church on, when an adult is baptized, he professes this faith in the form of the Apostles Creed, which was developed in the early Church and is currently used in the Rosary. Likewise, when an infant is baptized, his parents make this profession of faith on his behalf.
- The Apostles
Creed, made in the form of answering questions "I do" is also present
at the Masses of Easter; it can also be used as Masses for children.
- This Creed
was developed in the first century to express what a person must believe
to be Christian.
2. The Nicene
Creed, which we profess at Mass, was later developed at the Council
of Nicea (325) and later expanded at the Council of Constantinople (381)
and a bit later (as described below.) Those Councils emphasized
the divinity of Jesus Christ and then the Holy Spirit, as well as emphasizing
such points as the true inspiration of what is now called the Old Testament.
As a result, they expanded the Creed to what it is now.
3. The Apostles' Creed began with the words "I believe," which express one's own faith in Christ and His Church. The Nicene Creed begins with the words "We believe" to express the faith of the universal Church.
- Both formulations
express a rightful aspect of the faith. For faith begins with
the witness of others, but gradually leads to a more personal relationship
as well, although still in the context of the community of faith.
See, e.g., John 1:7, 12; 4:42. See Catechism 167-68. The unity
of Christianity is crucial to bringing the faith to the world.
See John 17:20-21
4. Faith is also
more that a more than mere belief; in is the entry into a personal relationship
with God. See Catechism 177. Thus, the words "Credo in
unum Deum" literally mean "I believe into one God."
Belief in this sense is a personal relationship with God that leads
to our trust in Him. See Catechism 177. The Gospel according
to John especially describes this growth in personal relationship, which
leads to a greater faith. See the progress of the apostles in
John 6:68-69 to 14:1, 11; 20:29; see also John 11:26-27. By contrast,
being in Christ's presence, but not believing has negative consequences.
See John 6:64.
5. Although generally
following the Nicene Creed, the Latin uses, and the new translation
of the Creed will use, the words "I believe." While either expression
would be legitimate, the Creed is in this context a preparation for
one's own receipt of Communion.
B. The Creed is basically
in three parts, the first dealing with God the Father and creation;
the second, and longest part, dealing with Jesus Christ as both the
Second Person of the Trinity and as become man to save us; and the third
dealing with the Holy Spirit and the Church whom the Spirit guides.
In calling for unity among Christians, St. Paul calls describes the
common faith in Trinitarian terms, especially associating guidance of
the Church and each person with the Spirit; faith and baptism with Jesus
the Lord; and reigning power to God the Father. See Eph. 4:4-6.
In his Trinitarian formulas, St. Paul consistently refers to the Father
as God in general, and the Son as Lord or Christ Jesus. See, e.g.,
1 Cor. 2:7-13, 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:15; Col 1:6-8. Part of
his purpose was to distinguish between the persons of the Trinity.
C. The first part of the Creed deals with God the Father Almighty. The ancient Jews came to belief in one God first, and then received the revelation of the Trinity. See, e.g., John 5:46, 14:1. And so we profess first a belief in one God. The Creed says, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." "God the Almighty" (in Hebrew El Shaddai) is the way in which God first reveals Himself to the patriarchs, before He reveals more to more to Moses. See Gen. 17:1, 35:11; Ex. 6:3. The name emphasizes the mystery of God, and is used most often in the Book of Job (31 times), reflecting the mysterious judgment and providence of God. See, e.g., Job 5:17, 8:3-5; 22:3, 27; 40:2. The next most common use is in the Book of Revelation (8 times), especially with reference to the worship given to God and the judgment of God, all of which ends in the peace of the heavenly Jerusalem. See Rev. 1:8, 4:8. 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 14; 19:15; 21:22.
1. The term "Almighty"
is complemented by the reference to God as Father, which has two meanings:
God is the eternal Father of the divine Son, and He is Father through
His love for His people. See John 1:14, 18, 10:30. The two
come together in the fact that we receive God as our adoptive Father
through union with the Son. See Rom. 8:15, 2 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 4:6;
Eph. 1:5; Col. 1:3.
2. In the Old Testament,
God revealed Himself as a Father to creation and to His people generally,
and to the king specifically, but not so much specifically for each
person. See, e.g., Duet. 32:6, Mal. 2:10; Ps. 103:13 (referring
to God as Father of creation); Hos. 11:3-8; Jer. 31:9, 20; Mal 1:6;
Is. 63:15, 64:8; The New Testament would more reveal God as the loving
Father to each of His faithful. See, e.g., Luke 15:11-32 (parable
of the prodigal son.) But even now, we refer to "Our Father"
together as a Church, rather than "my Father" as only Jesus could
rightfully do. Contrast Matt. 6:9 with John 10:29; see John 20:18.
3. The reference to
God as "creator of heaven and earth" harkens back to the beginning
of the Bible and to the blessing that Melchizedek, the priest-king of
Salem, gave to Abraham. See Gen. 1:1; 14:19-20. Melchizedek,
who represents a primordial priesthood, was a pre-figurement of Jesus
as the final high priest. See Ps. 110::4; Heb. 5:6, 7:1-25.
It was also part of one of the earliest prayers of the Church, which
expressed God's triumph over the enemies of His people. See
4. The current reference
to "all that is seen and unseen" will be translated instead "the
visible and the invisible," to be more faithful to the Latin and to
emphasize that God makes a spiritual realm that is not only unseen by
us (as for example distant planets are) but invisible to material eyes
by its nature. This phrase emphasizes that both the material realm
and the spiritual realm are good and created by God, although part of
both are in part fallen. It also recalls the hymn near that beginning
of Colossians, which celebrates Jesus as the one through whom both the
original creation and the new creation came about. See Col. 1:14-20.
The letter to the Romans draws a contrast between the faithful who worship
the true God and the pagans who turn from the creator to worship creatures.
See Romans 1:20-23.
C. The Creed then turns to Jesus Christ, God the Son. It first describes the Son in Himself, and then His role in creation and salvation.
Again, the Creed says that we believe into a relationship with our one
Lord, Jesus Christ. Part of the idea is that we should not pledge
final obedience to any other power; thus the Lordship of Jesus set us
free. See John 8:32, 36; Gal. 4:1-11; 5:1. Furthermore,
although Gabriel and John the Baptist says that Jesus is the Lord, see,
e.g., Matt. 3:3, Mark 2:28; Luke 2:11; John 1:23, Jesus does not take
that title to Himself until the Crucifixion is near. See Matt.
26:63-65; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:67-70; After the Resurrection,
Jesus is recognized more easily as Lord, a term that St. Paul uses often.
See John 20:25, 28, 21:7, 21; Rom. 4:24, 6:23; 10:9, 1 Cor. 9:1, 12:3;
2 Cor. 4:14; Phil 2:11. Part of the idea is that, while He is
rightfully Lord by His participation in creation, He does not show forth
His power in full until He has also shown His love for us. Phil
2:6-11. Asking that the Lord Jesus come is part of the final prayer
of the Bible. Rev. 22:20.
B. The Creed then affirms the divine Sonship of Jesus, first identifying Him as the only-begotten Son, and then emphasizing six more times His divine nature.
1.. The prologue of John and the angel first identify Jesus as the Son of God, see Luke 1:35; John 1:18. And the Bible picks up on this title repeatedly.
- In the Old Testament,
kings and the whole people of God were sometimes called sons of God
by adoption, but here the Creed emphasizes Jesus as the "only" full
Son of God. The prologue of John uses different words to describe
the Sonship of the divine Word (hyios) and the adopted sonship of all
who believe in Him (tekna). John 1:14-18; see also John 3:16-18.
- The new translation
will restore the words from Latin "only begotten" emphasizing that
all others are adopted, while Jesus is God by His nature. In addition,
this phrase harkens back to Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his
"only son" Isaac, although in the case of God it is all the more
poignant because Abraham did have a son outside of wedlock, Ishmael.
See Gen.22:2; Heb. 11:17. The description of Jesus as the only
Son of God is almost always in the context of His saving mission, showing
forth God's love. See John 3:16-18; 1 John 4:9-5:1.
Jesus as light from light refers to the fact that Jesus brings the light
of glory, knowledge, grace, and joy to the people of God by showing
forth the glory of God. See, e.g., John 1:4, 16-18. Light
reflects the joy of the presence of God and delight in His creation
and saving action. See, e.g., Is. 9:1-2, 60:1-4; Micah 7:9.
Darkness, by contrast, reflects sin, distance from God, and death.
See Ps. 88:7-13, Isaiah 45:19. By bringing God's presence and
salvation, Jesus is the light of the world. See Matt. 4:16, Luke
2:32; John 8:12, 9:5, 12:44-46. As a result for all eternity,
all nations who are in God's presence in heaven will be in the light
of God provided through the Lamb of God. See Rev. 21:22-24.
3. The Creed
says the Son is "true God from true God" in part to contrast the
worship of the one true God with the worship of many false gods.
See 1 Cor. 8:5.
4. The Creed then says again that Jesus was begotten, not made. To reiterate the point, the current translation says that Jesus is "one in being" with the Father; the new translation will make the same point with the more philosophically correct term "consubstantial," which means, having the same nature (here divine, as opposed to human or angelic.)
- A person begets
one of the same nature as himself. One makes something of a lower
nature. A human begets another human, but makes a thing.
God makes the heavens and the earth, and even human beings, see Gen.
1:1-3, Is. 29:16, but can beget only One of His own nature. 1
John does say that those who believe in Jesus are begotten "from God."
See 1 John 3:10, 5:1. However, even here 1 John still says that
the Son is the "only begotten" of God. 1 John 4:9. The
idea is that we are made by God in the first instance, but we have a
partial share in God's life through Christ.
a more vivid image, the new translation will say that Jesus was "born
of the Father before all ages." While "eternally begotten"
is philosophically accurate, the new phrasing, following the Latin and
reflecting the royal Psalm 110, will give a more visual image.
5. The Creed
then concludes the part on creation by saying all things were made through
the Son. The idea is that the love between the Father and the
Son, which is the Holy Spirit, is the basis for all of the creation.
See John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 1:9-10; Col. 1:16-17.
6. The Creed then turns to Christ's saving work through His Incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension.
- The Creed
describes the Son as coming down from heaven for our sake. Jesus
said to Nicodemus that no one has gone up to heaven except He who came
down from it; and by coming down from heaven He paves the way for us
to return. See John 3:13-15. Thus, He fulfilled, and continues
to fulfill at every Eucharist, the vision of Psalm 68, which describes
God triumphantly descending from His throne in heaven to lead His people
to victory over their enemies. See Ps. 68:18, Eph 4:8-10.
- The next phrase,
"By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man," reflect the words of an angel to Joseph. See
Matt. 1:20; see also Luke 1:35. Those words will be retranslated
to say the "by the Holy Spirit [He] was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.
That phrasing more accurately expresses the fact that the Son of God
became man, not at the Nativity, but at the Incarnation, when He was
conceived. The instructions say that the priest and the people
are to bow at these words, except at the Feast of the Annunciation and
at Christmas, when we genuflect at these words. The idea is both
that the mystery of the Incarnation is central to our faith and that
there is a connection between the Incarnation and Jesus' presence
in the Eucharist at every Mass.
- The Creed then
says He was crucified "for our sake" and "under Pontius Pilate."
The first phrase emphasizes the fact that the crucifixion was not an
accident but was willingly accepted by Christ to achieve our salvation.
See John 10:17-18; Heb. 9:11-15. But to emphasize human participation
in the crucifixion, as well as to date it more precisely in time and
space, the Creed also says that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
governor of Judea from 26-36 A.D. See Acts 4:27-28.
- The Creed
emphasizes that He truly suffered, died, and was buried emphasizing
His entrance into the fullness and depth of the human condition, showing
the depth of His obedience to the Father and of His love for us.
See John 10:17; Phil 2:8, Heb 12:2.
- The Creed
then emphasizes the fact that He rose on the third day "in fulfillment
of the Scriptures." See 1 Cor. 15:1-11. Rising from the
dead, He became the cause of the resurrection of all the dead.
Without the Resurrection, the forces of death would be triumphant, and
the faith would be in vain. See 1 Cor. 15:15-28; 1 Thess. 4:14;
Rev. 1:17-18. He not only brings about the resurrection of the
dead, but "is the resurrection and the life." John 11:25.
- The Creed emphasizes
that the Resurrection fulfills and reflects the Scriptures in part to
reiterate that the resurrection fulfills the prophesies of old, see
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Zech. 12:10-13:1; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Luke 24:25-27,
and in part to emphasize that the Old Testament is the inspired word
of God. The new translation will, in accord with the Latin, change
the words "in fulfillment of" to "in accordance with."
Part of the idea is to include the New Testament, which proclaims the
Resurrection as a past event, in this phrase.
- The Creed
then describes His ascension and enthronement "at the right
hand of the Father." The ascension, which is described in Mark,
Luke, and Acts of the Apostles, is the triumphant entrance in His humanity
into heaven, to reign over the Church from His divine throne and draw
people's to Himself. See Mark 1:19; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-1;
see also Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1. From His throne in heaven, He becomes
in the Eucharist "the bread that comes down from heaven."
See John 6:50, 61-62.
7. Finally, the second part of the Creed says that Jesus will return again in glory to judge the living and the dead and establish the kingdom without end.
- The angel promised
that Jesus would establish a kingdom without end. See Luke 1:32-33.
In one sense the kingdom is here among us, in Christ's presence, and
especially in the Church. See Matt. 3:2, 4:17; Luke 17:20-21.
But the parable and discourses of the kingdom describe a final kingdom
that Jesus will establish. See, e.g., Matt. 13:24-30, 16:24-28;
25:14-46; Luke 13:2-30.
- The letters to
the Thessalonians and the Book of Revelation, reflecting the Book of
Daniel, also emphasize Jesus' return in glory to judge the living
and the dead, i.e., those who die before the return of Christ, and those
who are still alive at that time. See 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess,
1:7-10; Rev. 19:11-21; 20:11-15, 21:5-8; Dan. 7:9-14.
D. The last third of the creed recited at Mass states our belief and relationship with the Holy Spirit, the source of life and inspiration.
1 The Creed affirms the divinity of the Holy Spirit both by referring to Him as Lord and by saying that, with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is worshiped and glorified.
Creed has already referred to the Son of God as "Lord" the term
used in its fullest for God. While the term "lords" could
be used simply in a lesser sense of people with authority, see, e.g.,
Judges 16:5-30, 1 Sam. 5:8-6:18; Dan. 5:1-23, the Bible uses the term
"Lord" (Adonai in Hebrew and Kyrios in Greek) in a singular and
unqualified senses only for God. See, e.g., Gen. 18:27, Duet.
10:18; Ps. 135:5, 136:3; Matt. 4:10; Mark 1:3; John 20:28.. (Mark,
perhaps subtly indicating Jesus' hidden divinity, does describe a
Syrophoneican woman referring to Jesus as "Lord," perhaps not recognizing
the full meaning of her words. See Mark 7:28.) St. Paul
frequently refers to Jesus as Lord. See, e.g., Rom. 5:1; 1 Cor.
2:8, 12:3. Consistent with the rest of the Bible, he also uses the term
"Lord" for God in general. See, e.g., 1 Cor. 4:4; 2 Cor. 10:17.
And, on at least one occasion, St. Paul also refers to the Holy Spirit
as "Lord." See 2 Cor. 3:17.
- The Bible
indicates the divinity of the Holy Spirit both in Jesus' final commissioning,
see Matt. 28:19, and in the Trinitarian teachings of St. Paul, see 1
Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:13.
2. The Creed
describes the Holy Spirit as the giver of life, both in the sense that
the Spirit of God is the divine life that humanity was meant to share
in and in the sense that the Spirit restores life with God. See,
e.g., Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 37:9-11; Rom. 8:9-11. And even now we live
a life of faith and life with God because of the guidance of the Holy
Spirit. See, e.g., John 3:5-6; 14:13; 1 Cor. 12:3, Rom. 5:5; Gal.
3. The Creed says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Originally, the Creed as developed by the Council of Constantinople said only that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. Pope Leo the Great (440-461) approved of the addition that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well, but it was not commonly used until Charlemagne's reign in the late eighth century. Eventually, with the Holy Father's approval it became universal by the West. The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, although agreeing that that formulation is consistent with the faith, do not use it, generally describing the procession of the Holy Spirit as from the Father through the Son. The Orthodox churches, although they may agree that the addition can legitimately be made, dispute the Pope's ability to authorize it without an ecumenical (universal) council agreeing.
- From the
standpoint of human experience, the Father and the Son both send the
Holy Spirit, see John 14:16, 15:26, 16:7.
4. The Creed
says that, with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is "worshiped
and glorified." The new translation will say that he is "adored
and glorified," but the meaning will be the same. The
Bible also consistently speaks of glorifying God by recognizing His
saving power and the power of His word and acting upon this power.
See, e.g., Ps. 29:1-2, 86:10-13; Is. 25:3; Luke 2:20, 5:25; 2
Thess. 1:10-12 God glorified Himself in Christ by showing forth
His saving power. See, e.g., John 12:16-28, 13:31-32.
It is the enemies of God who glorify themselves. See Rev. 18:7.
By contrast, those who honor God share in His glory. See Is. 60:7-9.
5. Affirming the divine inspiration of the Old Testament, the Creed affirms that the Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets.
- We particularly
attribute the inspiration of Sacred Scriptures to the Holy Spirit.
See 2 Peter 1:20-21, Vatican II, Dei Verbum 1; Catechism
105. Affirming again that the Old Testament was inspired by God,
the Creed specifically refers to the Holy Spirit as speaking through
the prophets. The Bible especially associates the voice of prophesy
with the Spirit of God. See, e.g., Num. 11:24-30; Is. 61:1-3;
Ezek. 3:12-14; Micah 3:8; Hosea 10:7. The spirit was also associated
with the divinely appointed king and with wisdom. See 1 Sam. 10:5-13;
Is. 11:1-4; Wis. 1:4-7.
- There is a present
element as well to the Spirit speaking through the prophets. For,
although the Sacred Scriptures are completed, there are gifts given
to Christians through the Spirit who unites them all. See 1 Cor.
12:4-11. Moses wished for a time in which the spirit of prophesy
would come to all of the people; and Joel, and possibly Ezekiel, foresaw
such a time. See Num. 11:29; Joel 3:1-3; Ezekiel 36:26-27, 37:14.
At Pentecost, this time was fulfilled, but as Confirmation emphasizes,
the notion of Christians bearing a prophetic voice to the world continues.
See Rite of Confirmation, Renewal of Baptismal Promises; see also Acts
8:14; 10:45; 11:12, 24, 13:52.
6. The Creed then affirms our belief in (or into) one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Although these words are never used together in the Bible, they emphasize the aspects of the Church (or marks of the Church) that the Bible emphasizes.
- Although the
Gospels only twice record Him as using the term "Church," Jesus
prayed passionately at the Last Supper that His followers may be one.
John 17:20-22; see also John 10:16. The Acts of the Apostles presents
a unified Church and St. Paul picks up on this theme, emphasizing the
importance of maintaining unity of faith, worship, and mutual charity.
See Acts 2:42-46, 4:32-37, 9:31; Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-31; Gal. 1:8-9;
Eph. 4:1-6; Col. 3:12-17.
- The Church
is holy in the fullest sense in heaven, where Jesus and Mary reign with
all the saints, or the "holy ones." See Rev. 5:8. Even
on earth, her members are referred to in Scripture as "the holy ones."
Acts 9:13, 1 Cor. 6:1, 16:1; 1 Peter 2:9.. The idea is in part
that, to the degree we are in Christ the head of the Church, we are
without sin; however, because we are still dragged down with sin, our
unity in Christ in incomplete. See 1 John1:8-9, 3:9. The
Bible tends to describe the Church herself as holy in the context
of her being the mystical bride of Christ. Eph. 5:26-27; Rev.
- The Church
is "catholic," which means universal. She is universal both
insofar as she has the full means of grace and insofar as she encompasses
all cultures. The Acts of the Apostles emphasizes the Church as
encompassing all peoples. See, e.g., Acts 2:5-12; 10:34-11:18,
15:6-21, 28:28.. Likewise, the Book of Revelation describes Christ's
message to each of seven churches, representing individual churches
throughout the world, but then concludes with the one Church coming
to Jesus as His bride. Rev. 2-3, 21:1-21. St. Paul also
emphasizes the same Spirit working through all of the gifts given to
the members of the one Body of Christ. See, e.g., Rom. 12:2-8; 1 Cor.
12:4-31; Eph. 4:7-16.
- The Church
is apostolic, because she is built upon the foundation of the apostles,
she continues their tradition and authority, and her members are sent
forth into the world. The letter to the Ephesians emphasizes the
fact that the Church was built upon the foundation of the apostles.
Eph. 2:20. Revelation picks up on this theme, saying that the
names of the apostles are on the foundations of the wall of the heavenly
Jerusalem. See Rev. 21:13. However, the office of "apostle"
continued after the original twelve, along with St. Paul, through appointments
and the laying on of hands. See Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Cor. 4:9-13,
9:5; Gal. 2:9; Some other references are ambiguous. E.g.,
1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11. Thus, the office of guiding and teaching
was meant to continue after the original twelve and St. Paul had died.
The term apostle as an office in the church would later be replaced
with "episcopos" (literally meaning overseer) and then "bishop."
See Phil 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:7. The term "apostle" originally
meant one who is sent forth, and the Church is also apostolic insofar
as her members are sent forth to witness to the Gospel. See John
17:19-21; see also Romans 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:7; Rev. 28:20 (using the term
"apostle" apparently more as a missionary or witness.)
7. Continuing along the lines of the mission of the Church, the Creed ends with an affirmation of one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and in the resurrection and life everlasting.
- The language
will change from "believe" to "confess" because the relationship
with God through the Church has already been established. The
remaining matters are affirmations, based upon the entry into the relationships
- The Creed affirms
baptism as more than a mere symbol, but necessary for the forgiveness
of sins. At Pentecost, Peter says, "Repent and be baptized ,
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of
sins." Acts 2:38-41; see Matt. 28:20-2. Likewise, baptism
is continually associated with salvation and entrance into the Church.
See Acts 8:12-13, 38; 10:47-48; 16:33. St. Paul naturally associates
baptism and union with Christ. See Rom.6:3, 1 Cor. 1:13-16; Gal.
3:27; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12. Part of the idea of reaffirming the
importance of baptism is that, through baptism one gains the gift of
faith and union with the Church, and is therefore, able to participate
fully in the Mass.
II. After the Creed, the Liturgy of the Word proceeds onto the prayers of the faithful, as it has from the first days of the Church. See St. Justin Martyr, Apologia 1:65-67.
A. The order of intercessions
is meant to be: (1) for the needs of the Church; (2) for public authorities;
(3) for those burdened by any kind of difficulty; and (4) for the local
community. General Instructions to the Roman Missal 69-70;
Catechism 1349; see Vatican II Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium
53. Because most Masses are offered for the deceased, we also
often add an intercession for the dead. See 2 Macc. 12:42-46;
see also 1 Cor. 15:29.
B St. Paul especially exhorts
the faithful to pray together for the needs of others, especially for
those in ecclesial of secular office. See Rom. 15:30-32; Eph.
6:18-20; Phil 4:6; Col. 4:2-4; 2 Thess. 3:1; 1 Tim. 2:1-2. See
also James 5:15 (prayers for the sick.)
C. With the prayers
of the faithful, the priest calls the people to prayers, the deacon
(if there is one present) or lector is meant to offer the prayers, and
the priest concludes by offering the prayers to God. The response
is either: "Lord, hear our prayer" or "Lord, have mercy."
Both phrases frequently accompany prayers for help in times of trouble,
expressing confidence that God will make His power known. See
Ps. 27:7, 30:11; 51:3. See also Ex. 2:24; Ps.18:7. Isaiah
warns that prayers offered without an attempt to do what is right will
not be heard. See Is. 1:15; see also John 15:7; 1 John 4:6; Sir.
III. After the intercessions, the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins. This liturgy has four basic parts, following the description from the Gospels and First Corinthians that Jesus took bread, blessed it (or gave thanks), broke the bread, and gave it to His disciples. See Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-24. The four parts are: (1) the preparation of the altar, reflecting Jesus taking the bread; (2) the Preface and the Eucharistic Prayer , reflecting Jesus blessing the bread and giving thanks (eucharistian in Greek); (3) the Our Father and the fracturing rite, reflecting Jesus breaking the bread, now His body and blood; and (4) the Rite of Communion, reflecting Jesus giving the consecrated Eucharist to His disciples.
A. The focus of the Mass moves from the lecturn as the place for the spoken word of God to the altar where the personal Word of God will become present. The Scripture that we here is then fulfilled. See Luke 4:21. Thus, the altar servers bring the paten, chalice, corporal, purificator, and often the sacramentary or missal, to the altar.
1. The idea is
that we are preparing place for God on the altar. God is, of course,
willing to be anywhere He is needed. But it is only fitting that
we should do what we can to make the alter as worthy as we can for God's
presence, as we make our own souls fitted for His presence. Doing
so allows God's blessings to flow more toward us. See Haggai
2. The people, or the altar servers bring bread and wine to the altar, preferably in a procession. Long ago, Melchizedek offered bread and wine, and Jesus, through His sacrifice, become, among other things, the fulfillment of the priesthood of Mechizedek. Gen. 14:18; Heb. 7..
- The notion
of a bread of life and a spiritual drink also reminds one of the manna
and water that sustained the Chosen People in the desert. See
John 6:30-40; 1 Cor. 10:2-3. Wine is often a symbol of prosperity
and joyousness in the presence of God. See Ps. 4:8, 104:14-15,
Joel 2:24, Is. 55:1. Bread and wine are also a symbol of unity,
both with each other and with God, for many grains are combined to make
bread, and many grapes to make wine. See 1 Cor. 10:16-17.
(Wine given to the unjust can also be a symbol of the wrath of God.
Ps. 60:5, 75:9; Is. 51:17, 21-23; Rev. 14:15, 18-20)
3. An offering for
the Church or the poor may also be brought up. There is an idea
that we respond to God's generosity, and therefore become more capable
of receiving more of His favor. See, e.g., Duet 16:17; Matt. 19:29;
B. The priest prays over the bread and wine in words that combine elements of the prayer of Melchizedek with the words of Jesus at the Bread of Life discourse. See Gen. 14:19-20; John 6:34ff.
1. The prayer
refers to God of heaven and earth, both in recognizing His lordship,
and in appreciating the original goodness of creation, which although
fallen, still awaits redemption. Isaiah and the Book of Revelation
speak of a "new heavens and a new earth," indicating that the final
kingdom will reflect the goodness of this creation, but be much greater.
See, e.g., Is. 65:18-25, 66:22-23; Rev. 21:1ff.; see also Haggai 2:6,
21; Joel 3:3..
- The prayer
emphasizes also that the bread and wine we offer comes from God's
generosity (largitas), from the fruitfulness of the earth and from human
labor. There is an image here of the primordial fruitfulness of
the earth before the Fall, and the fruitfulness of the messianic era.
See, e.g., Gen. 1:29-32, 2:8-17; Is. 51:2; Ez. 47:7-11; Amos 9:11-15;
Joel 4:19; Rev. 22:1-2; see also John 2:1-11. There is also unity
among God's work, nature, and human labor. All work together.
See Ps. 104:19-23; Phil 2:12.
2. If there is
no music during this preparation of the bread and wine, the priest can
pray these prayers in a voice for all to hear. In that case, The
response is: "Blessed be God forever." That response
may reflect Psalm 68, which describes God's magnificent and awe-inspiring
approach towards His people to save them, ends with that phrase.
Also, in the Old Testament that or similar phrases were also used to
express of thanksgiving either for an impending marriage, see Gen. 24:
27, 48 (Jacob and Rachel), at worship, see 1 Kings 8:15, 56, 2 Chron.
6:4 (the consecration of the Temple), or for the enthronement or restoration
of a king, see 1 Kings 1:48, 10:9; Ezra 7:27. In the New Testament,
the phrase "Blessed be God," and as completed by a phrase such as
"the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," begins three poetic
expressions of the grace, guidance, and deliverance that God provides
us through Jesus Christ. See 2 Cor. 1:3, Eph. 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3.
The idea is that we are celebrating the glorious approach of Jesus,
the King and spouse of the Church, coming to the altar.
3. Before offering
the wine, the priest mixes a small amount of water into it, praying
"By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the
divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity."
Part of the idea is that the water symbolizes the Church and our own
life and efforts, and the wine the grace of God and sacrifice of Christ.
The two become inexorably mixed. John 15:5-7; Gal 2:20; Col 3:3.
In the East, the symbolism is more the combination of the humanity and
divinity of Christ in one person.
4. The priest
may then incense the gifts, reflecting the lifting up of the prayers
to the throne of God. See Rev. 8:3; General Instructions 75.
The incense also sets the bread and wine aside as holy, creates a cloud-like
image to surround the place where God will be present, see, e.g., 1
Kings 8:10-12, and symbolizes the joining our worship on earth to the
worship of the angels in heaven where smoke fills the temple of heaven.
See Is. 6:4, Rev. 15:8.
C. The priest then prays privately that he may be worthy to offer the sacrifice of the Eucharist, and asks the people that God may accept the sacrifice.
1. The priest prays
in silence, "Lord, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the
sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts." The
first aspect, that we be received with humble and contrite hearts reflects
the prayer of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace
as they confess their sins and the sins of their people and ask to be
delivered to show forth the glory of God. See Dan. 3:39.
The second aspect, that the sacrifice be made pleasing in God's sight
because of our acceptance reflects the idea that one purified of sins
can then offer acceptable sacrifice to God. See, e.g., Ps. 51:11,
2. As a server
is pouring water over the priest's fingers, he prays "Lord, wash
away my iniquity; cleanse me of my sins." The prayer is taken
from Psalm 51, which asks God to forgive the speaker of his sins so
that he may offer fitting sacrifice back to God. The sprinkling
of water as a symbol for the forgiveness of sins comes from the purification
rite for Levitical priests of the Old Covenant, see Num 8:7, and from
the prophesies of restoration in Ezekiel and Zechariah, which were one
basis of the baptism of repentance that John the Baptist used.
See Ex. 36:25-28; Zech 13:1
3. The priests then calls upon the people to pray that the sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.
the prayer is "Pray, brethren (or friends, or brothers and sisters),
that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father."
The new words will be, "Pray brethren that your sacrifice and mine
will be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.
- The Latin and
the new translation distinguish between the sacrifice of the priest
and that of the people. Part of the idea is that as Christ offered
Himself up to God, so the priest offers the bread and wine to God to
become Christ Himself for our salvation. John 10:17-18; Heb. 10:12-14.
Meanwhile, we are also asking that God sanctify all of the people and
thus make acceptable all the sacrifices we offer Him at the Mass. See,
e.g., Is. 1:11-18; Ps. 51:17-18. There is also a notion that the
willingness to take the time and energy to praise God is a sacrifice.
See Ps. 50:23; Heb. 13:15. We recognize that we are not of our
own accord worthy to offer fitting sacrifices to God, but that with
His assistance we can become able to do so fittingly. See, e.g.,
4. The people
pray that God accept the sacrifice for the praise and glory of His name,
for (or more literally "towards") our good and the good of all His
Church. The new translation will add the word "holy" to Church,
emphasizing the fact that the Church is holy, although on earth her
members are still weighed down with sin. See Catechism 825-27.
The prayer asks that sacrifice be accepted by God and thus bring greater
salvation to all the world for a new and glorious people. See
D. The priest then calls upon the people to join him in the prayer over the gifts.
1. This prayer
generally again recognizes that we are not of our own merit able to
offer sacrifices to God, but that He makes us worthy.
2. The prayer generally ends with "We ask this (or 'Grant this') through Christ our Lord." The idea is that Jesus, as our high priest, combines our prayers with His own and, therefore, makes them more worthy. See, e.g., Heb. 10:19-25. Sometimes, the prayer ends with an offering of the prayer in the name of Jesus. This phrase emphasizes the power of Jesus' name in working wonders for our salvation. See, e.g., Mark 16:17; John 15:16; Acts 3:6, 4:12 16:18.