Good Distinctions
Good Distinctions
Praying the Mass - Session 3 of 5
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Praying the Mass - Session 3 of 5

The Mystical Body of Christ and the Liturgy of the Word
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Introduction

Welcome back to Praying the Mass! Over the last couple of weeks, we have learned what the Sacred Liturgy is, what it’s for, and we looked a bit more intently at Sacred Music and the Introductory Rites of the Mass. Today, we are looking at the Liturgy of the Word, but I want to begin with “part two” of our exploration of Sacred Music. As we looked at last week, music is integral to the Sacred Liturgy. So, it’s important for us to know the mind and heart of the Church on the subject. And then we are going to take a close look at one of the most important theological ideas of this entire series: the Mystical Body of Christ.

Sacraments vs. Sacramentals

Let us begin first with a quick look at the difference between a Sacrament and a sacramental. This will be exceptionally brief, but I do not want to take for granted that the difference is evident to everyone listening.

A Sacrament is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ as an outward sign of God’s inward grace. The Sacraments actually make present in a very real way what is being symbolized. Baptism is not a bath; it causes a real change in us. The Eucharist is not a mere symbol; it is actually Jesus’ Body and Blood. 

Sacramentals, on the other hand, like holy water, the rosary, blessed salt, the Sign of the Cross, and crucifixes have no intrinsic power. They are not talismans or magic. They simply dispose of our hearts, minds, and souls to God’s grace. They open us up to God’s supernatural aid and love!

Full, Conscious, and Actual Participation and Sacred Music

Full, Conscious, Actual Participation

Intimately related to music, let us begin by looking at the phrase from the Second Vatican Council: full, conscious, and active participation.

In Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Council Fathers write: 

“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5),’ is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else…”

This notion of full, conscious, and active participation has been understood and misunderstood since the 1960s. There is a helpful distinction in the official text of the document. Of course, this constitution was promulgated in Latin not in English. The Latin word used for “active” is “actuosa.” While actuosa does mean active, busy, or energetic, this is not the meaning of the Church’s document. If we dig a bit deeper into the notion of active we arrive at the notion of active, active rather than passive. We will arrive at actually proceeding rather than dormant. Based on liturgical documents before and after the Council, the true meaning of actuosa is better rendered as “actual” rather than “active.” 

Why do I think this matters? Well, if we stick to the idea of being busy or externally energetic, then we are missing the boat. Full, conscious, and actual participation in the Sacred Liturgy comes from the disposition of the heart which bears fruit in external ways through singing and saying the responses, sitting, standing, kneeling, beating one's breast, making the sign of the cross, and so forth. Full, conscious, and active participation does not mean that every member of the laity needs to busy themselves with some role to fulfill. 

As we will see in a few minutes, speaking about the Mystical Body of Christ, our role as laity differs in degree from that of the priest. The priest is offering the Mass in persona Christi capitis (in the Person of Christ, Head of His Body). The priest offers the holy sacrifice. We, the people, offer the Mass as Members of the Body of Christ. We do this by praying, singing, and focusing our mind, heart, soul, and strength on the liturgical action.

As Pope Francis said in a homily in 2013, 

“Active and conscious participation in the liturgy constitutes being able to ‘enter deeply’ into the mystery of God made present in the Eucharist: thanks in particular to the religious silence and musicality of language with which the Lord speaks to us (Sample, 11).” 

Liturgical activity is not a jamboree. It is not a festival. It is a sacred foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Above all, it is the presentation once more of the one sacrifice of the Cross in an unbloody manner. This is a great mystery. Our actual participation, as a member of the Body of Christ allows us to enter this sacred reality. 

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Singing the Mass

As Catholics, we are not called to sing at Mass. We are called to sing the Mass. We are not spectators at Mass, we are called to offer our own personhood, body and soul, in the celebration of the sacred mysteries. 

The parts of the Mass which are sung consist of the Ordinary, the Propers, the Orations and the Dialogues.

The Ordinary

The Ordinary are the parts of the Mass that are the same every Sunday (with the exception of Advent and Lent): Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei, and Agnus Dei. The Creed (Credo) can also be sung. These parts are ordinarily for the congregation or a choir. These are beautifully done with the music which receives pride of place in the Roman liturgy: Gregorian chant. 

The Propers

The Propers consist of five parts in two sets. The first set: Entrance Antiphon, Offertory Antiphon, and Communion Antiphon. The second set: Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Proclamation with its Verse. Each of the Propers have accompanying refrains and verses. These are often done antiphonally with the cantor or choir singing the refrain, the congregation repeating the refrain, and then the cantor or choir singing the verses. 

Just as the 1st and 2nd Reading and the Gospel, there are Propers selected by the Church for each Sunday Mass of the year and for every major feast or solemnity.

These are to be sung, when possible, as they are part of the Mass. Unfortunately, this integral practice has been neglected in the Church for many years. I will go into detail a bit later about why liturgical chant is more appropriate and efficacious for the Mass than a hymn or song.

Orations and Dialogues

The Orations and Dialogues are “the texts of the Collects and other presidential prayers, and those in which the celebrant and people address each other, for example the greeting and its response: “The Lord be with you” - “And with your spirit”. Musical notations for these dialogues are provided in the Missal and should be used (Arch. Sample, Pastoral Letter 2019, 13).”

Hymns at Mass?

Hymns, in the mind of the Church, belong primarily in the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office or the Breviary. This custom of singing hymns at Mass arose during the Low Mass of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass when the priest was speaking in an inaudible voice praying in Latin. The congregation would sing vernacular devotional hymns during these silent prayers. More on why hymns are devotional rather than liturgical in a moment.

Though hymn singing at low Mass was the case historically, the mind of the Church is to sing the Ordinary, the Propers, and the Orations and Dialogues. Hymn-singing at Mass is not envisioned in the documents of the Second Vatican Council or any subsequent magisterial documents. The only exception is the allowance of a hymn of praise after the distribution of Holy Communion prior to the Prayer After Communion.

The normative practice of music at Mass was not envisioned by the Church. It was set in many ways over the last decades by large music publishers which gave us the processional, offertory (preparation), and communion hymns, and then usually a recessional hymn or song. The recessional, by the way, is not in the Missal or any of the Church’s music documents. It was simply tacked on to give a sense of closure. However, for many centuries, after Sunday Mass, it was customary to sing antiphons in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These four antiphons were done seasonally. More on those here.

Liturgical vs. Devotional

Hymns are devotional by nature. They are written by men and women and arise from the human heart up to God. Liturgical music, on the other hand, is handed down by tradition directly from Scripture (not paraphrased). In this way, liturgical chants are the written Word of God, which speaks to our hearts and comes to us from above, from God. We make these words our own as we sing them. By chanting, we are conforming ourselves to the word of God rather than giving God our word, as beautiful a gift as that can be. 

There is a time and a place. In a rosary prayer group, praying Marian devotional songs is always appropriate. In the Liturgy of the Hours, devotional hymns are always appropriate and called for. During praise and worship, devotional songs are our expression of our faith in God, our hope in Him, and our love of Him. 

However, there is something distinct and set apart, something utterly universal, something transcendent about the words of Christ coming down into our human existence in the context of the Mass. We take in these words, they form us more into Christ, and we glorify God. This is the action of the liturgy made flesh! The Son eternally offers Himself to the Father in the Spirit! As members of the Body of Christ, this is what we are participating in when we do liturgical singing and sing the Mass. 

Instruments

The Church gives us a clear vision of what has preference in terms of instrumentation as well. I do not want to spend a long time on this but I think it is worth mentioning. 

The Second Vatican Council says, 

“In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things… (Other instruments may be admitted) only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful (SC, 120).”

When it comes to instruments at Mass, the question we always want to keep in mind is: does this serve to facilitate praying and singing the Mass? Is it liturgical? Does it elevate or distract from what Christ Himself is doing?

As an aside, pre-recorded music is forbidden to be used in liturgy by liturgical law. Ideally, musicians should not be particularly visually prominent. Choir lofts are the ideal, but may not be possible given your Church’s architecture. It is simply always the standard that musicians at Mass should add to the solemnity of the occasion and never distract or detract. Solemnity is usually joyful; solemn does not need to mean somber unless the liturgical occasion calls for it.

Silence

It is also important to retain silence. God is manifest not only in the beauty of liturgical singing, but also in the powerful silence in which we hear His still, small voice. There is a rhythm to the Sacred Liturgy which must not be rushed or unduly prolonged by the music. Silence fosters communication with God. It allows for reflection and meditation. 

As St. John Paul II put it in 1998:

“Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness, and listening; indeed it demands it. Worshipers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.”

Conclusion on Music

In all things, pastors and musicians should familiarize themselves with the documents of the Church’s Magisterium on Sacred Music and Liturgy. Special care should be given to Sacrosanctum Concilium, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Tra Le Solicitudini, the USCCB document Sing to the Lord, Musicae Sacrae, Mediator Dei. There is a lot to take in and these beautiful instructive and ecclesiastical law documents are not emphasized enough.

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Mystici Corporis

A Reminder in Time of War

A full year before the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces during World War Two, in June 1943, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical letter entitled “Mystici Corporis Christi.” This encyclical is nothing new in Catholic teaching but was an affirmation of the identity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. 

This might seem like an odd topic to write about during such cataclysm in Europe, but the Pope thought it was important for people to understand the Church. Most especially, during this time and any time, the Church is called to share Christ with the world and make the invisible visible. The Church is called to be a source of love, faith, and hope in a beleaguered world.

During the war, there was also widespread forced conversions of Jews to Christianity by anti-Semites. The Pope wanted to give a forceful condemnation of this practice. In Christianity, unlike some other major world religions, forced conversions are out of the question. Conversion to Christianity and incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ must be voluntarily based on faith, hope, and love, not involuntary compulsion.

As St. John Paul II said so well: “The Faith is always proposed, not imposed.”

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ

Pope Pius XII states clearly that the Church is a body and it must “be an unbroken unity, according to those words of Paul: ‘Though many we are one body in Christ.’ (MCC, 14).” However, this mystical body is also visible. 

With a multiplicity of members of all different walks of life, the Church is united in Christ who is the Head. This reality is both invisible and visible, both divine and human. 

This encyclical picked up the teachings of St. Paul on the Body of Christ, the Church, and laid the groundwork for a much lengthier discussion during the Second Vatican Council. The constitution concerning the Church from Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, further develops much of what the Pontiff wrote in 1943. 

We must realize that if the Church is a body, then it is an organism. As St. John Henry Newman said, “The Church is not an organization, it is an organism.” Of course, Jesus is the Head of His Body. Without the Head, we can do nothing. But the Head does not choose to operate in the world without the use of the Body. 

The Church is composed of Head and Members. It has a means for people to enter the Body by the power of the Holy Spirit. It has an internal means of subsistence which is the Holy Eucharist. And it has a means to grow, mature, and prosper in the life of grace, especially the sacramental life.

The Church as Mystery

The reason that the Mystical Body of Christ is called “mystical” is because this reality is a mystery. A mystery is not something unknowable. A mystery in the Church is something which is revealed by God but is not readily understandable by human reason alone. 

The vital principle of the Church is Jesus Christ Himself. He is fully God and fully man. This is a great mystery, but it is true. The Son of God took on flesh, sharing in our humanity, though He remains fully the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. This is a great mystery. The Holy Trinity, truly, is a great mystery.

By speaking of the Mystical Body of Christ, we distinguish it from the physical Body of Jesus. We also distinguish the Mystical Body of Christ from a natural body. Though we have spoken about how the Mystical Body of Christ is organized like a natural body, it is a supernatural reality. This must be the case because the Church is caught up in the mystery of God Himself. 

The Church is Invisible and Divine

The Church is not a human invention. The Church is the action of Almighty God, built on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, directed to the Father, in the power and working of the Holy Spirit. The bonds of divine Charity are what bind us together. And so, the Church is invisible and divine. 

The Church is Visible and Human

God moves first and then we respond. Knowing and loving us before time began, God sent His Son to gather us together. As Pope Pius XII writes, 

“Now the only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in hypostatic union… (MCC, 75).”

What the Pope is pointing out here is the enfleshment of the God-man is the point of reference for the Church. Though the Church appears visibly and seems to be a human institution, it was first the action of God. Just as Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man, so too the Church is fully divine and fully human. 

What Is A Priest?

The popular definition of a priest is given as an ordained person with the authority to perform certain rites and administer certain sacraments. Properly speaking, however, a priest is one who offers sacrifice. This is what a priest is. This is what a priest does. This is who a priest is. A priest has handed over his life to be at the service of Jesus Christ and to pour himself out in His service.

Truly, there is only one Priest, the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Jesus is our great High Priest and every ordained man simply takes part in that one priesthood to varying degrees. For example, every baptized person shares in the priesthood of Christ in a general way. Whereas, deacons, priests, and bishops participate in the priesthood of Christ in particular and ever-greater degrees.

Priesthood of All Believers

In the general sense, we are all priests through our Baptism, because we all offer the sacrifice of our contrite hearts and our lives which take on new meaning when united with the one Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. For our Baptism is a kind of death, a sharing in the Cross. Therefore, in the priesthood of believers, we come to share in His Resurrection.

The Ministerial and Ordained Priesthood

The priest, however, in a very particular way, acting in the person of Christ, Head of His Body, offers the one Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. This is the essence of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The entire Paschal Mystery of Christ becomes truly present by the power of God at every single Holy Mass. It is what He is doing! Our High Priest offers Himself in the Spirit to the Father and invites us to take part. But the way in which we take part, as Head or as Member of His Mystical Body, matters.

The entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, His suffering, death, and resurrection, and His glorious ascension all become present once more. This one sacrifice is perpetuated as an everlasting memorial. Christ does not die again, yet His saving action becomes present once more through the Divine and Sacred Liturgy at the hands of the priest in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Private vs. Public Mass

Every single Holy Mass is celebrated primarily by Jesus Christ. In this heavenly banquet and sacrificial meal, there are many who are already living in the perfection of the Trinity. The saints in Heaven, whether they are officially canonized or not, are taking part fully, consciously, and actively in the Holy Mass. Likewise, the angels are constantly worshiping God in accord with His desires.

When Mass is celebrated publicly, there is more than just the priest present on earth. There may be other ministers, a cantor, an altar server, a reader, or some other member(s) of the lay faithful. These Masses are beautiful because they show a greater sign of the Mystical Body of Christ gathered to worship God, head and members.

However, what if a priest has to offer Mass privately? This has happened throughout the history of the Church. Priests are encouraged to offer Mass daily and they are therefore unable to have the faithful present every time they offer Mass. This is colloquially known as a private Mass, but the name is misleading.

No Mass is private. At every single Mass, Jesus Christ is offering Himself eternally to the Father in the power and working of the Holy Spirit, and the angels and saints are actively taking part in this perfect worship. Heaven and Earth meet. The imminent and transcendent kiss. So, whether the faithful are present or not, the Holy Mass is the Holy Mass.

Efficacy and Aims of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

At the risk of treading on the same ground as Session 1, I think it is worth looking at the efficacy and aims of the Holy Mass. Since the very first Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Most Holy Eucharist as the memorial of His suffering and death, by which the graces of the Cross would flow to the entire world, even two thousand years later. For, in the Mass, the Cross becomes truly present once more and the Blood of Christ flows to purify the world.

The Mass is a true sacrifice that is offered to God alone. It is a sacrifice offered for the praise and adoration of our triune God in thanksgiving. The Mass is also offered for impetration, that is, to lay our requests for the world before God. The Mass is also a propitiatory sacrifice because it is the re-presentation of the Cross. In other words, the Blood of Christ flowing from the Cross is offered in expiation for the sins of mankind.

Our High Priest, standing once again in the breach as our mediator, by the hands of the ordained priest, is offering His prayer on our behalf to God of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and imputation. Every single Mass is therefore infinitely efficacious and good, whether the faithful are present or not. Therefore, Mass is never really private. It is always crowded. We just do not yet have eyes to see this glorious reality.

The Readings:

First Reading

The Liturgy of the Word begins after the Collect with the First Reading. Readings from Sacred Scripture of part of every Holy Mass. Each Mass, there is a First Reading, a Responsorial Psalm, and a reading from the Gospels. On Sundays, Solemnities, and some Feast Days, there is also a Second Reading. Generally, the First Reading is taken from the Old Testament. During the Easter Season (from Easter through Pentecost), the First Reading is taken from the New Testament.

Responsorial Psalm

The Responsorial Psalm comes from the 150 Psalms, except for five times in the three year cycle of readings. These are a canticle from Exodus and Isaiah on Easter Vigil, the Magnificat on Gaudete year B, and Daniel 3 on Trinity Sunday year A.

By the way, in the Lectionary, the part of the Roman Missal that contains the Readings for Mass, there is a two year cycle for daily readings and a three year cycle for Sunday Readings. When I was growing up I heard that we get through the entire Bible in three years. That’s not quite true. The Sunday and weekday lectionaries contain 13.5 percent of the Old Testament (not counting the Psalms), 54.9 percent of the non-Gospel New Testament, 89.8 percent of the Gospels, and 71.5 percent of the entire New Testament. 

The Second Vatican Council called for a greatly increased amount of readings. In paragraph 35 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, they stated: “In the sacred rites, a more abundant, more varied, and more appropriate selection of readings from Sacred Scripture is to be restored (SC, 35).” For Sundays, vigils, and major feasts, the amount of Scripture read directly in the Tridentine Liturgy was 22 percent of the Gospels, 11 percent of the New Testament Epistles, and 0.8 percent of the Old Testament. 

The Responsorial Psalm is meant to be responsorial, of course. So, a large part of actual participation in the Mass means actually singing the response! If you can sing, sing loudly. If you don’t think you can sing… sing even louder!

Second Reading (on Sundays and solemnities)

By adding a second reading on Sundays and solemnities, we are able to get through more of the story of salvation history over the three year cycle. But the Holy Mother Church also desires to show us more explicitly the intricate link between the Old and the New Testaments.

Gospel Acclamation

Before the Gospel, outside of Lent, the Alleluia and accompanying verse, related to the Gospel of the day, are chanted. And during Lent, a traditional alternative acclamation is made: “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Before this Gospel Acclamation, there are occasionally Sequences. These are the 11th Century Victimae paschali laudes for Easter, the 12th Century Veni Sancte Spiritus for Pentecost, and the 13th Century Lauda Sion Salvatorem written by St. Thomas Aquinas for Corpus Christi. The ones on Easter and Pentecost are not optional in the current Missal. Another optional sequence is the Stabat mater for Our Lady of Sorrows, added in 1727. The Dies irae for All Souls’ Day and Requiem Masses was moved to the Liturgy of the Hours in 1970. 

Gospel

We are seated for the readings, but we stand up for the Gospel Acclamation and the Gospel. Why? Because it is the life of our Lord Jesus Christ! When we hear the Gospel proclaimed by the Deacon or priest, then we are hearing the words of our Blessed Lord! And so we stand out of respect, reverence, and joy.

Ordinary Ministers of Reading

The readings used to be proclaimed only by the priest, at the altar, in Latin. Now, they are proclaimed at an ambo or lectern. The Old and New Testament readings and the Psalm interestingly were given to the laity as an Ordinary Ministry. This is a change from the pre-1970 liturgies and is a reform or development. The “lessons” as they used to be called were only offered by the priest. Now, they are proclaimed to the people in the vernacular. 

The Gospel, however, is never read by the laity, even an instituted lector. The Gospel “belongs”, so to speak, to the Deacon. Even at a papal Mass, a deacon will proclaim the Gospel. This is symbolized at the diaconal ordination when the man being ordained is given a Book of the Gospels. This is also why the deacon processes up to the altar, at the beginning of the Mass, with a Book of the Gospels held high!

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Liturgical Actualization

Why does it matter that the readings are proclaimed or offered quietly in Latin? Following the authentic developments of the liturgical movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was an understanding brought to the foreground called liturgical actualization.

When the readings are proclaimed at Mass, those sacred realities become present to us in a mystical way. When we hear of the Hebrews crossing dry shod across the Red Sea in the Exodus, we are there with them. By the power of Almighty God, the liturgy comes alive in a mysterious way and the fabric of space and time are folded in upon themselves. Thus, the readings are not mere recollections, nor mere instruction. The antiphons, the prayers of the Mass, and especially the proclaimed readings make the holy mysteries present to us and us present to them, in a way that escapes our understanding. 

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, quoting the Council of Trent: 

“... the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things ‘which were in all the scriptures concerning him (Luke 24:27),’ celebrating the eucharist in which ‘the victory and triumph of his death are again made present (Trent),’ and at the same time giving thanks ‘to God for his unspeakable gift (2 Cor. 9:15)’ in Christ Jesus, ‘in praise of his glory (Eph. 1:12),’ through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

This sacred mystery of liturgical actualization is rendered more intelligible to our senses by having the readings proclaimed in the vernacular in a way that all can hear. Thus, reading at Mass is a true ministry and an action of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, working through the reader. “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel (GIRM, 29).”

Homily

Since the time of the Council of Trent, the sermon or homily was envisioned as taking place after the Gospel at least on Sundays and holy days. This was not happening everywhere, and so the Second Vatican Council ordered that these prescriptions of Trent actually come to fruition. 

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says this of the homily:

“Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God’s word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the homily, as part of the liturgical action.”

I have found that the best homilies are, at the same time, sufficient in depth, personally challenging, accessible, and focused on leading us towards the next part of the Mass: the Sacrifice on the altar!

Profession of Faith 

After the homily, on Sundays, solemnities, and special occasions we profess our faith with either the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed. These creedal statements are so very important in the life of the Church. The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, to use the full name, is the fruit of the first two ecumenical councils in the 4th Century which safeguarded the Church against various heresies.

The Creed is also something we profess together, as Head and Members of the Body of Christ, in response to the word of God that was proclaimed in the readings and expounded in the homily. Dr. Scott Hahn in his excellent book on the Creed refers to the profession in this way: 

“I want to show that creeds don't just make you who you are and I who I am; they also make us who we are. They are one of the ordinary means God uses to unite his people. God takes wayward tribes and makes them a nation--and, more than that, a family! He takes all the lawless, rebellious nations of the earth and makes them a Church--and, more than that, his own body! It begins with that cry from the heart: I believe!”

Dr. Hahn also teaches us that the profession of the Creed is to the Liturgy of the Word what the reception of Holy Communion is to the Liturgy of the Eucharist! I find this so fruitful to contemplate before reciting the Creed!

How can we pray the Creed better? First, if you do not know what is being professed, then ask questions and find the answers! The Catechism of the Catholic Church has an entire section devoted to walking through the Creed line by line. Second, do not just say it; really pray it! Savor every word and feel the weight of the History of the Church, the passionate preaching of the saints who defended each word, and the power of the focal points of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Trinity.

Universal Prayer

Finally, in the Liturgy of the Word is the Prayers of the Faithful or the Universal Prayer in which, standing,

“the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all (GIRM 69).”

In these prayers, the Church asks us to pray:

“a. For the needs of the Church;

b. For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;

c. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;

d. For the local community (GIRM 70).”

These prayers are directed by the priest and the intentions are announced by the deacon. If a deacon is not present, the priest can do so, or a cantor, lector, or one of the lay faithful are allowed to do so by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. 

Conclusion

Okay. That’s it for the Liturgy of the Word. There is far more to say. I could have spent an entire hour just commenting on the formatting of the lectionary. But this series is an introduction to whet our appetite. If any questions came up in your mind today during the presentation, please send them to will.wright.catholic@gmail.com and I will happily answer them!

See you next week for the session on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I am so excited to share with you the astounding implications of liturgical actualization as it relates to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The mystery and beauty of it is breathtaking! Until next week, may God bless us and keep us, seeking ever more after His heart!

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Good Distinctions
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