October 29-November 4, 2001
volume 12, no. 154

The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar

Part Fifteen: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

The Beginning of Mass part three - From the Collect to the Credo

    The Collect is the second part of the Proper of the Mass. The latter term means those sections of the Mass which vary according to the liturgy for the particular feast day and season. The Introit was the first Proper prayer, the Collect is the second. It is a prayer of petition, completing the four aspects of the Mass in which we ask forgiveness for our sins (Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and Confiteor), give thanks and ask for mercy in the Kyrie, and give praise to God at the Gloria in Excelsis.

    The priest goes to the epistle side to read the Collect. There may be more than one Collect. These prayers are recited in honor of the saint or mystery of the day, or for the intention of the Mass. They express man's subjection to God. They are never more than three. At the Collect we should pray for the intention we have in offering the Mass. This is the correct point when we should offer our petitions rather than after the Credo as it is done in the Novus Ordo. The Collect is separated from the Epistle by an "Amen." The Collect marks the end of time in which we speak to God. Now it is His turn to speak to us.

    He does so through the Word in which He instructs us. This begins with the Epistle or Lesson. It is a reading from Holy Scripture, as from one of St. Paul's letters. At High Mass the subdeacon sings the Epistle.

    Often the Epistle is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, from Exodus, Wisdom, etc. At the end of the Epistle the server says, Deo Gratias - "Thanks be to God." This signals the servers to come together at the foot of the altar, genuflect and one goes to retrieve the book as the priest reads the Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, and Sequence, all varying in accordance with the season of the ecclesiastical year. The Tract and Sequence are not often said. In the Novus Ordo this is the time for the choir to take over and sing countless verses of the Psalms, often the one they choose rather than what the liturgy specifically calls for. The rationale for this is that it takes its name from a chanter standing on the same step from which the Epistle was changed by the subdeacon. It comes from the Latin gradus meaning grade or step. However most often the Gradual, the most often used of the four chants prayed between the Epistle and the Gospel (Alleluia, Tract, or Sequence) is no more than two verses from a Psalm. Often times in the New Order it is not even a Psalm but a rough translation of whatever in order to rhyme.

    After the Gradual and while the priest is praying the Munda cor meum the Missal is then carried to the left or Gospel side of the altar. This act symbolizes the passing of the faith from the Jews to the Gentiles and is important in the rite of the Mass. This is a very important prayer that has been neglected in the New Order Mass. The prayer says: "Cleanse my heart and my lips, O Almighty God, Who didst cleanse the lips of the prophet Isaias with a burning coal, and vouchsafe, through Thy gracious mercy, so to purify me that I may worthily announce Thy holy Gospel. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen." While there are some priests who still faithfully say this prayer, most ignore it or compose their own prayer in an improvise fashion that seems to have been so readily accepted by the congregants today.

    Also in the Novus Ordo the movement of the book from Epistle side to Gospel side is neglected today for there no longer is an altar, first of all, and secondly, because the book is taken off the table and the pulpit becomes the central focus - a portable altar so to speak. We say this because equal emphasis seems to be placed on the Liturgy of the Word with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. While God is very much present in the Word - Sacred Scripture, He is not present in the same fullness as He is in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Soul and Divinity. Unfortunately this distinction isn't preached much anymore and thus the abuses continue in the New Order Mass.

    The Gospel is always taken from one of the four Evangelists. During the reading, the people stand, out of reverence for the world of God. The priest begins the reading by crossing himself on the forehead, lips, and breast. The people do the same to show they believe the Gospel, will always profess it, and will ever love it. They say Gloria tibi, Domine - "Glory be to Thee, O Lord." At High Mass the Deacon sings the Gospel. In the Traditional Liturgy established by the Council of Trent and decreed to be said for all time, a specific set of Lessons and Gospel readings were mandated so that the most important parts of the Sacred Scriptures would be repeated annually so all would remember and know the Word of God. After Vatican II that idea was scrapped in favor of a rotating three-year cycle (A, B, C) where they were able to squeeze much more of the Bible in. The results intended have not been realized for the people forget in three years what they have learned whereas in the past they would remember what was said if it were repeated every year. Therefore what one heard or learned over ten years would be repeated ten times and be ingrained in their hearts. Today what one heard over ten years would only be repeated three times, four at the best at three year intervals that make it very difficult to establish a pattern of conviction and understanding of the Faith. Statistics bear that out today.

    At the end of the reading of the Gospel, the servers, on behalf of the faithful, say Laus tibi, Christe - "Praise be to Thee, O Christ." This then should be the very first time in the Mass when the faithful sit. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass does not sit except at certain times during a Solemn High Mass. At this point in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass he reads the Epistle and then, the Gospel in which all stand to hear it. He then preaches his sermon based on what he has read in the Word. This way the thrice factor representing the Most Holy Trinity in reinforced. Just as the Confiteor is said three times, the Word is said three times: first in the Latin reading, then in the reading in the vernacular and during the homily the importance of the words read.

    The Credo - Nicene Creed - is the 'gateway to the Mass of the Faithful.' At this point all Catechumens, those studying the Faith in preparation for becoming Catholics, were asked to leave and receive further instructions, giving all the more importance and awe to the Mass of the Faithful - the Offertory and Canon of the Mass. The Credo that was first introduced into the Mass in 476 at Antioch during the reign of Pope Saint Simplicius is said or sung at all Sunday and Holy Day Masses as well as feasts of Our Lord, Our Lady, the Apostles and principle feastdays. One of the customs that has almost been lost entirely is the genuflecting or kneeling during the words Et Incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine; et homo factus est - "And became Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; and was made man" - or, the new translation: "by the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man." This is a reverent moment in memory of Our Lord's Incarnation that seems to be discarded today. Few priests even bow their heads during these words, but then when you improvise it's hard to follow a script - one that was written tens of centuries ago by some very holy and wise men - Doctors of the Church who knew what composed the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as Christ intended. After the Credo the faithful may sit.

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October 29-November 4, 2001
volume 12, no. 154
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