We continue with our fourth installment of an extensive series on the Church and the Mass - the sacrifice of the New Law in which Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in
an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.
In this journey on the Barque of Peter, we will detail the evolution of the Mass and the Church
from the early Christian times to our present day so that all may better understand
the true meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our faith - the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church. Today we begin Chapter Two, THE EMBRYO YEARS, part one.
We will be using various sources, but the best are four books that are out of print but provide so much
solid material: "My Catholic Faith - A Manual of Religion" (1949) by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, S.T.D. from My Mission House ; "The Glories and Triumphs of the Catholic Church" (1907) from Benziger Brothers; "The Catholic Church Alone the One True Church of Christ" (1902) from the Catholic Educational Company; and "Cabinet of Catholic Information" (1904) from Duggan Publishing Co. In addition we will be using material gleaned from "The Oxford Dictionary of Popes" by J.N.D. Kelly; The Papal Princes: A History of the Sacred College of Cardinals" by Glenn D. Kittler; "Pontiffs: Popes who shaped history" by John Jay Hughes; "The Mass of the Roman Rite" by Fr. Josef Jungmann, S.J.; "The Story of the Church" from Tan Books by Fr. George Johnson, PhD; "The Story of the Mass" by Fr. Pierre Loret; "Rubrics of
the Mass" by Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas; "The Wonders of the Mass" by Fr.
Paul O'Sullivan, O.P.; and the Code of Canon Law", as well as the
"Catechism of the Catholic Church"; "Baltimore Catechism"; Catholic Encyclopedia (Thomas Nelson Publishers); "Catholic Dictionary" by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.; "Dictionary of Saints" by John J. Delaney; "Butler's Lives of the Saints" from Benziger Brothers; "Saints of the Roman Calendar" by Enzo Lodi and Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP; "1999 Catholic Almanac" from Our Sunday Visitor, and numerous missals and references.
With a better perception of what the Church stands for and what the Mass truly is, we will not
so easily be swayed by new-fangled gimmicks and liturgical abuses being
introduced by individual celebrants and ICEL, the International Committee
for English in the Liturgy. We will discover why the basis for the use of
vestments and sacred vessels, the purpose for the Rubrics of the Mass, the
logic of Church Scholars and Popes through the ages for fending off changes
that would water-down the faith and the Holy Sacrifice and even invalidate the greatest
remembrance Christ gave to His Church.
THE EMBRYO YEARS
part one: Forming the Liturgy
The Apostles were charged to carry on what Jesus Christ had instituted. Guided
by His teachings and the Gift of the Holy Spirit, they went out to preach
the Good News and to baptize countless converts, bringing them into the
fold despite the intense persecutions that hounded them wherever they went.
They took refuge in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in its
embryo stage borrowing from both the Judaic rite and customs and traditions
of the Gentiles to build the structure of the New Sacrifice and perpetuate
the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist amidst torture and slaughter of
millions of believers who would not deny that Christ was truly their
Hope and salvation for He would be with His Church always "even to the
consummation of the world" (Matthew 28:20).
Much of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass evolved from Old Testament Law, but
Jesus introduced a New Covenant at the Last Supper and intermingling
Judaic traditions, laws and customs a new rite was born - the New Sacrifice.
In the last few installments, we covered the who, what, when, where
how, and why the Holy Eucharist was instituted.
With Christ's Ascension into Heaven, the Apostles may have felt like they
were "on their own", so to speak, but Christ had promised in Matthew 28:20
"Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world"
and indeed He is. To confirm His Presence of speaking through, to, with
and for them was the invaluable Triune Divinity Emissary given on the feast
of Pentecost the Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Blessed Trinity - to
carry on what He had established on earth - His Church and His Sacraments.
Strengthened by this, the Apostles began to establish a ritual around this
Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which they called the Mass. Within a very
short time, they had developed a rite, which was both distinctive and
meaningful. But it was not easy to maintain or spread for they were living
in an antagonistic atmosphere. Why the hostility? Simple. Here were
twelve men and their disciples who were growing in numbers. Most of them
had come from Jewish roots but among them there were no Jewish priests, no
leaders of the synagogue. They were basically outsiders with no access to
the inner chambers of the temple. Their only training had been as heads of
their families presiding over the Sabbath meals, Seders and Passover meals
in their own homes. Yet, they had been asked to celebrate a ritual "in
remembrance of Jesus." Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the
Gifts of the Sanctifier, they would have been lost and afraid. Oh, there
was still that human fear and apprehension. It still exists in everyone of
us today. But the Apostles and those newly baptized believers went forward
with perseverance in maintaining and sharing the New Sacrifice.
The accounts documented in the Acts of the Apostles verify this. Early on
in Acts 2: 46-47 Saint Luke says: "And continuing daily with one accord in the
temple, and breaking bread in their houses, they took their food with
gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and being in favor with all
the people. And day by day the Lord added to their company such as were to
be saved." Because of their Jewish roots they continued with the
traditions they had been raised with, but because of their conversion to
Christ they also continued with the Eucharist in the breaking of the bread
in their homes. As their ranks swelled, they realized more and more they
were being called to break the liturgical bonds of Judaism and establish
this new religion which their Master had instituted. Therefore, the
Sabbath, originally Saturday, gradually was observed the next day for that
was the day they broke bread together and celebrated the Eucharist. It was
also a remembrance of the day Christ rose from the dead and shared His
first post-resurrection meal with His disciples that evening. This became
a tradition the following Sunday when Christ showed His wounds to Saint Thomas.
From that time on, though they gathered together often, Sunday was the
focal point for celebrating the Eucharist.
In those early days, the Mass was quite primitive - "And they continued
steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the
breaking of the bread and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). Prayers were added to
the celebration and, as is the custom, repetition took form in creating a
Through the years, a liturgical struggle took shape. First, drawing from
the old rite, the Apostles established a time for reading the Word just as
it had been Jewish tradition to read from the Law and the Prophets in the
synagogue. The Apostles and disciples borrowed from this by establishing
the reading of lessons, which became the Didache and eventually the
Collect. Since they were no longer part of the Jewish faith, the still
felt it was important to carry on this important aspect. As more writings
of the New Covenant became available they were added permanently with first
the epistles and then a passage from the writings of one of the four
evangelists who were, for a time, with them first hand. This became the
essence of the Liturgy of the Word.
Other Jewish traditions remained such as the Amens, Alleluias, and
Sanctus, which proclaims Isaiah's chant with the angels present in all
their magnificence (cf Isaiah 6:3). "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts,
all the earth is full of His glory." It was a perfect vehicle for passage
from the Offertory to the Consecration of the Eucharist.
TOMORROW: Installment Five