We continue with the fifth 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 continue with Chapter Two, THE EMBRYO YEARS, part two.
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 two: Forming the Liturgy
Though the word Eucharist evolves from the Greek eu, meaning "well or
good" and charizesthal which means "to show favor or thanks", it really
evolves from Jewish custom for it was Jesus Christ Who Instituted the New
Sacrifice on the eve of His death with His Passover prayer of thanksgiving.
Thus, it was a "thanksgiving for god." It seems truly an understatement
when you consider the magnanimity of this. However, as mentioned earlier,
Jesus used the framework of the old to introduce the new. The Apostles
realized this and preserved as many of the traditions as possible while
still proclaiming and celebrating the New Covenant. Thanksgiving prayers
have always been an integral part of the Mass for within the structure of
the New Sacrifice is the meal and, following Christ's example, we give
thanks for what we are about to consume. This custom continues today with
"Grace" before and after meals so it's only proper that it continue to be
an important part of the ultimate banquet - the true Body and Blood, Soul and
Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Just as in the Judaic rite, the sacrificial part of the ritual was an
essential element of the Mass. The only difference was that in the New
Covenant the sacrifice was an unbloody one on the altar of love - the
reenactment of the Sacrifice of the Lamb on Calvary whereas in the Old
Testament it was the Zebah Todah in which a lamb was sacrificed on the
altar of fire and that which was not consumed by the flames was distributed
to those who offered it. This became both a sacrifice and a meal, which
the Mass truly is for after the transubstantiation of the bread and wine
into His Body and Blood there is a "communion" - a sharing of this miracle
and graces with all who are worthy or in the state of Grace. Thus, the
phrase "Holy Communion" came to be.
Though there have been accounts of "breaking of bread", most do not verify
if it were truly leavened bread or large pieces of unleavened bread. Also,
just as Jewish law dictated that the bread used would be unleavened so also
the Church today continues to direct us to use unleavened hosts as bread in
the liturgy of the Mass. This has been the mainstay of contemplative
orders for centuries - making unleavened hosts.
Another preservation taken from Jewish custom is the Psalms, which are
read at every Mass. While we remember the Old Testament, we do so in
relationship to what Jesus Christ taught and instituted.
This was the heart of what the Apostles taught and as they grew in wisdom
and piety, so also the persecution intensified for their zeal could not be
hidden. This is chronicled in Acts 3 and 4 when Peter and John were
interrogated about their healing and preaching and ordered to be silent.
But, in a move which clearly illustrated their break with Jewish law and
their embracement of the New Covenant, the Apostles said "Whether it is
right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, decide for
yourselves. For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts
4: 19-20) and "We must obey God rather then men. The God of our fathers
raised Jesus, whom you put to death, hanging Him on a tree. Him God
exalted with His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to
Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things, and
so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to all who obey Him" (Acts 5:
Thus began the open persecutions that still continue nearly 2000 years
later. The first persecutor of the Christians was, of course, Saul, a
Pharisee who made it his personal crusade to flush out and convict these
radical people who persisted in a religious zeal that threatened the Jewish
order of things. Saul'' first "trophy" was the martyr Saint Stephen who was
stoned to death as "cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Lord, do not lay
this sin against them'" (Acts 7: 59-60).
There were persecutions both from outside and within. Vicious slander was
spread that these Christians were cannibals - practicing human sacrifice.
Meanwhile many of the Apostles had begun to scatter abroad preaching the
Word away from Jerusalem. Philip, Peter, and John were evangelizing in
Samaria, and other regions, all the while baptizing and celebrating the
Eucharist with additional prayers that were being added to the liturgy over
So possessed was Saul with destroying this new "cult" that he would do
anything he could to bring them into bondage. Little did he know at the
time that the only one in bondage was Saul himself. This realization hit
home when, on his way to Damascus, he was struck by "a light from Heaven"
(cf. Acts 9) and saw his soul as only God can, which was a forerunner of
the great illumination we will all encounter soon
Through supernatural phenomena and the disciple Ananias, Saul became one
of the greatest saints and crusaders for Christ this world has ever known: Saint Paul.
After convincing the Apostles that he was truly converted, he was sent
first to Tarsus, then Antioch and to Cyprus where he became Paul. Though
converted, Paul maintained his Jewish teaching showing how Jesus had
employed the Old Covenant to uphold the New Covenant. Many Jews were
transformed but upon returning to Jerusalem, Paul broke completely from the
Jewish law when he said in Acts 13: 46-47: "It was necessary that the word
of God should be spoken to you first, but since you reject it, and judge
yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord commanded us, 'I have set thee for a light to the Gentiles,
to be a means of salvation to the very ends of the earth.'"
Thus, Paul made it evident there was no need to continue Jewish rites and
liturgy to be a disciple of Jesus. In addition, in Jewish law women were
not allowed to participate in worship in the synagogue, where in the New
Sacrifice there was no segregation save that they be baptized and be
sincere in the state of Grace. All were equal in the eyes of God (cf. Gal
3: 27-28). Yet, in keeping with tradition and as Christ had passed on,
only men were allowed to officiate as celebrant of the New Sacrifice; something that
has been perpetuated to the present day even though the modernist manifesto of such
groups as Call To Action and other radical factions would like to change it, but,
thanks to Pope John Paul II the Church has been faithful to what Our Lord set down.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: Installment Six The Early Popes - The First Century