In this journey on the Barque of Peter, we continue to 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 cover the second half of the Sixth Century, the Century of the growth of monasticism when Saint Benedict would become the father of western monasticism with the establishment of his Order of Benedictines and the time leading up to the Gregorian era which we cover today in chronicling the achievements of Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
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 Gregorian Plan of the Mass: The Liturgy of the Word
For the Holy Roman Catholic Church, in unison with the Church Triumphant, through these years were the beginning of the Dark Ages, it was a time that could truly be called the Golden Age of the Mass. Pope Saint Gregory the Great, whose feast we celebrate today, played a pivotal role in the History of the Mass as we detailed in the last installment and this one. As we resume this series this fall, we now focus on the structure of the Mass and how the Gregorian Mass combining the Mass of the Catechumens with the Mass of the Faithful not only solidified and united the Church but set the pattern for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to be said in perpetuity in the format established by Gregory and handed down through the centuries in revised sacramentaries that still maintain the essence of all that is valid. This includes the New Mass or the Novus Ordo which was adapted after the Second Vatican Council. In this installment we study the structure of the Mass and how it has remained constant through the ages for it is the Sacrament established by Jesus and will be until “consummation of the world.”
The Plan of the Mass
In our last installment in June we dealt on how St. Gregory the Great fine-tuned the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As promised, in this installment we will illustrate how he brought the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful together in polished form. We will also show how this liturgy compares to the Novus Ordo which was established by the Second Vatican Council.
Though the terminology and some prayers of the liturgy have been simplified and condensed over the years, the essential elements have remained intact. The word “Mass,” which began to be used in the sixth century, derives from the Latin word missa meaning dismissal!. The correlation comes with the fact that it was used to dismiss the Catechumens before the Mass of the Faithful began. It survives at the end of the latter in the final Ite missa est: "Go the Mass is ended." Other terms that have been used through the centuries were oblatio (oblation) and mysterium (mystery) and most recently Vatican II adapted the word Eucharist. Regardless, they are all the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Holy Mass is the highest form of worship. It is the sacrifice of Calvary renewed. One Mass gives Almighty God more praise and thanksgiving, makes more atonement for sin and pleads more eloquently than does the combined and eternal worship of all the souls in Heaven, on earth, and in Purgatory. In the Holy Mass, it is Jesus Christ, God, as well as Man, Who is our Intercessor, our Priest and our Victim. Being God - as well as the Son of Man - His prayers, merits and His offerings are of infinite value.
There needed to be a method of assisting at such a noble sacrifice and therefore Pope Gregory I, 64th successor of Peter, refined the Plan of the Mass in order to incorporate the four ends to which the Holy Sacrifice is offered: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Atonement, and Petition. It cannot be just one of these components. For example, it's a normal practice among Catholics to limit our prayers to petition. We would be ungrateful if this were the case.
Adoration and Thanksgiving
We owe God first of all, adoration; secondly gratitude. We can never thank Him sufficiently, even if we spent all eternity in doing so, for the innumerable gifts, material and spiritual, temporal and eternal, which He has bestowed on us. Some of these gifts are phenomenal: life, redemption, our Catholic faith, preservation from mortal sin, the grace of conversion, health, family, friends just a few of God’s gifts, but the greatest gift was that of His Sacrifice on Calvary.
The Mass therefore offers us the opportunity to thank God by man's of renewing this Sacrifice.
Atonenent and Petition
After adoration and thanksgiving comes atonement. Prostrate at the foot of the Cross, the Most Precious Blood of Jesus flows from His gaping wounds as a Font of Divine Mercy on us all, prompting us to beg forgiveness for our sins and weaknesses which have been instrumental in nailing Our Lord to the Cross. The Mass affords us the opportunity to ask Jesus to pour His Precious Blood over our souls that they may be washed clean from their polluting and decaying stains of sin.
Finally, being human, there is the need to ask God for favors which we need. How much we need them is in accordance with the Divine Will, but Christ has said whatever we ask will be given if it is God’s Will.
Some of the most vital matters we can petition are to pray for the release of souls in Purgatory especially for those who have no one to pray for them. This also goes a long way in shortening our own time there, especially if we pray that God will preserve us from all dangers to soul and body, to console us at the hour of our death, to intercede for us at the Judgment Seat of God. These are all things we can offer our Mass for, making it more meaningful each time we attend and better understanding the sublimity of the Passion of Christ which will ultimately increase our love for Him.
The Plan of the Mass is also God’s Plan and through Divine Revelation He manifested this to His Church, specifically Gregory who formulated the format we still maintain today for the most part.
Before Vatican II, included in the overall Plan of the Mass was “Remote Preparation.” This consisted of Preparatory Prayers and the Sacrament of Reconcilliation if the priest was available. Today Confession before Mass is, sadly, a rare thing except in traditional parishes that remain orthodox and where great devotion to the Blessed Mother is fostered.
Even with the Preparatory Prayers eliminated, it is still important that we prepare properly for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by arriving early enough to spend a few quiet moments with Our Blessed Lord in the Tabernacle. This allows us to “relax” our mind, heart and soul and shut out the world so that we can be open to the Holy Spirit and be in the proper frame of mind, heart and soul for the Holy Mass. Rushing in at the last minute or habitually arriving late is not the best way to prepare for Mass.
Mass of the Catechumens is now the Liturgy of the Word
At the beginning of the 7th Century, Pope Gregory established an order of the Mass with “The Beginning of the Mass” which today is considered the “Entrance Song” as part of the introductory Rites. The celebrant said an introductory Psalm - the Introit just as today we recite or chant a passage from Sacred Scripture as the Entrance Song.
The priest in the past intoned in Latin “Ad introbio ad altare Dei” “I will go unto the Altar of God.” Every altar boy for generations up until the 60’s knew the next response: “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.” This antiphon continued with the responses from the servers leading into the Confiteor, which is preserved today in the “Penitential Rite.” Though in the Novus Ordo Mass, the absolution has been watered down from its original intent in which we were forgiven all venial sin through this rite in a purification process worthy to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
The latter was fundamental in preparing to worthily participate in the Holy Sacrifice by first reconciling with our neighbor before we can turn our attention to God for Christ said in John 15:12, " Love one another as I have loved you.”
The Kyrie Eleison is the same except the “Lord, have Mercy,” “Christ, have Mercy” is said only three times rather than nine times as instituted by Gregory. His reasoning for nine was three times in honor of the Father, three times in honor of the Son, and three times in honor of the Holy Spirit. The architects of the Novus Ordo felt a need to simplify and condense.
The Gloria has remained the same throughout the history of the Church. The same for the Opening Prayer or Collect, which is a short prayer in honor of the saint or mystery of the day, or for the intention of the Mass.
There have always been readings from Sacred Scripture. In the plan established by Gregory in the Epistle, Gradual, and Epistle have remained the same, the nomenclature is the only thing that has changed. Today they are called Readings, the Responsorial Psalm and Sequence which combine what was the Gradual. The Gospel is exactly as it was established in the Gregorian Mass even to the “Gloria tibi Christi” "Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ" before the Gospel.
The liturgy is arranged so that over a three year cycle (Year A, B, and C) the entire bible is covered.
Today we include the homily, Profession of faith and Prayers of the Faithful in the Liturgy of the Word. As always the homily was meant to incorporate something from the Word read during that particular Mass and not a social bantering on the state of the parish or a joke fest intended for entertainment. Rather, the homily or sermon must convey the truths of the great Deposit of Faith referenced by the Scriptural readings of that Mass or a similar association with the Mass. Any other announcements should not be contained within the body of the homily or during that time. Those topics should be attended to either before Mass or at the end of the Mass. Also, the Church has always commanded that the homily be preached only by one who is ordained. No lay person other than an ordained lay deacon is permitted to speak from the pulpit during this time.
The Profession of faith, known as the Creed leads into the final part of the Mass of the Catechumens which is now the Liturgy of the Word. The Creed is an essential component of the Mass for in it we proclaim all that we believe as Catholics. This prepares us to advance into the next part of the Mass - the Liturgy of the Eucharist which was formerly known as the Mass of the Faithful. This we will do on Wednesday when this on-going series returns to its regular slot. In the next installment we will study the Liturgy of the Eucharist before
advancing on in history through the next few centuries that followed the
reign of St. Gregory the Great.
Next Wednesday: Installment Seventeen: The Gregorian Plan of the Mass: The Liturgy of the Eucharist