Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"Parts of the Mass" - I

The following is part 1 (of 3) of “the parts of the Mass”, as explained in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the official rules and details of the Latin Rite Mass), and abbreviated for purposes of this site. Please click on the title of this post for the full text.

I. The General Structure of the Mass
27. At Mass—that is, the Lord's Supper—the People of God is called together, with a priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord, the Eucharistic Sacrifice. For this reason Christ's promise applies in an outstanding way to such a local gathering of the holy Church: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst" (Mt 18:20). For in the celebration of Mass, in which the Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated, Christ is really present in the very liturgical assembly gathered in his name, in the person of the minister, in his word, and indeed substantially and continuously under the eucharistic species.

28. The Mass is made up, as it were, of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. These, however, are so closely interconnected that they form but one single act of worship. For in the Mass the table both of God's word and of Christ's Body is prepared, from which the faithful may be instructed and refreshed. There are also certain rites that open and conclude the celebration.

III. The Individual Parts of the Mass

The Entrance
47. After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.

Greeting of the Altar and of the People Gathered Together
49. When they reach the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the ministers reverence the altar with a profound bow. As an expression of veneration, moreover, the priest and deacon then kiss the altar itself; as the occasion suggests, the priest also incenses the cross and the altar.

50. When the Entrance chant is concluded, the priest stands at the chair and, together with the whole gathering, makes the Sign of the Cross. Then he signifies the presence of the Lord to the community gathered there by means of the Greeting. By this Greeting and the people's response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest.

The Act of Penitence
51. Then the priest invites those present to take part in the Act of Penitence, which, after a brief pause for silence, the entire community carries out through a formula of general confession. The rite concludes with the priest's absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance.

The Kyrie Eleison
52. After the Act of Penitence, the Kyrie is always begun, unless it has already been included as part of the Act of Penitence. Since it is a chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy, it is ordinarily done by all, that is, by the people and with the choir or cantor having a part in it.

The Gloria
53. The Gloria is a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other text. The Gloria is intoned by the priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by all together or by two parts of the congregation responding one to the other. It is sung or said on Sundays outside the Seasons of Advent and Lent, on solemnities and feasts, and at special celebrations of a more solemn character.

The Collect
54. Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God's presence and may formulate their petitions mentally. Then the priest says the prayer which is customarily known as the Collect and through which the character of the celebration is expressed. In accordance with the ancient tradition of the Church, the collect prayer is usually addressed to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and is concluded with a trinitarian, that is to say the longer ending, in the following manner:

If the prayer is directed to the Father: Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum;

If it is directed to the Father, but the Son is mentioned at the end: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum;

If it is directed to the Son: Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. The people, uniting themselves to this entreaty, make the prayer their own with the acclamation Amen. There is always only one collect used in a Mass.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Post-Father's Day post

For several, hot nights on a Jersey beach during our family vacation in July, '88, we tossed the baseball after dinner. Dad was trying to teach me how to throw a curveball, with hopes of using it as a pitcher during my upcoming senior year of high school. Night after painful night, he laboriously tried to show me how to make the ball change direction with topspin. But, for four straight nights until it got dark, none of my throws did anything but go straight.

Then, on the last night, with the sun down and darkness setting in, my frustrated father received quite a pleasant surprise. I delivered a pitch that started out like all the other (hundred or so) ones, but then took a sharp turn downward into the sand. The "curveball" I had finally hurled bounced off the sand and directly into Dad's shin! Immediately, blood began to squirt out from his tired, sandy leg. We both rushed down to the ocean to wash it off, and danced in the knee-deep water, celebrating this monumental feat.

Two weeks later, my father, George W. Shaffer, Jr., died of a sudden and severe heart attack. For our family, who had never had to deal with any kind of tragedy to that point, it was a crushing blow. In time, however, I would come to appreciate the seventeen years that I had had with my father, rather than dwell on all that I would miss without him. I still miss him but feel enormously blessed to have had such a great man as my mentor, role model, educator, cheerleader, friend, and father. He formed me in so many ways, but mainly to be a good man who loves God and neighbor. His love for me as my earthly father has helped me so much to know the infinite love of my heavenly Father. For that, Dad, I am eternally grateful to you.

In the summer of '01, I took the mound in a (DC men's league) baseball game for the first time since sophomore year of high school; I didn't pitch my senior year because of the emotional strain it would have caused. In the first inning, the catcher gave me the sign to throw a curveball. Taking a deep breath with immediate thoughts of my Dad on the Jersey beach, I reared back and tossed an impressive pitch that curved about a foot just as it approached the batter. Strike three, inning over. Thanks, Dad! Over the course of the next seven innings, I threw a constant supply of fastballs and curveballs that fooled the opposing hitters and brought our team a victory. One of my teammates said later, "I have a message from your Dad: 'Good job, son. I was with you all the way'".

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Imitating Christ in suffering

Five years ago, I had the great privilege of spending a few weeks in Calcutta, India, with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters). I was there with a few other seminarians working and praying each day with the sisters. One night, the nun who succeeded Mother Teresa as head of the order said something to me that I will never forget. She said, “ Greg, those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most.”

Obviously, we saw widespread suffering on the streets of Calcutta. Thousands of people everywhere, even little kids, suffering tremendously from hunger and disease. There was so much filth and heat; such oppressive conditions which I had never fathomed much less seen. That experience has helped me to better understand suffering. For example, reading the words of the prophet Jeremiah when he saw the vast pains of the people of Judah due to war, famine, and drought: “ my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms…my people…look! those slain by the sword….look! those consumed by hunger” (Jer 14: 17-18). He’s essentially saying to God, “Lord, do you see this?” His cries are similar to the question we like to ask, ‘why does God allow suffering?’

Jeremiah arrives at an answer a few lines down in this passage. “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you” (20). Suffering is a natural result of sin. The Israelites had sinned against God. They had broken the covenant. They worshipped false gods, didn’t keep the commandments, and didn’t love their neighbor as they should.

God’s feelings about those who suffer are most likely the same as Jeremiah’s. God’s “eyes stream with tears” seeing his children in pain. Ultimately, his answer to the question of suffering is that he sends his son to suffer for our sake. He has not only remembered his covenant with us, he has created a new covenant. This new covenant is centered on the suffering, death, and resurrection of his son. If anyone wishes to live the new covenant with the Lord, he or she must center their lives on the cross of Jesus Christ, on which he suffered tremendously. Jesus himself says, “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Lk 9:23).

The reward for those who suffer is not found in this life. Jesus says, “ my kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36). All those in Calcutta, those here in America, the sick and the dying, those in our family, our friends, ourselves, anyone who endures suffering in any form for the sake of love is a great friend of Jesus Christ. Jesus promises eternal rewards for his close friends. For all those who have imitated him so well and united their suffering to his, Jesus proclaims: “ the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43).

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Eucharist: C.o.o.l. (Part 3)


Think of or even make a list of 10 people, places, or things that are most important to you. Family members, boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, the beach, sentimental items, other valuable possessions, money, clothes, DVDs, and car might top your list. Now, take a few minutes (or longer), and rank these items 1-10 in importance to you (1 is most important).

Why are these things most important to you? What do you find or receive in each one? Most likely, you come in contact with them regularly, maybe even daily. If it is a person, what is it about her that you find attractive? What are you looking for from her? How often do you talk with or see him? What do you experience in his presence? If it is a thing, why do you use it? What does it give you? How often do you use it? If it is a place, why is it so special? The people or things that are most important to us say a lot about who we are.

Ultimately, there is one thing we are all looking for: happiness. We want to be truly happy each day and have chosen these people or things to get us there. Some of them help us to find happiness, and some of them don’t. There are some things in our lives that are not good for us, but we still go to them regularly. For example, an alcoholic might have listed bourbon as one of his 10 things because it takes him away from his problems. While it may bring him temporary pleasure, it doesn’t bring him true happiness.

Now, if he didn’t make your top ten list, please add God as a late entry. Specifically, write “the Eucharist”. Take a moment and compare Jesus Christ to all of the items on your list. Jesus died for you. The Eucharist is a living memorial of what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago on the Cross, and what he does for you every day. He gives you his life. He gives you love. He gives you true happiness.

No other person, place, or thing can give you what the Eucharist gives you. The Eucharist is c.o.o.l. (center of our lives). It is truly the flesh and blood of him who created us and saved us. He is as alive in the Eucharist as you and I are alive. He wants to be number one on your list. He is always there for you. He made you. He knows everything about you. Everything you’re going through. Every pain, struggle, joy, stress, disappointment, fear, success, hope, and love you’re experiencing. He wants to experience them with you. He wants you to experience them with him. He wants to be a very real part of your life. He is waiting for you in the Eucharist.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Eucharist: C.o.o.l. (Part 2)


A woman at a Catholic parish in Maryland volunteered to be an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She went to a training session with five other people on a Saturday morning in her parish. Part of the training included unlocking and locking the door of the tabernacle (the dwelling place of the Eucharist). With her eyes on the tabernacle that was about three feet away, she froze. She couldn’t move in front of the throne of Jesus. She began to shake uncontrollably and weep. No one in the group knew what to do.

Many seconds passed before she was able to step towards the tabernacle and practice opening and closing the door. When the training session ended, she went into the sacristy, sobbing profusely. Someone consoled her for a few minutes. She said, “before today, I thought that the Eucharist was just a symbol. But, when I was up there in front of the tabernacle, I definitely felt a presence.”

God on earth. Awesome! This is the amazing reality of the Eucharist. For the Jews 2000 years ago or the woman at the tabernacle, God is very close and personal. In the Eucharist, we are in the presence of the Almighty, at whose name “every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10). The eternal Son of our heavenly Father is present to us on earth in a very real way so that we may “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34).

The Eucharist is the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Through the eyes of faith, we see Jesus under the signs of bread and wine. It might look like bread and taste like bread, but it isn’t bread. Jesus says at the Last Supper, “this is my body” (Mt 26:26). He commands the apostles to “take this, all of you, and eat it” (Mt 26:26). He not only gives his body and blood to his first priests for them to eat and drink, he commands them to “do this in memory of me” (Mt 26:26). Today, Catholic priests continue to live out this command every time they celebrate the Eucharist (Mass).

The saints are mysterious to us. We often feel that we can’t relate to them because their lives are so extraordinary. What is their secret? The Eucharist. For example, Mother Teresa explained that receiving the Eucharist every day was the only way she could serve some of the poorest and most ill people in the world in such awful conditions each day. As different as all the saints are, the one thing they have in common is a great love for the Eucharist. They are nourished with Christ; he propels them to do heroic works. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit” (Jn 15:5).

If you could meet anyone on earth, who would it be? Let’s say you are given an hour alone with this person. What would you want to ask them or talk about? What would you like to say to them? How would you get ready for such a meeting? How would you dress? Would you tell all of your friends about it?

In the Eucharist, you are given the awesome opportunity to meet Jesus Christ. If a person walks into a Catholic Church, he or she sees that Jesus is present in the tabernacle (the lit candle shows us that he is there). You can be with Christ alone. For as long as you want. Maybe he won’t answer all of your questions in one meeting, but over time he sheds much light into your life. He holds the meaning of your life. He has created you and given you all of your gifts. He has a plan for you. If you regularly spend time praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, He will reveal his plan to you.

The Jews were right about two things with regards to the Eucharist (Bread of life discourse, John 6). They were right to take Jesus literally and that this is a hard teaching.
It takes faith to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist even though it seems like foolishness. For those who believe, it is like finding a great treasure (see Mt 13:44). The sweet taste of this treasure is the taste of heaven on earth: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (Jn 6:54).