The Mass and Its Roots--Part I



I thought it would be good to explain the Mass.  The more we know, the more we can give proper and holy worship to God.  So, this week and next I will give some general understandings to why we do what we do.  I hope it is helpful and useful for our own holiness and to share with others.


Entrance Procession:

Consists of a hymn while priest and minister process in.



Consists of the Sign of the Cross, brief explanation of theme.


Penitential Rite:

It was usual for people to perform public acts of penance outside the church.  It wasn’t the usual practice to have a public and communal penance rite until the Tenth Century.


Kyrie Eleison:

This is the conclusion to the penitential rite.  The triple invocation of Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy, is one of the oldest known prayers of the Mass.  It is a Greek expression which remained within the Mass even when the Church formally went to Latin in the Liturgy.


The Gloria:

This is really a song of praise, a canticle.  The form of the Gloria we use today comes to us unchanged since the year 380 A. D.


The Collect or Opening Prayer:

This is the prayer that concludes the Introductory rites.  It comes from the Latin, which means to gather up.  Since the earliest days the celebrant would gather up the prayers of all the people and offer them to God, through Jesus, in the name of all the people.


The Mass is divided into two main sections:  The Liturgy of the Word and  The Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Keeping in mind what the word Liturgy means, it is important to remember that the Mass is a celebration of the people in worship to God.  This requires an active participation on the part of all those who attend.  The world Liturgy comes from the Greek meaning “an action or work of the people.”


The Liturgy of the Word

Reading of Scripture has always been a  fundamental part of the Liturgy.  When the first Christians gathered to “Break Bread”,  they kept the Jewish custom of “Breaking the Word” as well.  There are, on Sundays, three readings shared at Mass:  The first reading is from the Old Testament; the second reading is from the New Testament writings; and then there is the Gospel.


Responsorial Psalm:

This is usually a sung psalm which is in response to the first reading.  This is a Jewish tradition which has carried over.


Gospel Acclamation:

This is the tradition of greeting the Gospel with a shout of joy or “Alleluia.”  Halleluiah is a Hebrew word.


The Homily or Sermon:

The homily is the proper term for this activity.  From the very beginning it has been the tradition of the presider to reflect on the readings.  As time went on in the Church, the homily became a more formal discussion.  In the Middle Ages the homily served a very important task, as many of the people could not read.  So the homily became their only means of instruction.  The homily is really meant to help us all “break open the Word” with each other.


The Creed:

This is the Profession of the Faith of the people.  The oldest creed is the Apostle’s Creed which was used in the first centuries of the Church.  The creed is a summary of all Christian teachings and is our formal “yes!” to God’s message and the Church.  The creed that is used in today’s Sunday Masses is called the Nicene Creed, which was developed at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.


The Prayers of the Faithful:

Here we bring our needs or intentions before God.  In St. Paul’s letters we see this earliest practice.  These are not usually for personal needs, but are to reflect the universal needs of the Church and world, and for our communities.