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C. Wrthy wrote:

Hi, guys —

I'm beefing up my Catholic grammar school education and was hoping you could help.

  1. Why do we cross ourselves 3 times before the reading of the Gospel?
  2. What is the difference between the Gospel and the first two Readings in the Mass?

We started holding up our arms during the Our Father a few years back then I learned that we aren't suppose to do this. Father Corapi said we are to hold up the priests.

The Church keeps changing the structure of the Mass. You really have to keep up with it.
I'm sure this is turning off many who have been thinking about coming back to the Faith.

I want stability.

C. Wrthy

  { As I'm beefing up my Catholic education can you help answer some questions on the Mass? }

Mike replied:

Dear C.,

Thanks for the questions.

You said:

  • Why do we cross ourselves 3 times before the reading of the Gospel?

Because, like the priest, who reads the Gospel, we are asking that God's (Written) Word, the Scriptures be:

  • on our minds
  • on our lips, and
  • in our hearts

so we can proclaim the fullness of the Catholic Gospel to the world.

You said:

  • What is the difference between the Gospel and the first two Readings in the Mass?

The Gospels contain the very Words of God, Jesus Incarnated, Himself, while the Readings contain writings from the very early Church. These writings manifest the Christian issues and problems the early Church had. They are authored mainly by St. Paul but also include letters authored by:

  • St. John
  • St. Peter
  • St. James, and
  • St. Jude.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops web site has the following on the Liturgy:

The Liturgy of the Word

In the Liturgy of the Word, the Church feeds the people of God from the table of his Word (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 51). The Scriptures are the word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the Scriptures, God speaks to us, leading us along the path to salvation.

The Responsorial Psalm is sung between the readings. The psalm helps us to meditate on the word of God.

The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the reading of the Gospel. Because the Gospels tell of the life, ministry, and preaching of Christ, it receives several special signs of honor and reverence. The gathered assembly stands to hear the Gospel and it is introduced by an acclamation of praise. Apart from Lent, that acclamation is "Alleluia," derived from a Hebrew phrase meaning "Praise the Lord!" A deacon (or, if no deacon is present, a priest) reads the Gospel.

After the Scripture readings, the celebrant preaches the homily. In the homily, the preacher focuses on the Scripture texts or some other texts from the liturgy, drawing from them lessons that may help us to live better lives, more faithful to Christ's call to grow in holiness.


You said:
We started holding up our arms during the Our Father a few years back then I learned that we aren't suppose to do this. Father Corapi said we are to hold up the priests.

He was right on both issues!

I say a whole set of prayers for priests daily. For those:

  • around the world
  • in the Archdiocese of Boston
  • those I know, including priest-helpers on our team.
  • those who are struggling with their priesthood and those that have been laicized.
  • for Cardinal O'Malley and the priestly hierarchy of the Archdiocese of Boston.
  • for my priest — We have a Pray for a priest program here in the Archdiocese of Boston
    and,
  • though it's hard, for priest's I have a hard time with, or those who don't like me.
    (Matthew 5:43-44)

In my personal opinion, there are 4 main areas all priests need prayers:

  1. Liturgical orthodoxy (celebrating the Mass correctly.)
  2. Preaching orthodoxy (especially from the pulpit.)
  3. Pastoral sensitivity to their parishioners, and most importantly
  4. Developing their personal prayer life, beyond the daily Mass.

You said:
The Church keeps changing the structure of the Mass. You really have to keep up with it. I'm sure this is turning off many who have been thinking about coming back to the Faith.

I want stability.

I disagree. We have had the exact same structure going back to Jesus and the Apostles.

  • The type of language used in the Mass may have change; remember it was originally celebrated in Aramaic, the language Jesus probably spoke and after that it was in Greek for a long period of time, or
  • the rubrics or Mass practices may have changed, or
  • the words of the Mass may have changed to be closer the original Latin, as in the recent changes in the Novus Ordo Mass.

but the Mass has always, and will always, be in the basic form:

  1. All gather together.

  2. Hear the Liturgy of the Written Word from the Scriptures:

    • one reading from the Gospel
    • two other readings, and
    • a reading from the Psalms (that's 4 times from the Scriptures!)

  3. The homily by the priest — which is an exhortation to accept this Word for what it truly is, the Word of God, and to put to it into practice. Though the priest should focus on the Scriptures, he may address certain Oral Tradition that has been passed down through the centuries, like from the writings of the Early Church Fathers.

  4. Present the offerings (the Offertory)

    • From the very beginning Christians have brought the bread and wine for the Eucharist, along with:
    • gifts to share with those in need through the collection. This custom of the collection is ever appropriate and is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich.

  5. After the anaphora: with the Eucharistic Prayer — the prayer of thanksgiving and consecration — we come to the heart and summit of the celebration:

    • In the preface, the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation, redemption, and sanctification. The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in Heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the thrice-holy God.
    • In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send His Holy Spirit (or the power of His blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by His power they may become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit. Note: Some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis after the anamnesis.
    • In the Institution Narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's Body and Blood, His Sacrifice offered on the Cross once for all.
    • In the Anamnesis that follows, the Church calls to mind the Passion, Resurrection, and glorious Return of Christ Jesus; she presents to the Father the offering of his Son which reconciles us with him.
    • In the intercessions, the Church indicates that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the whole Church in heaven and on earth, the living and the dead, and in communion with the pastors of the Church, the Pope, the diocesan bishop, his presbyterium and his deacons, and all the bishops of the whole world together with their Churches.

  6. The Faithful receive Holy Communion: Preceded by the Lord's Prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation, the Body and Blood of Christ who offered Himself for the life of the world.

  7. The Final Blessing — After receiving the Blessed Sacrament the priest blesses the people and encourages them to spread and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ ... or that should be the inference.

1 through 7. Isn't that stable?

I hope this helps,

Mike

Eric replied:

C. —

I'm not sure what you mean by keeps changing the structure of the Mass. Granted, there was a major change in the Mass in 1970, 43 years ago, but all of the changes to the Mass itself since then have been minor changes.

Just over a year ago, the translation in the United States was changed, but this is not a structural change and only affected a few countries. It might feel like it's structural, but it really isn't when you examine it closely. It's like putting a new facade on a building: It looks new, but the structure is the same. Believe me, it was long overdue; the translation we had was truly deplorable.

  • Are there any other changes you were thinking of?

Eric

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