26 May 2011

29th May 2011 - Exploring the Mass (Part 1)

On this weeks show we were joined by Noirin Lynch from Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre who led us through the first part of a two part reflection on the Mass looking at the Introductory rites and the Liturgy of the Word. We also had our regular prayer space and a quick dash through the saints of the week.

Podcast of the programme is available HERE.

Saints of the Week

May 30th - St Joan of Arc
May 31st - The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
June 1st - St Justin (Martyr)
June 2nd - Ascension Thursday or Ss Macellinus and Peter
June 3rd - St Kevin (in Ireland) and St Charles Lwanga and Companions (Ugandan Martyrs) It is also the First Friday.
June 4th - St Cornelius McConchailleach

Exploring the Mass (Part 1)

Have you ever found yourself standing up for the Gospel and realising that you didn’t hear a word of the first readings? Ever sat down in church to realise that you can’t relax and pray today? The truth is that very few people arrive at Mass fully prepared to participate, so we need a time to become present to each other, and to the mystery of the Eucharist which we are about to celebrate together.
Mass has 2 essential parts – the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But because we are human, we need time around those to prepare and pray – or we might miss the grace on offer!! So: Who is gathered? Why are we here? What needs to happen so we can really be present here & now?
Recognise that we are welcome as full members of this community

As we enter the church, we bless ourselves in holy water from the font to remind ourselves of our welcome at Baptism. Teaching a child to bless themselves like this is a great gift. Welcome is experienced in the friendly faces, the warmth of the church, the helpful hints (leaflets, usher etc). When we know we are welcome, it’s easier to know we belong!

We begin our liturgy with the sign of the Cross – the same sign that marked us at Baptism. The Amen we say here and throughout the Mass is significant as it calls us to respond, to choose to participate, to full membership. At this point the role of the celebrant is to gather the congregation into a people united in the presence of God.

Recognise ourselves & that we need to prepare our hearts

The Penitential Rite has four possible options: each week the celebrant chooses the one most appropriate for this Sunday. The focus is not on our sinfulness but on our need of God and Gods great mercy.

“The first form, ‘I confess’, acknowledges our sinfulness and asks the support of the prayers of the whole congregation which has gathered to celebrate the Eucharist and of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. ... That confession is made entrusting oneself to Almighty God in the context of the prayer of the whole Church, on earth and in heaven. The second form reflects the long tradition of repentant prayer found in the penitential psalms. We express our sorrow and our hope in God’s mercy in words that have been used by God’s People for millennia, in words inspired by God himself. …The third form offers a variety of triple invocations leading to the prayer, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy – the traditional Kyrie Eleison. It is important to note that this form is not a confession of sins, “Lord for the times when we failed to…” It is a litany of praise. The praise is offered to Jesus Christ, to whom the Kyrie is addressed. … The Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling with Holy Water may take the place of the penitential rite, on Sundays, especially Sundays in the Easter Season because of its emphasis on Easter and on Baptism. It thanks God for saving us from sin through the waters of Baptism.”

Recognise God who is with us & give praise

“The Gloria is one of the Church’s most ancient hymns and it is sung or said during the introductory rites of more solemn Masses.”

Its long history (from scripture – Bethlehem – through centuries of prayer) means it should be sung where possible and not replaced by similar words. We should all stand as it is a song of praise! 


Recognise the time & place we are in, gathering the intro rite together in one Amen

“The Collect concludes the Introductory Rites. It opens with the words, ‘Let us pray’ followed by a pause, which is intended to allow us to reflect that we are in the presence of God and to reflect on our own needs and petitions. The prayer focuses these attitudes in the light of the character of the feast or the season. The Collect concludes with a Trinitarian formula, usually addressed to the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Thus the introductory rites end as they began by the invocation of the Holy Trinity”.

In 2005, Bishop Murray wrote that “The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form a single act of worship. The (Liturgy of the Word) proclaims God’s covenant with his people and its fulfillment in Christ; the (Liturgy of the Eucharist) makes present the renewal of God’s covenant in the death and Resurrection of Christ.” What does that mean? Why do we listen to scripture each time we celebrate Eucharist?

Scripture is our story, the story of Gods relationship with us, the People of God. In scripture we read of men and women like ourselves who have laughed and cried, lived and died, doubted and trusted God, in the face of ordinary and extraordinary times. Just like us.

However, the Word of God is not a history lesson, or a story book. We have come to see that in Holy Scripture, God speaks to us in a way unlike any other.

The story is told of the driver of a mobile library in a dusty country area in South Africa. Each week the driver travelled hundreds of miles to small villages and towns so that people could access books. Children and adults queued each week, to return one book and find another. In one small village, the driver noticed that one old lady was a little different from the rest. She queued with them, she handed over her book, but then she asked not for a new book but for the same book to be renewed again – every week, the same book. The driver noticed that the book was the Bible and so he asked her about it. ‘Maam’, he said, ‘I know this is a holy book, but surely you’d like to read something else - why not leave it here this week and read something different?’ The lady smiled, ‘Yes’ she said ‘there are other books here to read. But this is the only book that can read me’.

In scripture we hear it said that: “The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”. (Heb 4) Scripture is not something we read, it is Gods Word speaking to us, inspiring us, teaching us, challenging us, leading us. If we are people who want to live our lives according to Jesus teaching - how could we not listen to the Word of God!

The Liturgy of the Word at Mass is a conversation – a dialogue – with the Word of God.

First we listen to Gods Word. Then we listen as our priest breaks open that Word and helps us to connect it with our lives. Then we stand and proclaim what we believe. Finally we bring the prayers of the faithful to God, who we are confident will hear our prayers.

All of this takes place, not around the altar, but around the ambo. This is the table of the Word, the place we bring the Word of God to be read and pondered on. It is not a place to read notices from, no more than the altar is.

All our readings in the Liturgy of the Word are to be taken from scripture. For we are not looking for simply inspiration or beauty when we gather at Mass. We want to hear Gods Word, to know Gods guidance. And that is to be found in Holy Scripture. Anything else, however beautiful, is a distraction from God. The church teaches us that “Proclaiming the readings is not a function of the presiding priest.” So you can see that the Minister of the Word has a vital role in this time.

“Yours is a share in the work of the Lord’s Spirit who opens our hearts to God’s holy Word. Yours is the task of telling our family story, the story of our Salvation. Yours is to proclaim the true and saving word of God. You are the messenger of God’s love for us. ... Come to your work from your personal prayer, praying that the Spirit will open your heart to what you proclaim. ... Anyone can read the scriptures in public; only the believer can proclaim them ... Approach the ambo, the table of the Lord’s word, as you would the Lord himself; with reverence and awe. Handle the book of the Lord’s presence with great care; it is a tabernacle of the Lord’s presence.... Rejoice in the work that the Lord has accomplished through you. Be faithful to the work you do, for through it, the Lord saves his people."
From ‘Preparing for Liturgy’ by Austin Fleming.

Next week we will continue with our discussion about the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Concluding Rites. If you have any questions about things raised in this weeks show or about the Mass or were curious about something, drop us a line and we will endevour to find and answer and discuss it on air. Just a note to our blog readers, it wont be a discussion about the new translation of the Missal which we are planning to cover on the show later in the year as we come closer to the implementation date in November.
Resources mentioned or used during the show:
Other resources:

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