Praying the Mass at the Basilica Shrine

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 4:58 PM

What great news!  The book store at the National Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, placed an order for 50 copies of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People.  Look for it to be on the shelves in a couple of weeks!

Support a Catholic Speaker!

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:58 AM

This is from Matthew Warner's blog, Fallible Blogma:

I thought it would be really cool if we could do a joint promotion effort of a lot of the great Catholic speakers out there and the many Catholic blogs.  Introducing…Support a Catholic Speaker Month.

The goal is to create a rising Catholic tide on the internet that lifts all boats (websites, speakers, and all those who participate).  This giant, sudden influx of catholic material and interlinking between Catholic websites should get some attention and raise awareness about all of these great Catholic speakers while also promoting the many wonderful Catholic blogs out there that perhaps you haven’t heard of yet either.

The primary goal of our Favorite Catholic Speakers Poll of 2009 was not to find out who is better than somebody else.  It was to raise awareness about the many Catholic Speakers out there and to support them.  They are all sharing the same, one Truth.  And as talented and effective as the top favorites are at doing what they do, we need many more like them if we’re going to reach everyone.

That’s precisely the motivation for Support a Catholic Speaker Month.

How it works:
  1. If you have a blog or website, just request a speaker from the list below by emailing me here: speaker [@] fallibleblogma [DOT] com.  Please include your requested speaker and your blog/website (you don’t have to have a fancy, popular blog – just a desire to help the Catholic community).
  2. Next, simply write a short (at least a few paragraphs) post about your speaker. Link back to this page on and link to the speaker’s own website. Let me know when it’s up and I will link to your post from this post so people can find it on your blog and read it!
  3. The tidal wave of Catholic links and posts then flood the web raising awareness and promoting hundreds of Catholic speakers and blogs in the month of October.
To see the list of speakers, go to Matthew's post.

Reader Feedback

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 8:19 PM

I am very eager to know what readers of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People think about the book, so this post is an open forum for all readers to provide public feedback, whether it be questions, comments, corrections, suggestions, etc.

Also, I would love for readers to write reviews for the book, posted on your own blog (which will be linked to from and on!

Help these two good causes!

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 1:20 PM

These are the two charities that I contribute to out of my profits on Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People.

10% goes to my local Catholic radio station, WFJS 1260 AM, Domestic Church Radio.

Another 10% goes to the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, which assists men and women entering religious orders by helping them pay off their college debts.

In addition to supporting them by buying a book, please consider making supplemental contributions to them.  (Or, if you have local Catholic radio, support them!)

Welcome, Chanters!

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 8:48 AM

I spent Friday and Saturday in Washington, DC, at the National Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  The Church Music Association of America (CMAA) was co-sponsoring a Gregorian chant pilgrimage.  Here is my Facebook photo album of the event.

The weekend ended with Mass (in the Extraordinary Form) celebrated in the Crypt Chapel.  In addition to a schola which sang the propers, all of us sang the ordinary of the Mass (the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei) in Gregorian chant.  The organizers of the event allowed me to put one of my Praying the Mass "business cards" in each of the chant-materials bags, and I got a chance to speak with several other attendees about the book.

So, if you're from the Gregorian Chant pilgrimage, welcome to Praying the Mass.  I have a special discount code (15% off) for you, so if you email me (and can verify your presence at said pilgrimage...) I'll give you the discount code.

What sets Praying the Mass apart?

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 3:50 PM

What makes Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People different from other guides to the Mass already in existence?  There are a number of features in the presentation and content in Praying the Mass that clearly set it apart from books like it.  I will update this list as additional features come to mind.

  • It provides the new English translation of the texts of the Mass.  Praying the Mass is, to my knowledge, the first catechetical guide using the new translation.  Others will follow, for certain, but I hope the quality and content of my book sets a high bar for future publications.
  • It highlights the changed texts.  In the left margin of the text, changes to the current translation are marked with a clear visual cue (»).
  • It provides the Latin text along with the English text.  Faithful to the Church's call for the preservation of Latin in the Latin (Roman) Rite, the book includes the normative Latin text (with accents marks for assistance in pronunciation) above the English translation.  This is also helpful because it shows how accurately the new translation renders the Latin.
  • It provides an abundance of Scripture annotations.  Virtually every prayer of the Mass is supplemented with interlinear Scripture annotations, more than are found in the USCCB's study copy of the Ordinary of the Mass and every other resource I have come across.  A lot of the annotations are the work of my personal Scriptural research.
  • A catechesis on the Nicene Creed.  Every catechism I've read deals with the Apostles' Creed.  In my research for Praying the Mass, I sought out explanations for some of the phrases found in the Nicene Creed that are "overlooked" in catechisms, such as "Light from Light."

Quotes on Liturgical Catechesis

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 4:56 PM

One of these quotes randomly appears in the blue box at the top of the web site.

  • "With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful..." ~ Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 19
  • "Open your hearts, children of the Catholic Church, and come and pray the prayer of your Mother." ~ Prosper Gueranger
  • "Liturgical piety ... seeks to reform ... the spiritual dispositions and practices of the Catholic faithful." ~ Alcuin Reid, O.S.B., The Organic Development of the Liturgy, p. 67
  • "The most urgent task is that of the biblical and liturgical formation of the people of God..." ~ Pope John Paul II, Vicesimus Quintus Annus 15
  • "It is more necessary than ever to intensify liturgical life ... by means of an appropriate formation ... of all the faithful..." ~ Pope John Paul II, Spiritus et Sponsa 7
  • "Pastors should be committed to that mystagogical catechesis ... by which the faithful ... understand ... the liturgy..." ~ Pope John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine 17
  • "Mystagogical catechesis should [make] the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures..." ~ Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis 64b
  • "Mystagogical catechesis must [bring] out the significance of the rites for the Christian life in all its dimensions..." ~ Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis 64c
  • "Part of the mystagogical process is to demonstrate how the mysteries are linked to the mission [of the Church]." ~ Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis 64c

Review by Fr. Tim Finigan

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 4:41 PM

Fr. Tim Finigan
Pastor, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, Blackfen

Praying the Mass. The Prayers of the People, by Jeffrey Pinyan, is a guide to the new English translation of the Mass. ... Jeff has very kindly mentioned Fr. Zuhlsdorf and myself in the acknowledgments and I have followed the progress of the book for some time in its preparation.

The book goes through all the texts that are spoken by the people during the newer form of the Mass. (A second book is planned on the prayers of the priest.) The texts are given in Latin and in the new ICEL version with a catechetical commentary that is deeply versed in the sacred scriptures. The introductory chapter includes a refreshingly sound and balanced understanding of participation in the Sacred Liturgy and the whole book could justifiably be regarded as a significant contribution to the genuine renewal of the Liturgy promoted by Pope Benedict.

Praying the Mass is a valuable guide for Catholics who want to understand more of the texts of the Mass that they say every week, and a helpful resource for entering into the texts of the Sacred Liturgy actively and prayerfully. There is much talk of the need for catechesis and preparation for the new ICEL texts. As a resource for lay people, this book deserves a place on the book list for courses, training sessions and websites devoted to such preparation.

(This is an edited version of a review posted on Fr. Finigan's blog on September 23, 2009.)

Now in print!

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 6:24 PM

Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People IS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE as of Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 You can purchase a copy through the link above and on the left. The price is $12.00. A percentage of the proceeds will be going to certain Catholic charities which I support (and think you should, too!).

Excerpt: Dalmatic

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:36 AM


The deacon does not wear a chasuble, but instead the dalmatic.  It is a short-sleeved tunic which came to Rome from Dalmatia (thus its name).  The prayer for the vesting of the dalmatic is:
Indue me, Dómine, induménto salútis et vestiménto lætítiæ;
et dalmática justítiæ circúmda me semper.

Endow me, Lord, with the garment of salvation, the vestment of joy,         
and with the dalmatic of justice ever encompass me.                                  
The dalmatic symbolizes the joy and happiness that are the fruits of dedication and service to the Lord.
The shortness of the sleeves is a reminder of the “practical” purpose of the deacon (cf. Acts 6:1-4), that they should be unencumbered in their ministry to the people.  The shape of the dalmatic is a closer match to the tunic which Christ wore at His crucifixion, so it represents the deacon’s participation in the suffering of Christ, as well as in the service of Christ.

Excerpt: Chasuble

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:36 AM


For the priest, the next vestment is the chasuble (from the Latin casula, meaning “little house”), a large garment that covers the others, with a hole in the center for the priest’s head.  As he puts on the chasuble, the priest prays:
Dómine, qui dixísti:  Iugum meam suáve est et onus meum leve:
fac, ut istud portáre sic váleam, quod cónsequar tuam grátiam.  Amen.

O Lord, who said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”:       Matt 11:30
grant that I might bear it well,                                                                  
so as to receive your grace.  Amen.                               Rom. 5:2; Heb. 12:15
The chasuble, more than the stole, is the symbol of the “yoke” of Christ.  A yoke is a beam that attaches two animals (often oxen) together to allow them to pull a load, such as a plow.
God liberated Israel from the yoke of slavery they endured in Egypt.  The Exodus of the Israelites foreshadowed the Exodus (cf. Luke 9:30-31) on which Christ leads us by His crucifixion:  “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1)  Christ frees us from the yoke of sin and offers us His own in return:  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29-30)  A yoke is never carried alone:  we are either yoked to Satan by sin, or we are yoked to Christ.  The yoke of Christ is above all a duty to love one another.  The chasuble represents His yoke:  the virtue of charity, that is, love of God for His sake and love of others for God’s sake.  The priest cannot love God nor his fellow man on his own; he cannot bear the yoke of charity alone, but needs Christ alongside him to help him.
In addition to writing about the “armor of God” in military terms in his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul told the Colossians to wear the virtues as clothing.  First he tells them to strip themselves naked of vices:  “put them all away:  anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth.” (Col. 3:8)  Then he tells them how to dress themselves:  “put on the new nature.” (Col. 3:10)  This new nature is “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience.” (Col. 3:12)  He also tells them to let their hearts be ruled by “the peace of Christ” (Col. 3:15) and to let “the word of Christ” (Col. 3:16) dwell in them.  Over all these things, Paul tells them to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)
This divine love is represented by the chasuble.  The chasuble is worn over the stole, signifying that authority must be “covered” by love; that is, authority must be carried out with love, for, as St. Paul taught, if we have not love, we are nothing. (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2)  It is worn over the other vestments because “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10), because love exceeds all other virtues and brings them to perfection.
The chasuble is evocative of the seamless tunic worn by Jesus at His crucifixion. (cf. John 19:23-24)  In the Catena Aurea (“the golden chain”) of St. Thomas Aquinas, a compilation of Scripture commentary, Church Fathers and other commentators on Scripture saw the tunic, which the soldiers could not tear apart, as a symbol of the Body of Christ and the Church.  To St. John Chrysostom, the tunic which was “woven from top to bottom” is an allegory for Christ’s divinity (“woven from top,” that is, Heaven) and humanity (“to bottom,” that is, earth, in His Incarnation), which are united in one Divine Person.  To St. Augustine, the tunic is the unbreakable unity of the Church over the whole world; it is also the bond of charity which retains that unity, as God is love, and the tunic is woven from above.  Theophylactus interpreted the tunic as Christ’s body, which was “woven from above” when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary and she conceived the Son of God.  He went one step further, alluding to the Eucharist, saying that this body is indivisible though it is distributed for us to receive in Communion, and each fragment of the Precious Body is the whole substance of Christ.
The chasuble also signifies the purple cloak He was dressed with in derision. (cf. John 19:2)  Purple is a color of royalty, and purple cloak was a mock-symbol of royalty (as was the crown of thorns), and the chasuble, usually the most elegant and decorated of all the vestments, shows forth the royalty and kingship of Christ.  Purple is also a color of penance (as we see during Lent) and so it speaks of the sadness and sacrifice of the Passion.  These two concepts, kingship and sacrifice, are united in the chasuble:  Christ’s kingship is, among other things, one of service in love, and the crucifixion shows us the lengths to which that love drives Christ to serve.

Excerpt: Stole

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:35 AM


Next comes the stole (from the Latin stola, meaning “garment”), a long and narrow vestment like a scarf, worn around the neck.  This vestment comes from the one worn by Roman magistrates when exercising their official duties (as a judge wears black robes on the bench).  The stole usually has a small cross sewn into it at the middle, which is kissed in an act of reverence before it is put on.  The prayer for the stole is:
Redde mihi, Dómine, stolam immortalitátis, quam pérdidi in prævaricatióne primi paréntis et, quamvis indígnus accédo ad tuum sacrum mystérium, mérear tamen gáudium sempitérnum.

Restore to me, Lord, the stole of immortality,              Rom. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:53
which I lost through the transgression of our first parents,          Wis. 2:23-24
and, unworthy as I am to approach your sacred mysteries,           Luke 17:10
may I yet attain to eternal joy.                                            Sir. 2:9; Isa. 61:7
In mentioning the “stole of immortality,” the prayer refers to one of the “preternatural gifts” with which our first parents were endowed.  When God created Adam and Eve, He made them incapable of suffering death, but this gift was lost when they transgressed the command which God gave them to test their obedience. (cf. Gen. 3:3, 22)  This immortality is restored to us in the resurrection (cf. Luke 20:36; Rev. 21:4) in which we will attain to “eternal joy.”  Because it is a sign of immortality, it reminds the priest of the immortal and eternal God, the One who instituted the “new and eternal covenant” which he celebrates at the altar.
The stole is worn by ordained ministers during administration of the sacraments as a symbol of the authority of their clerical office, as well as of the obedience and faithfulness with which they should carry out their duties.  It is not just a sign of his clerical authority, but a reminder that he is subject to God’s authority and His divine law in the fulfillment of his duties.
The stole, like the cincture, is evocative of the cords that bound Christ during His trials, so it is also a symbol of the burdens that come with ordained ministry.  It may be associated with the “yoke of Christ,” as it hangs over the shoulders of the priest, but that association is more explicit with the vestment which goes over it, the chasuble.

Excerpt: Cincture

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:58 PM


The priest fastens the alb around his waist with a cincture (from the Latin cingere, meaning “to gird”), although this is optional if the alb is made to fit close to the body.  The cincture is a rope serving as a belt or a girdle, like the “golden girdle” which St. John saw Christ wearing around his breast. (Rev. 1:13)  As the priest ties the cincture, he prays:
Præcínge me, Dómine, cíngulo puritátis, et exstíngue in lumbis meis humórem libídinis; ut máneat in me virtus continéntiæ et castitátis.

Gird me, Lord, with the cincture of purity,                                   Eph. 6:14
and extinguish in my loins all fleshly desires,       Gal. 5:16; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:11
that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide within me.        1 Th. 4:3
As the prayer indicates, the cincture is a symbol of the virtues of chastity (sexual purity) and continence (abstinence from sexual activity).  In an age where prime-time television is filled with sexually suggestive images and immodesty in dress pervades our schools, workplaces, and even churches, these virtues are especially important to Latin Rite priests who, ordinarily, are unmarried men.[1]  In this way, the cincture is an emblem of the need for bodily mortification.
Mortification is a form of Christian asceticism, the practice of self-discipline and penance to overcome sinful tendencies and grow in virtue.[2]  The word comes from the Latin mortificatio, which means “a killing; a putting to death.”  St. Paul wrote of the practice to the Romans:  “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13) and “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom. 13:14)  To the Corinthians, he wrote:  “I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:27)  And to the Colossians, the same:  “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” (Col. 3:5)
It was a primary theme in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in which he repeatedly contrasted living in the flesh apart from Christ with living in the flesh subjected to and renewed in Christ:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God… (Gal. 2:20)
Are you so foolish?  Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (Gal. 3:3)
[W]alk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. (Gal. 5:16-17)
Paul reaches the summit of this teaching by professing plainly that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24)  This crucifixion of the flesh, putting the flesh to death so that it may be brought to new life in Christ, is an identification of each Christian with Jesus in crucifixion; it takes on a deeper meaning for priests who are conformed in a special way to Christ by ordination.
Although the word may have fallen out of fashion in recent decades, it was mentioned in the Vatican II decree on priestly ministry and life:  “priests consecrated by the anointing of the Holy Spirit and sent by Christ must mortify the works of the flesh in themselves and give themselves entirely to the service of men.” (PO 12)  Pope Paul VI, writing in 1966 on penance, explained and promoted mortification to the whole Church:
True penitence, however, cannot ever prescind from physical ascetism as well.  Our whole being, in fact, body and soul … must participate actively in this religious act whereby the creature recognizes divine holiness and majesty.  The necessity of the mortification of the flesh also stands clearly revealed if we consider the fragility of our nature, in which, since Adam’s sin, flesh and spirit have contrasting desires.  This exercise of bodily mortification – far removed from any form of stoicism – does not imply a condemnation of the flesh which sons of God deign to assume.  On the contrary mortification aims at the “liberation” of man, who often finds himself, because of concupiscence, almost chained by his own senses. (Paenitemini, II)
The communion fast – abstaining from food or drink (save water and medicine) for an hour before receiving Holy Communion – is a form of mortification that teaches us to order our physical hunger to our spiritual hunger for God’s sustenance in the Eucharist.
The expression “gird your loins” is a Biblical phrase which means “make yourself ready.”  This was done by tucking the garment, usually a robe or tunic, into the girdle (belt) so that it would not impede physical movement.  God used the phrase when instructing Israel on how they should eat the Passover meal (cf. Ex. 12:11) and when commissioning prophets. (cf. Jer. 1:17)  Jesus used it when He admonished His disciples to remain ready and vigilant, saying “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35).  The phrase has a military connotation as well, because the girdle was also the belt which held the sheath for a soldier’s sword. (cf. 2 Sam. 20:8; Nah. 2:1)  It is primarily in this context that St. Paul uses the phrase, speaking about the “armor of God” and the spiritual warfare which the Christian wages against the powers of evil:  “Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth.” (Eph. 6:14) 
The cincture calls to mind the cords with which Christ was bound at His arrest and scourging. (cf. Matt. 27:2; John 18:12)  The priest, because of the sacramental character he received at his ordination, acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”) when he administers the sacraments of the Church; he is thus “bound” to Christ, and can expect persecution and ridicule rivaling that received by his Master. (cf. John 15:20)

[1] While the Latin Church, as a rule, only ordains unmarried men as priests, the Eastern Churches have retained the discipline of ordaining married men as priests, although neither the East nor the West permits priests to marry after they have been ordained.  There have been a small number of married priests in the Latin Rite in recent history, owing to the 1980 “pastoral provision” of Pope John Paul II which can permit a married minister of some other Christian community (e.g. the Anglican or Lutheran communions) to be ordained a priest after converting to the Catholic faith.  Even a married priest is required to exercise chasity in relations with his wife.
[2] St. Paul cautions that mortification could be taken to the unwise extreme of “self-abasement and severity to the body” without a spiritual goal of “checking the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col. 2:23)

Excerpt: Alb

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 8:13 AM


Next, the priest puts on the alb (from the Latin alba, meaning “white”), a long white garment which covers the whole body, from the neck to the ankles.  The origin of the alb as a liturgical vestment is an ancient Roman garment worn under a tunic or cloak.  The priest prays:
Deálba me, Dómine, et munda cor meum;
ut, in Sánguine Agni dealbátus, gáudiis pérfruar sempitérnis.

Purify me, Lord, and cleanse my heart so that,                              Ps. 51:7-9
washed in the Blood of the Lamb, I may enjoy eternal bliss.            Rev. 7:14
The alb, being white, symbolizes the purity and innocence of baptism, and the proper disposition of the soul for Mass.  The bright whiteness of the alb ought to represent the interior purity of the soul.
The color white is evocative of the divine glory of Christ:  at the Transfiguration, He appeared in garments described by the Evangelists as “dazzling white” (Luke 9:29), “glistening, intensely white” (Mark 9:3), and “white as light.” (Matt. 17:2)  Mocking Christ’s innocence, Herod dressed Christ in a “white garment” (Luke 23:11, DR[1]) when he sent Him back to Pilate.  The newly baptized are dressed in white (often an alb for adults) to signify that in Baptism they have “put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27; cf. Rom. 13:14; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10)
The prayer speaks of being “washed in the Blood of the Lamb,” a direct reference to the book of Revelation.  The Lord promises to the worthy that “they shall walk with me in white. … He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments.” (Rev. 3:4-5)  St. John describes “white garments” (Rev. 3:18; 4:4) and “white robes” (Rev. 6:11), as well as saints dressed in “fine linen” which are their “righteous deeds” (Rev. 19:8, 14):
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches[2] in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” … Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?”  I said to him, “Sir, you know.”  And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9-14)
While other blood stains garments red, the precious blood of the Lamb cleanses and purifies them, making them white.

[1] This is the Douay-Rheims translation; the Latin Vulgate reads veste alba.
[2] The palm branch is usually used in iconography to identify the depicted saint as a martyr.

Excerpt: Amice

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 3:10 PM


After having washed his hands, the priest can put on the amice.  The amice (from the Latin amicire, meaning “to cover”) is a square of white linen wrapped around the shoulders close to the neck and tied in place; in the Middle Ages it was worn as a hood, especially by monks.  As he puts on the amice, the priest prays:
Impóne, Dómine, cápiti meo gáleam salútis,
ad expugnándos diabólicos incúrsus.

Place, O Lord, the helmet of salvation upon my head,    Isa. 59:17; Eph. 6:17
that I may overcome the assaults of the devil.                                Eph. 6:11
The amice is a symbol of the “helmet of salvation,” which is the virtue of hope. (cf. 1 Th. 5:8)  Having hope cover his head means that the priest should have his mind occupied with the things of Heaven and the care of souls, free from the fleeting worldy cares which can so easily distract him.  His thoughts should be fortified against needless worry by confidence in God and hope in His promises.  It should be no wonder that priests, who work for the salvation of souls, would be subject to “the assults of the devil,” who – during the celebration of Mass more than ever – would want to deprive him of peace in his soul, heart, and mind.
The amice also represents Christ’s humanity, humility, and death.  As it was once worn as a hood (thus going over the head), it is a sign of His humanity which He took up, veiling His divine glory.  It is a sign of His humility during the Passion, when He endured being blindfolded and struck. (cf. Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64)  Furthermore, after Christ died on the cross, He was wrapped not only in a bodily shroud (cf. Matt. 27:59) but also with a cloth around His head. (cf. John 20:6-7)  The amice, then, evocative of the death of Christ, calls the priest to die to himself and live for Christ (cf. Gal. 2:20), the supreme exercise of humility.
The virtue of humility, following the example given by Christ, is indispensible for the priest; this was reaffirmed in the Vatican II Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis (PO):  “Among the virtues that priests must possess … none is so important as a frame of mind and soul whereby they are always ready to know and do the will of him who sent them and not their own will.” (PO 15)  Humility disposes the priest’s will to recognize his dependence on God, revealing his own boundaries and limitations.  Humility also calls the priest to understand his true relationship to his neighbor; he must be willing to serve all, from the richest to the poorest, remembering that ministry “to one of the least of these” (Matt. 25:40) is ministry to Christ.  Humility is closely bound to charity, by which we love God above all else for His own sake, and we love others for God’s sake.
As five men were being ordained to the priesthood, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City alluded to the need for humility as he said that we must praise God “that their ordination is God’s doing, not ours; that this is a pure gift from God, not an earned trophy; that His call trumps our curriculum vitae.”  In ordination, priests receive extraordinary powers, and they tend to attract more respect (or at least more attention) than the average person.  Without the virtue of humility, a priest would forget Who made him who he is:  indeed, no priest is a self-made man!  It is by “this humility and by willing responsible obedience [that] priests conform themselves to Christ” (PO 15), whose ministry they carry out.

Excerpt: Washing the Hands

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 4:19 PM

Washing the Hands

Before anything else, the priest[1] washes his hands, not in imitation of Pilate (cf. Matt. 27:24), but of the Levitcal priesthood (cf. Ex. 30:19):
Da, Dómine, virtútem mánibus meis ad abstergéndum omnem máculam; ut sine pollutióne mentis et córporis váleam tibi servíre.

Give, Lord, virtue to my hands,                                                    Ps. 29:11
to be cleansed from all stain,                                       2 Sam. 22:21; Jas. 4:8
that I might serve you with purity of mind and body.                  1 Tim. 4:12
With these words, the priest does not ask for his hands to have the power to cleanse from sin, but rather he asks God to cleanse his hands from the stain of sin, so that he may celebrate the Mass with pure intentions.  This first prayer, said before the priest has put on any vestment, orients his mind and heart toward virtue and purity.

[1] These prayers, up to and including the prayer for the stole, are said by both priests and deacons.

Excerpt: Vesting Prayers

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:44 PM

Vesting Prayers

Over time, the sacred vestments accrued various interpretations.  An eighth century Greek document provides a symbolism for all the priestly vestments.  In the West, similar works of interpretation were written in the ninth century in Gaul (modern France).  The first type of symbolism was moral:  the vestments symbolized the virtues to which their wearers aspired (e.g. humility, chastity, charity).  The second type, which was not very widespread, interpreted the vestments allegorically:  they were the armor of the priest, a warrior of God, waging a spiritual battle at the altar.
By the twelfth century, the vestments acquired a third, dogmatic type of symbolism:  the priest is Christ’s representative, and his vestments refer to certain dogmas pertaining to Christ (e.g. the Incarnation, His two natures, His virtues, etc.).  The dogmatic symbolism lacked references to His Passion and death, which first appeared in the thirteenth century in a fourth type of symbolism, which could be called “representative.”  This type of symbolism became very popular because it was the easiest to express and to understand:  each vestment represents something Christ wore during His Passion and death, from shroud placed over His head (the amice) to the cords used to bind Him (e.g. the cincture).  The priest is thus visually configured to Christ, Whose ministry he is carrying out.
Along with these interpretations, prayers were developed for the priest to say as he put on each vestment.  The vesting prayers in the Roman Rite evoke the Scriptural imagery of being dressed with the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11)[1] to varying degrees.  The sacred vestments are meant to remind the priest (and the congregation) of the sufferings which Christ endured, because they are analogous to the garments He wore during His Passion; they also mystically signify the virtues which enable the priest to fulfill his ministry in faithfulness to God.  The four types of symbolism – moral, allegorical, dogmatic, and representative – can be woven together to create a rich tapestry which can produce great spiritual fruit for the priest or layman who contemplates it.
While the modern Roman Missal contains prayers of preparation and thanksgiving for the priest, it does not currently contain these vesting prayers.  I think the whole Church (and especially her ordained ministers) would benefit from the use of these prayers, and if their inclusion in this book contributes to a resurgence of their use, then thanks be to God!

[1] Four passages referring to spiritual armor are Wisdom 5:17-20; Isaiah 59:17; Ephesians 6:10-17; and 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

Excerpt: Lamb of God

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 2:29 PM

“Lamb of God”

After the Sign of Peace, the priest or choir intones the Lamb of God, the Agnus Dei:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi:  miserére nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi:  miserére nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi:  dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God,                                                               Gen. 22:8; Ex. 12
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.                 Lev. 16:21
Lamb of God,                                                                             Rev. 5:6
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.                   John 1:29
Lamb of God,                                                          1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:19
you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.            John 14:27; 20:26
While this ancient chant is being sung, the priest is performing the Fraction Rite, breaking the primary Host into fragments.  This represents the breaking of Christ’s body (though not His bones, cf. John 19:32-36) on the cross, and it calls to mind the breaking of the bread which Jesus did at the Last Supper and at Emmaus.  The Agnus Dei can go on as long as needed to accompany the Fraction, singing the first verse as many times as necessary (at least twice), but the final verse is always “Lamb of God … grant us peace.”
Every time we say that Jesus “take[s] away the sins of the world,” we should be aware that we are speaking in the present tense, not the past tense.  This is a reminder that Christ’s work of redemption is continual and ongoing:  the Mass is offered for the expiation of our sins.
We should remember that, after the consecration, Jesus Christ is present sacramentally on the altar in the Eucharist.  This prayer, then, is addressed directly to the Blessed Sacrament visible before our very eyes.  Recalling the death He endured for our sins, we humbly beg Him to show us His abundant mercy and to give us the peace which the world cannot give. (cf. John 14:27)  By addressing Christ in the Eucharist this way, we remind ourselves of the price He paid that we might be able to receive Him in Communion; we are also reminded that Jesus takes away the sins of the world, not just our sins. (cf. 1 John 2:2)
The priest quietly says a prayer after the Fraction as he places a small piece of the Host into the Chalice.  Just as the separate consecration of the bread and wine was a sign of the separation of Christ’s body and blood – His true bodily death – this mingling of the Host and the Chalice is a sign of the reunion of His body and blood (or His body and soul) at His Resurrection.

Excerpt: Vestments

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 11:26 PM

The Old Testament describes the liturgical worship of God carried out by Israel, and liturgical worship did not disappear with the inception of the new covenant in Christ’s blood.  In fact, St. John’s apocalyptic vision of the heavenly liturgy describes Jesus dressed in priestly attire standing in the midst of priestly furnishings, a sign of continuity between the Old and New Covenants:  “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast.” (Rev. 1:12-13)  Jesus is also seen wearing a golden crown. (cf. Rev. 14:14)  God is seated on a heavenly throne appearing “like jasper and carnelian” and surrounded by “twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads.” (Rev. 4:3-4)  At the end of the book of Revelation, John sees the new city of Jerusalem descending from Heaven and he identifies twelve particular stones which adorn its walls. (cf. Rev. 21:10, 19-20)
All of these details are related to the worship of God as carried out by Israel before the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.  God commanded Moses to have holy garments made for Aaron (the high priest) and his sons (the other priests): “a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a girdle.” (Ex. 28:4)  On the turban was set a golden crown. (cf. Ex. 29:6)  The Israelites were also to make a golden lampstand (what is called today a menorah) holding seven lamps to be in the tent of worship. (cf. Ex. 25:31-37)  King David arranged Aaron’s descendents, the priests of Israel, into twenty-four divisions. (cf. 1 Chr. 24:1-19)  These priests wore robes of fine white linen.  Twelve precious stones were embedded in the breastplate of Aaron, the high priest; these stones almost exactly match the stones seen by John in his vision. (cf. Ex. 28:17-20)
What does all this mean for new covenant worship?  In the letter to the Hebrews, we read that Israel served God in “a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary” (Heb. 8:5) while Jesus has entered “the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.” (Heb. 8:2)  This comparison is explained further in Hebrews 9.  The new covenant in Christ’s blood has replaced the “copy and shadow” with the sacrament, a tangible reality which makes present what it signifies.  The vision of Jesus in high priestly attire vindicated Israel’s worship, showing that it did point to a true heavenly reality.  While the vestments worn by the priest in Catholic liturgy are not sacraments (that is, they do not confer grace), they are still signs of the heavenly liturgical worship of God which is made present in the Mass.
The liturgical vestments of the Church have developed over time, just as her liturgical rites have developed.  Even in the earliest days of the Church, Christian priestly vestments were not derived from the Jewish religion, but developed from the secular manner of dress in the Greco-Roman world.  The Mosaic cult’s use of liturgical vestments is probably the reason why the Church retained the use of clothing reserved for her worship, but that is where the contribution ends, as far as vestments is concerned.
In the Roman Rite, there are several sacred vestments worn during the Mass as signs of the ministerial office of certain members of the Body of Christ.  The common vestment to all ordained and instituted ministers is the alb worn with a cincture around the waist (unless the alb is made to fit without it).  Beneath the alb, if it does not cover the ordinary clothing at the neckline, an amice should first be put on.  Over the alb is the stole, worn over both shoulders for priests, but only over the left shoulder (bound at the right hip) for deacons.  The vestment proper to a priest celebrant is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole.  The vestment proper to a deacon is the dalmatic, worn over the alb and stole.[1]  Acolytes, Lectors, altar servers, and other lay ministers may wear the alb, but they may not wear a stole, dalmatic, or chasuble, which are proper only to ordained ministers. (cf. GIRM 119)

[1] Although the dalmatic may be omitted out of necessity or on account of a degree of lesser solemnity, it is praiseworthy to refrain from omitting it.