Language in the liturgy

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:58 AM

I just finished reading one of my Christmas gifts, Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy by Mark Galli.  The final chapter, "Words of Living W-A-T-E-R," discusses the use of a particular form of language in the liturgy.  I think these paragraphs are apropos to the conversations, debates, and arguments surrounding the new English translation of the Roman Missal:

In a media age, words come at us from all directions, like arrows from a thousand bows.  Most of these arrows are marketing words, advertising words, words designed to manipulate us, to sell us something. [...] For these reasons, among others, we distrust words, especially words that have been fashioned and shaped for the occasion by Madison or Pennsylvania Avenue.

So it's not surprising that many are put off by the words of the liturgy.  Surely, if we're trying to worship sincerely, praise a God who loves us as a father loves his children, we want to use language is "authentic."  What child uses formal speech to communicate with their "daddy"?  We want nothing to do with pretension, stuffiness, and any rhetoric that prevents us from being real.

In our desire to be real, we start thinking that authenticity is another word for spontaneity, as if everything we say at the spur of the moment is more true, more sincere than words we craft carefully.  For many, the Freudian slip is considered more authentic than the measured reply.

Indeed, sometimes what we blurt out thoughtlessly is actually what we mean and feel.  But more often than not, what we blurt out is ill-considered and something we either need to quality or apologize for.

The liturgy's answer to crafted language that deceives or manipulates is not to abandon crafted language but to shape it so that it reveals reality.  The most carefully crafted language in our culture tends to be poetry.  And poetry at its finest moments subverts our best attempts at hiding from reality. [...] The poetry of liturgy has just this power.  The liturgy contains words that have been shaped and crafted over the centuries.  It is formal speech.  It is public poetry.  As such it reaches into us to reveal not only the unnamed reality of our lives but the God who created us.  "In worship the voice of the Church calls up thoughts and feelings often far beyond us," wrote one liturgical theologian, "yet to which something in us faintly but firmly responds." (pp. 113-114)
I liked this book a great deal.  It's written by an Episcopalian, so it doesn't always portray a view of liturgy (and certain liturgical actions) that coincides with the Catholic view, but it is an excellent book about what the liturgy has that attracts us to it.

I might share a few other quotes from this book.  It will certainly be in the bibliography of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Priest.  (I'll need to read it again with a highlighter and a notepad handy, though!)

2nd Edition in review

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:08 AM

I am currently awaiting the proof copy of the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People.  If all goes well, the second edition will be available for purchase by the end of this week.  There are about a dozen pages of additional content, but the price of the book remains the same:  $12.

The outline below is a brief summary of the changes and new content, and each section has a link to a post on  www.PrayingTheMass.com for the benefit of those who already have the first edition and would rather not purchase the second edition as well.  You can also download a PDF (also free) of all the changes as one document; this PDF includes two whole chapters ("Preparing for Prayer" and "Offertory Prayers").

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 - Preparing for Prayer
    • Re-structured with major sections on "Personal Prayer", "Reading the Bible", "The Eucharistic Fast", "Sacramental Confession", "Silence and Stillness",
    • Section on "Personal Prayer"
      • Quotes from Vatican II documents
      • Emphasis on how to develop a personal habit of prayer
    • Section on "Reading the Bible"
      • Included more online resources for Scripture meditations and reflections
      • Included a reference to Vatican II on the Liturgy of the Hours (i.e. Divine Office)
    • Section on "Silence and Stillness"
      • Included quotes from Scripture on silence and stillness in prayer
    • Questions
      • Added a question about the importance of Scripture in a personal prayer life
  • Chapter 7 - Profession of Faith
  • Chapter 9 - Offertory Prayers
    • Added major section "Offertory Procession", rearranged content
    • Section on "Offertory Procession"
      • Explanation of the rite and its meaning
      • Inclusion of quote from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's Calvary and the Mass
    • Section on "Blessed be God forever."
      • Explanation of bread and wine as sacramentals
    • Section on "May the Lord accept..."
      • Explanation about the physical, spiritual, and substantial likeness of the bread and wine to the sacrifice of Christ
      • Inclusion of a quote from Archbishop Charles Chaput
      • Inclusion of a quote from a sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus on the baptismal priesthood
    • Conclusion
      • Inclusion of another quote the sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus
    • Questions
      • Added question about the heart being an altar
  • Chapter 11 - Communion Rite
    • Section "Lamb of God"
      • Added explanation of the title "Lamb of God"

I also made some general language corrections to the text:
  • I use "old" and "new" throughout to refer to the two English translations, avoiding words like "current" and "future".
  • I use "internal" and "external" when referring to participation, instead of mixing interior/internal and exterior/external.

Lamb of God

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:07 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 11, "Communion Rite".


We first called Christ the “Lamb of God” in the Gloria.  This title is deeply significant and ancient in its origin, reaching back to Abraham, the first of the Patriarchs of Israel.  God tested Abraham, asking him to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice.  Isaac, bearing the wood for the sacrifice on his back as he and Abraham walked up the mountain, asked his father where the lamb to be offered was; Abraham replied “God will provide himself the lamb.” (Gen. 22:8)  What Abraham found was no lamb, but a ram with its horns caught in a thicket.[1]  From that time on, God’s people sought the “lamb of God.”
To commemorate His liberating the Hebrews from Egypt, God instituted the feast of Passover at which every family was to take a pure, unblemished lamb and kill it, marking their doorposts with its blood and roasting and eating its flesh. (cf. Ex. 12)  In time, Jerusalem maintained a sacrificial flock of Temple lambs so that families on pilgrimage for the Passover could be sure to have a pure and unblemished lamb (rather than bringing one with them on the journey).  Still, these lambs were not God’s lamb, but each family’s lambs.[2]
It was not until St. John the Baptist cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29, 36) that the fulfillment of this ancient promise was made known.  This title, which might sound peculiar and obscure to our modern ears, would have rung loud and clear in the ears of the Jews to whom St. John spoke.  And he was not the only one to make such a clear connection between Christ and the Passover lamb.  St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, announced that “Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor. 5:7)[3]  St. Peter wrote that we have been ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet. 1:19)  And St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, in his book of Revelation, refers to Jesus as “the Lamb” nearly thirty times, most notably describing His appearance as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” (Rev. 5:6)
It is this Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, Who “takes away the sin of the world” by His self-sacrifice. (John 1:29)  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 did not conclude with His death, but is continual and ongoing:  the Mass is offered for the expiation of our sins.


[1] This scene is rich in Christological symbolism:  Christ, like Isaac, bore the wood for His own sacrifice on His back, and He wore a crown of thorns, prefigured by the ram whose horns were caught in a thorn-bush.
[2] The ritual of the Passover also points to Christ:  He, like the lamb, is pure and without blemish, and His bones were not broken when He was sacrificed.
[3] “Paschal” (as in “Paschal mystery”) comes from the Greek word pascha, which comes from the Hebrew word pesach, which means “Passover.”

New Question from Chapter 9

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:05 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 9, "Offertory Prayers".


5)      Relate:  If your heart is your spiritual altar, as described by St. Peter Chrysologus in his sermon, consider the significance of the words of the priest in the Preface which follows the Offertory:  “Lift up your hearts.”  What are you placing on the altar of your heart, and what does it mean to bring that altar and its offering into the presence of the Lord?

Conclusion to Chapter 9

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:04 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 9, "Offertory Prayers".

St. Peter Chrysologus ended his sermon with a challenge to live as self-sacrificing priests.  First, he spoke of the preparation necessary:
Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest.  Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.  Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity.  Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection.  Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.  Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.
Once you are prepared, spiritually clothed in priestly attire and standing at the altar of your heart, ready to serve the Lord, then:
with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.
This is the spiritual attitude we must strive to adopt in our daily lives, but especially during the Mass.

May the Lord accept...

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:02 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 9, "Offertory Prayers".


The bread and wine are changed into the Real Presence of Jesus Christ at the consecration of the Eucharistic Prayer, but this presence is hidden under what the Church calls a “sacramental veil,” the remaining appearance of bread and wine.  When we see Christ in Heaven, there will be no veil.  In much the same way, we pray that we may be changed to be more like Christ (“configured” to Christ, in the language of the Church) by receiving Holy Communion.  This configuration to Christ is imperfect while we are on earth, but it will be perfected when our resurrected and glorified bodies enter Heaven.
Just as the bread and wine will be transubstantiated into Christ, what they represent – ourselves, the Church, the Body of Christ – is, in a sense, transubstantiated as well.  By identifying ourselves with the bread and wine, as Archbishop Sheen wrote, we are anticipating the change which will occur in us at the end of time while conforming our lives to the change taking place now.
Because of what the bread and wine will become (once consecrated), the union of our spiritual sacrifices to the bread and wine during the Offertory is a sign of our participation in Christ and His sacrifice.  The bread and wine already have a physical likeness to Christ’s sacrifice, because they are the same elements He used, and the same elements that were offered centuries before Him by Melchizedek. (cf. Gen. 14:18)  When we join our spiritual sacrifices to them in the Offertory, each of us gives them a spiritual likeness to Christ’s sacrifice.  Finally, in the Eucharistic Prayer, this likeness is perfected as they receive a substantial likeness to Christ’s sacrifice.
The bread and wine (and afterwards, the Eucharist) and ourselves are united as one at the hands of the priest:  he offers them physically as we offer them spiritually.  The bread and wine which the priest holds during the words of consecration represent us, since they represent the fruits of our labor.  Then, as the priest offers the Eucharist to God, we join our very lives – all of our worries, cares, sufferings, and prayers – to Christ in the Eucharist.  It is only by joining ourselves to Christ, the perfect sacrifice, that the contribution of our living, spiritual sacrifice can be truly acceptable to the Father. (cf. Rom. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:5)[1]
Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Denver, wrote about the Offertory prayers in a weekly column in December 2002:  “This part of the Mass is another invitation for us to offer our lives in a sacrifice of praise to God.  Here the common priesthood actively engages in the sacrifice taking place.”  This common or baptismal priesthood is part of our identity in Christ.  In a sermon from the 5th century, St. Peter Chrysologus, the Bishop of Ravenna (in northern Italy) spoke to his flock about St. Paul’s words in Romans 12:1.
Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do:  “I appeal to you,” he says, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”  By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.
How marvelous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering.  He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God:  with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself.
In a Christian’s self-offering to God, he is following the pattern of Christ Who is both priest and victim.


[1] See the Appendix for excerpts from several Church documents (including Mediator Dei of Pope Pius XII) which provide a liturgical spirituality through which we learn to join ourselves to Christ.

Blessed be God forever

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:00 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 9, "Offertory Prayers".


The bread and wine are blessed by these prayers; they are set aside for the Eucharistic Prayer, when they will become the Body and Blood of Christ.  But in that brief time between the Offertory and Consecration, the bread and wine are sacramentals because of the prayer of the priest over them.  A sacramental, such as the bread or wine to be used in the Eucharistic Prayer, or a paten or chalice, is dedicated for a particular use when blessed.  This is not the same as the change that takes place in a sacrament (such as the Eucharist), where bread and wine change ontologically (that is, in their substance).  A sacrament involves a change of being, whereas a sacramental involves a change of purpose.
By uniting our spiritual sacrifices to the bread and wine in the Offertory, we “appropriate” those sacramentals, much in the same way we “appropriate” holy water (another sacramental) by being blessed with it, or we “appropriate” a blessing over a meal by praying it.  We join our spiritual sacrifices to the bread and wine (which represent, physically, those very sacrifices), imbuing them with a greater spiritual significance for each of us and for the Church as a whole.

Offertory Procession

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:59 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 9, "Offertory Prayers".


Offertory Procession

An external act which represents an internal reality is empty unless that internal reality is truly present.  Imagine a man giving his wife a bouquet of roses, a gesture generally recognized as a display of love, without actually caring about her at all.  The roses are real, the wife’s reaction is real, but there is something missing:  the intention.  This analogy can be applied to the Offertory Procession, when bread and wine are brought to the priest.  This external act, often carried out by members of the congregation,[1] is not a mere functional procedure; it is representative of so much more.
In the ancient Church, the bread and wine would often be personally supplied by members of the faithful.  Nowadays, the bread and wine are usually purchased by with parish funds (which ultimately come from the faithful), so they still represent our offering, our presentation to the Lord.    This presentation is an external manifestation of the internal self-offering which we are called to make during the Mass:  the bread and wine are not just the necessary matter for celebrating the Eucharist, they also represent all that we have to offer to God.  Pope John Paul II, in his 1980 letter to Bishops on the Eucharist, explained this rite’s significance:
Although all those who participate in the Eucharist do not confect the sacrifice as [the priest] does, they offer with him, by virtue of the common priesthood, their own spiritual sacrifices represented by the bread and wine from the moment of their presentation at the altar. … The bread and wine become in a sense a symbol of all that the eucharistic assembly brings, on its own part, as an offering to God and offers spiritually. (Dominicae Cenae 9)
Just as the bread and wine are presented to the priest who offers them to God, we offer ourselves to God as a spiritual sacrifice by virtue of our baptismal priesthood.  Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, in his 1936 missal companion Calvary and the Mass, wrote about this self-offering:
We are therefore present at each and every Mass under the appearance of bread and wine, which stand as symbols of our body and blood.  We are not passive spectators as we might be watching a spectacle in a theater, but we are co-offering our Mass with Christ. [We] offer ourselves in union with Him, as a clean oblation to the heavenly Father. (The Offertory)
The only sacrifice that is truly acceptable to God the Father is the Eucharist, which is the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  But God looks on what we offer with fatherly affection.  The bread and wine presented to Him by the priest is deemed acceptable as the means by which He will give us the Eucharist; the bread and wine are gifts from God to begin with.  Because the bread and wine represent our spiritual sacrifices, these too are regarded with a similar love:  God knows what He will make of the bread and wine, and He knows what He will make of our meager sacrifices.
Once the bread and wine have been placed on the altar, the priest prepares them for the Eucharistic Prayer and prays over them.


[1] “It is praiseworthy for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful.” (GIRM 73)

His kingdom will have no end

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:56 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 7, "Profession of Faith".


The Nicene Creed describes the second coming of Christ as glorious, as the Lord himself says:  the glory in which the Son returns is both “the glory of his Father” (Matt. 16:27) and “his glory.” (Matt. 25:31)  The Creed also mentions the everlasting kingdom of Jesus as described in Daniel 7:14 and Luke 1:33.  The reign of God has no end.  We celebrate this reign in a special way on the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe.
St. John explains how we are members of this kingdom:  Jesus “has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” (Rev. 1:6; cf. Rev. 5:10)  The victory of Jesus, by His crucifixion and resurrection, over Satan shows that “[n]ow the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.” (Rev. 12:10)

Seated at the Right Hand...

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:55 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 7, "Profession of Faith".


Seated at the Right Hand of the Father

In the creeds (as in the Gloria) we say that Jesus is “seated at the right hand of the Father.”  While Jesus does indeed have a body of flesh and blood, we are not speaking about a physical position – remember that Stephen saw Christ standing at God’s right hand (cf. Acts 7:55-56) – nor about a physical hand of God the Father Who is Spirit.
Making an analogy from human affairs to divine ones, the Roman Catechism explains that “[a]s among men he who sits at the right hand is considered to occupy the most honorable place, so, transferring the same idea to celestial things, to express the glory which Christ as man has obtained above all others, we confess that He sits at the right hand of the Father.” (Creed, VI)  We are affirming that Jesus is at the Father’s right hand not only in His divinity but also in His humanity; he is “equal to his Father in power and majesty.” (Douay Catechism, p. 17)  Scripture speaks of God’s right hand as being “glorious in power” and “shatter[ing] the enemy” (Ex. 15:6), and it is from His right hand that He dispenses all His good gifts. (cf. Ps. 16:11)  This means that Christ shares in the power, glory, and victory of His Father. (cf. Rev. 5:13; Catechism 663)
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy explains that we participate, on earth, in the heavenly liturgy “where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle.” (CSL 8, cf. Heb. 8:1-2)  Jesus’ place at the Father’s right hand is explained in liturgical terms in the letter to the Hebrews.  It was after “he had made purification for sins” that Christ “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3), a position that the Father has never even shared with the angels. (cf. Heb. 1:13)  Jesus is there as our “high priest” (Heb. 8:1), and a visual distinction is made between the priests of the Temple who stand day after day in their service, and Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, who offered Himself once and for all.  Describing Jesus as sitting rather than standing shows that His priesthood surpasses that of the Mosaic covenant.
But again, this description of Jesus being seated “does not imply here position and posture of body, but expresses the firm and permanent possession of royal and supreme power and glory which He received from the Father.” (Roman Catechism, Creed, VI)  Jesus is not resting at His Father’s side, but continually interceding on our behalf. (cf. Heb. 7:25)
Finally, the entrance of Christ into Heaven, taking His place at the right hand of His Father, “signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man:  ‘To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’ (Dan. 7:14)” (Catechism 664)  This kingdom, which is present on earth through the Church, is the subject of the next part of the Creed:

New Question from Chapter 1

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:50 AM

This is a new question in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, from Chapter 1, "Preparing for Prayer".


4)      Explain:  After fasting in the desert for forty days, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to rebuke Satan, saying “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)  Why is so much importance given to the Bible in the formation of a healthy prayer life?

Silence and Stillness

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:49 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, from Chapter 1, "Preparing for Prayer".


Silence and Stillness

Do you listen to the radio as you drive to work?  Do you listen to music on an iPod as you run?  Do you turn the television on as soon as you get home?  Many of us live with constant background noise; silence is seen as a void waiting to be filled.  When was the last time you sat still for an hour or two?  Maybe it was while watching a movie or otherwise being entertained.
Silence and stillness are not burdens to be endured but treasures to be sought after.  The “still small voice” (1 Kgs. 19:12) of God can often be drowned out by the constant noise and activity of the world.  Jesus surely hears the prayers we express in the silent sanctuaries of our hearts (cf. Catechism 2616), and it is in “this silence, unbearable to the ‘outer’ man, [that] the Father speaks to us His incarnate Word.” (Catechism 2717)  In contemplative or meditative prayer, the words of the psalmist ring true, “For God alone my soul waits in silence” (Ps. 62:1), and the words of God come in reply:  Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)
During the Mass, there are periods of silence – not just silence on the part of the congregation while the priest or someone else speaks or sings, but total silence among all those present.  It can be difficult, or even uncomfortable, to people who are used to constant action and ambient noise.  Just as uncomfortable is stillness, whether standing or sitting or kneeling.  We might often think “Did someone forget what to do?” or “What is the priest waiting for?”
Rarely do we think to ask ourselves in this silence and stillness, “Whose presence am I in?  What am I doing?”  God’s transcendence and majesty should give us pause:  “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Hab. 2:20)  Spend time before Mass in silence contemplating these things, and when there is silence during the Mass, put it to good use.

Reading the Bible

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:47 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, from Chapter 1, "Preparing for Prayer".


Reading the Bible

Along with the Church’s liturgy (and even everyday life) the Bible is a “wellspring” of prayer because it gives us “surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Catechism 2652-2653; Phil. 3:8)  Reading the Bible is an excellent way to pray, and reading it regularly will help you form a habit of prayer.
One of the benefits of a liturgical calendar is that the readings for any given day are determined ahead of time (except in a few cases where there is a choice of readings).  This means that you can become familiar with the Scripture you are going to hear by reading it yourself.  In his response to the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, Pope Benedict wrote that the celebration of the Mass
is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms, making available the great riches found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Order of Readings for Mass.  Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case.  These texts contain riches which have preserved and expressed the faith and experience of the People of God over its two-thousand-year history. (SC 40)
He draws attention specifically to the Order of Readings for Mass, thus expressing a desire that the faithful would become better acquainted with the Scripture they will be hearing at Mass.  Some parish bulletins include the Scripture citations for the coming week.  Some Catholic bibles have an appendix with the readings listed for the Sundays and feast days of the year.  You can use the USCCB web site’s calendar to pull up a digital version of the readings for the day. [1]
Some parishes provide missalettes with the Sunday readings in them, or perhaps you have a private daily missal or a periodical like Magnificat; if this is the case, you can come to Mass a few minutes earlier than usual and spend some private time with the Word of God.  Some parishes hold Bible studies which look at the coming Sunday’s readings.  There are also free resources on the Internet which provide meditations and reflections on the readings at Mass; three such web sites are “The Word Among Us” (www.wau.org), “Mobile Gabriel” (www.mobilegabriel.com), and the Passionists’ web site (www.passionist.org).
Although such preparation is not required, it can help you pay closer attention when the readings are proclaimed at Mass.  We only hear them read once, and if we become distracted for some reason, we might miss an important word or verse (and they’re all important words).  But if you read them ahead of time, you can read them as many times as you want, as slowly as you like, and meditate on them without missing anything.
This practice is even more strongly recommended for families.  The home is the “domestic church,” the primary place where children are to learn – by the example of their parents – to encounter Christ on a daily basis.  This includes introducing them to the liturgical life of the Church.  Try to find the time during the week to sit down together to read the Scriptures for the upcoming Sunday Mass and discuss them.
Even if you only go to Mass on Sundays, daily reading of Scripture (whether from the Mass readings or not) is a way to keep your prayer life going.  For example, if you are having trouble thinking of things to say to God in prayer, try praying the Psalms.  The Church does this as one body through the Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office), by which the Church sanctifies the hours of the day, dedicating them to God, through prayer.  Priests and religious pray the Liturgy of the Hours as part of their vocation, and many laypeople pray it as a private devotion as well; the Church even encourages the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours as a parish family on Sundays and feast days. (cf. CSL 100)
Daily reading of Scripture is so important because of what the Bible is.  Imagine you receive a love letter from your spouse.  Your spouse’s love for you is why he or she wrote the letter; your love for your spouse is why you should read the letter!  The Bible is God’s love letter to mankind, and to each one of us individually; in its pages we learn Who God is, what He has done for us, and what He is doing in our lives even now!  The Scriptures are so important to the Christian life that St. Jerome wrote, in the early 5th century, that
if, according to the apostle Paul, Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24) and who does not know Scripture does not know the power or the wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. (Introduction to Isaiah)
If we are going to be in conversation with God, we should give Him a chance to speak:  in prayer, we speak to God, and in reading Scripture, He speaks to us. (cf. Catechism 2653)


[1] The USCCB calendar of readings is at http://www.usccb.org/nab/.

Personal Prayer

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:45 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, from Chapter 1, "Preparing for Prayer".


Personal Prayer

At the Second Vatican Council, the Church confirmed five times that the Eucharistic liturgy is both the source and summit of the activity of the Church, and therefore of each of her members:
[T]he liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. (CSL 10)
Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It. (Lumen Gentium 11)
[P]astors should see to it that the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the center and culmination of the whole life of the Christian community. (Christus Dominus 30.2)
[T]he Eucharist shows itself as the source and the apex of the whole work of preaching the Gospel. (Presbyterorum Ordinis 5)
By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the center and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. (Ad Gentes 9)
The Eucharist is the ultimate aim (but not the only aim) of life in Christ:  communion with God and His Church in Holy Communion.  It is also the primary source (but not the only source) of that Christian life.  During the years following Vatican II, there seems to have been a misconception that going to Mass once a week was all a Catholic should need.  But the Council said exactly the opposite, that although the Eucharist is the source and summit, the spiritual life
is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy.  The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret; yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle [Paul], he should pray without ceasing.  We learn from the same Apostle that we must always bear about in our body the dying of Jesus,[1] so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame. (CSL 12)
That quote from the Constitution on the Liturgy was referring to your personal prayer life.  Another document from the Council relates those same aspects of the spiritual life to the laity:
[The laity] should all remember that they can reach all men and contribute to the salvation of the whole world by public worship and prayer as well as by penance and voluntary acceptance of the labors and hardships of life whereby they become like the suffering Christ. (Apostolicam Actuositatem 16)
Devout participation in the Mass gives life to your personal prayer, and by nurturing your prayer life, your participation in the Mass becomes deeper and more fruitful.  A deeply personal life of prayer is the key to an immensely fruitful life of faith.  The Church describes the necessity of an intimate relationship with Christ in these words from Vatican II:
[T]he success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord’s words, “He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is nourished by spiritual aids which are common to all the faithful, especially active participation in the sacred liturgy. … In this way the laity must make progress in holiness in a happy and ready spirit, trying prudently and patiently to overcome difficulties. (Apostolicam Actuositatem 4)
If you don’t have a “life of intimate union with Christ,” then the seed of the Eucharist ends up on “the path” or on “rocky ground” where it will not bear fruit. (Matt. 13:4-5)  Prayer is the door to that union with Christ; it is “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” (Catechism 2559)

“Warming up”

The liturgy (and in particular the Mass) is the “corporate” worship of the Church.  The word “corporate” might make you think of businesses and companies and corporations, but it comes from the Latin corporare which means “to form into a body.”  The word means “pertaining to a body,” and since the Church is the Body of Christ (of which you are a member), it makes sense that the public, official worship of the Church is her corporate worship.
Just as when engaging in full-body exercise, you need to warm up by stretching individual muscle groups, each member of the Body of Christ needs to engage in a similar discipline to prepare for corporate prayer:  “warming up” with personal prayer.  This can be done at home or at your church, although you can pray anywhere, anytime.  Prayer can be vocal, meditative, or contemplative. (cf. Catechism 2720-2724)  The Church also recommends devotional prayer, such as the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and novenas and litanies.  A most excellent form of prayer is Eucharistic Adoration, time spent in prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament either reserved in the tabernacle or exposed in a monstrance.  The Church encourages these devotional forms of prayer because they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, are shaped by the liturgy, and lead us back to the liturgy itself. (cf. CSL 13)
However and whatever and wherever you pray, just pray!  Build a habit of daily prayer.  If you don’t warm up before exercising, your body will not react properly (and you might injure yourself).  If you don’t “warm up” before the prayer of the Mass, you might find yourself too easily distracted by things going on around you.  If you find that your mind often wanders during Mass, you may want to pray before Mass for greater concentration.  Consider praying to your guardian angel for assistance:  because the Mass is a participation in the heavenly liturgy, all the angels of Heaven, including your guardian angel, are present at every celebration of the Eucharist.  Ask your angel to help you stay focused on the spiritual realities present at the Mass, especially the mystery of faith, the miraculous change of the bread and wine into the Eucharist.


[1] This is probably a reference to mortification, that is, practicing self-discipline and penance to overcome sinful tendencies and grow in virtue.  See page 21 for an example.

Pope John Paul II on Participation

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 9:42 AM

This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, from the Introduction.


Pope John Paul II, in an address to Bishop of the United States in 1998, explained the three terms describing participation:
Full participation certainly means that every member of the community has a part to play in the liturgy … [but it] does not mean that everyone does everything, since this would lead to a clericalizing of the laity and a laicizing of the priesthood; and this was not what the Council had in mind.  The liturgy, like the Church, is intended to be hierarchical and polyphonic, respecting the different roles assigned by Christ and allowing all the different voices to blend in one great hymn of praise.
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship … [but it] does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening:  indeed, it demands it. …
Conscious participation calls for the entire community to be properly instructed in the mysteries of the liturgy, lest the experience of worship degenerate into a form of ritualism.  But it does not mean a constant attempt within the liturgy itself to make the implicit explicit, since this often leads to a verbosity and informality … [nor does it] mean that the Latin language, and especially the chants which are so superbly adapted to the genius of the Roman Rite, should be wholly abandoned.