When they say this, they may in effect be saying, “Catholics are not Bible believers because they depend on human tradition and precepts. Come join us where you can really get into the word.”
In response, former Catholics will be shouting, “Amen, brother,” and lukewarm Catholics will say, “Really? Wow, let’s check it out!”
If they really understood the Mass, they would realize, “Hey, the Catholic Church is the most Bible-believing church on any street corner.”
When I’ve invited Protestant friends to Mass, they are astonished to find that the songs, prayers, and scripture are so based on the foundation of Jesus Christ. He is the very core, the center of each Mass.
The Mass is divided into two basic parts: the liturgy of the word, and the liturgy of the Eucharist. The Mass begins with the entrance song, and the procession of the crucifix followed by the altar servers.
The lector boldly carries the word of God with respect and reverence. The priest follows at the rear of the formation.
It is a holy thing about to be celebrated. Hebrews 13:15 states, “Through him then let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise that is, the fruit of lips that confess this name.”
The celebrant after assuming his position behind the altar usually in front of his chair will preside over the liturgy of the word.
He greets the people, and all prepare to enter God’s presence by a common confession of unworthiness.
I Corinthian 11: 27-29 states, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the Body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
We must recognize that we are sinners and need his help (I Timothy 1:15). The priest may combine the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, Have Mercy) prayer to conclude the penitential rite. On Sundays which do not occur within the season of Lent or Advent, Catholics will sing or pray together ‘The Glory to God in the Highest,’ a song of praise and composite of truths sung by the angels on the first Christmas night.
So, this far into the Mass, we haven’t yet got to the word of God, but we have participated with ancient traditions so infused with scripture that it represents Biblical Christianity with the highest respect.
After the “Glory to God in the Highest,” the Celebrant collects the prayers of the assembly. St. Paul states in I Timothy 2:8, “It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up Holy hands, without anger or argument.” Together, we bring our needs and desires. The prayers are short, but pointed and forceful.
The scriptural reading now begins. The first reading usually is taken from the Old Testament. This reading usually correlates with the Gospel message from the New Testament. After the Old Testament reading is concluded, we have one of the Responsorial Psalms.
This is an antiphonal arrangement of a psalm intended to be a meditation on the word of God. This is either sung or recited alternately by the lector (the singer), and the congregation.
Then we read a New Testament passage, such as 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, “All scripture is inspired by God, and useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he had the Old Testament scripture in mind. It is right that we also keep the Old Testament and honor it.
The next reading is called “The Epistle,” and it’s always taken from the New Testament. It gives instruction for the Christian community to life the Christian life.
After the four Gospels, the New Testament begins with the book of Acts, written by St. Luke as an historical record of the early church.
The next 13 books, from Romans to Philemon, and ordered according to length from longest to shortest, are letters written by St. Paul. After Paul’s writings, comes the book of Hebrews.
The scholars at the council of Hippo (convened from A. D. 393-396 for the purpose of establishing the books of the Bible) were not sure that Paul wrote Hebrews, so they placed it after the rest of his writings.
After Hebrews comes the books called “The Catholic letters,” because they were written to the whole church, not just to a certain church or individual. These books are James, Peter 1 and 2, John 1, 2, and 3, Jude, and Revelation, written by Saint John.
The more you are involved with the order of the Mass, the more biblical you find it. After the epistle, all stand for the ‘Alleluia,’ and verse in preparation for the Gospel. During the season of Lent, the ‘Alleluia,’ is not sung; instead, a Gospel acclamation is used.
The celebrant proclaims the Gospel. The Gospel books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Gospel and the previous scripture reading are arranged on a three year cycle so that once every three years the entire Bible is proclaimed.
At the reading of the Gospel, the entire congregation stands to hear intently the words of Jesus Christ. Once the Gospel message is announced, we respond by making a sign of the cross on our forehead, mouth, and heart.
This sign means ‘My mind believes the truth, my lips speak the truth, and my heart loves the truth.’
By this time, your Protestant friend has really flipped out. He hasn’t seen so much Bible utilized and proclaimed at one time. He is beginning to wonder, “They say this is not a Bible-believing church.” That’s when I grab the young person on the shoulder and tell them, “Yeah, and you haven’t heard the half of it yet; take a seat.”
After the Gospel, the Homily is given which the priest uses to show practical application of the Gospel message. It’s preaching time! It pays to be attentive just to make sure the priest knows his ‘p’s’ and ‘q’s.’
After the sermon is pronounced,, the Nicene Creed is repeated by all the faithful. The creed is a profession of our faith, and a composite of truths that we Catholics have maintained since the apostles. Hebrews 4:14 states, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast to our profession of faith.”
The Nicene Creed is an expansion of the Apostles Creed. The Nicene creed was composed at the council of Nicea in 325 A.D., reaffirmed at the Council of Constantinople in the same century.
The last act in this biblical-inspired drama is the petitions of the prayer of the faithful. We simply ask God for mercy and help in whatever the needs may be. This ends the Liturgy of the Word!
After the word of God has been proclaimed, the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass begins with the offertory procession.
Jesus tells this story about tithing. “A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.” Calling His disciples to Himself, He said to them; “Amen I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributers to the treasury. For they all contributed from the surplus wealth, but she from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood (Mark 12:41-44).”
We shall offer ourselves totally, not from a monetary (though one should give what they can), but of oneself.
Let our offering not be like Cain’s, but more like Abel’s. a sacrifice pleasing to God (Genesis 4:4-5).
The offering begins as the priest prepares the gift of bread and wine that will become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, also known as the “Eucharist”.
Modeled after the Jewish prayers, the priest proclaims, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which will become the Bread of Life.”
The next phase is the preparation of the gifts. Having prepared the gift of bread, the priest now prepares the gift of wine that will be changed into the blood of Christ.
This chalice becomes the vessel that will help us enact the everlasting Covenant that will be shed for all of us. As the wine is offered by the priest, so we offer ourselves. We ask God to share in His divine nature, just as Christ shared in our human nature.
As water became one with wine, in like manner we would wish to be united with Christ.
The celebrant washes his hands. This practice is a priestly cleaning. The Old Testament prefigures the New Testament. Exodus 29:1-2 states; “This is the rite you shall perform in consecrating them as priest… with fine wheat flour make unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil… Aaron and his sons, the priests of the Levi’s. You shall also bring to the entrance of the meeting tent, and there wash them with water.”
This washing of hands by the priest is symbolic of purification of the soul. Then the priest may approach the great sacrifice without blemish.
This is followed by a prayer that the sacrifice will be acceptable to God. 1 Peter 2:5 states, “You too are living stone, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The washing of hands is followed by prayer over the gifts, the most important of the offering prayers.
There are primarily four Eucharistic prayers used by cannon law: Eucharistic Prayer III is the most common used. Eucharistic Prayer 1 is used usually read during Christmas Mass, and special occasions.
It is during this consecration that the bread and wine are consecrated and the communitites highest attention and adoration is given. It is tradition that the bells ring at the word of Jesus, “This is my body” at the elevation! Then again with “Do this in memory of me”.
During the middle ages, at the moment of the consecration, the tower bells would ring alearting the country side what was happening in the church. Farmers would stop, reflect and pray.
The Angelus, a popular devotion, was common at this time. Jesus renews for us His redemptive sacrifice. He does not suffer or die. This was offered only one!
Before us, Jesus makes present and active among us the power of His life, death, and resurrection.
As a form of prayer, some of the canons go back to the second century. As the priest elevates the host and then the chalice, Jesus is truely present under both species.
We can unify ourselves with Jesus, the one true mediation between God and individual. He offers Himself to the Father on our behalf.
The next phase is called, “The Intercessions”! Here the universal prayers for the church, communion with the saints, for all of us, for the needs, and for the deceased.
These petitions are joined in the rememberance of the passion, death, and resurrection and the Lord’s second coming that is celebrated in the Eucharist (Luke 22:19).
The Eucharistic prayer is climaxed with the Doxology, and the great amen. The priest celebrates the host and the cup proclaiming, “Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father forever and ever”.
The Fathers of the Church considered the “Amen” as important for the laity as the words of consecration are for the priest. It is our achknowledgement to the truth of what is taking place.
The Lord’s prayer is from the earliest times, the “table prayer” of the christians. For during this prayer we pray for our daily bread, our Eucharistic bread and it’s fruits.
The next phase is the breaking of the bread. This is the oldest name given to the assymbly/service used in the book of Acts of the New Testament. This was a sign that all, though many, were one loaf, one bread, and one Body of Christ.
During the breaking of the bread, the Angus Des is sung or recited, which is the “Lamb of God” prayer.
The priest then holds the particle of the Eucharistic bread and uses the words spoken by St. John the Baptist. Older versions of the text says, “Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.”
Today it begins, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to His supper.”
Just like the centurion so long ago, we respond, “Lord I am not worthy to recieve you, but only the word and I shall be healed.
This is a far greater fulfillment than the Manna given to the Israelites in the desert (John 6:25-51).
The Eucharist is a Latin word meaning “Thanksgiving”! We are called to recieve this gift and take this gift within us, to the whole world.
We are given the final blessing and like the great commission gave the disciples, we are send to go into the streets, the work place, the homes, to witness and share Christ to everyone we meet. Indeed, Jesus calls us to teach the Gospels to the ends of the earth.