Thursday, May 31, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 6: The Offertory

Previous parts in this series:
Part 3: The incensations, Kyrie, Gloria, and collects
Part 4: The Epistle, Gospel, and what occurs in between
Part 5: The Nicene Creed

At this point, the faithful have been duly prepared, by both prayer and instruction, to assist in the Mass of the day. In centuries past, the catechumens, those not yet part of the Church, would be dismissed at this time and not even been permitted to assist in offering the sacrifice (Matthew 7:6, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29). This rule applies today only with regards to receiving Communion. Because of the old rule, this next part of the Mass is called the Mass of the Faithful, and it begins, as such a major division of the Mass should, with the greeting Dominus vobiscum by the priest.

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray.

He says this turning toward the people, kissing the altar beforehand as always to honor the relics of saints there. The choir then sings the Offertory verse, a few verses from a psalm proper to the day, which the priest says quietly to himself. Just as the deacon serves the priest, the subdeacon serves the deacon. He does so at this time by bringing the veiled chalice to the deacon at the altar. Recall from the first part of this series that everything is veiled and covered until we enter into the liturgy and uncover it. The chalice, in which the Precious Blood is to be offered, has remained veiled until now, when we are duly prepared to enter into the offering up of the sacrifice.

Atop the chalice and also veiled is the paten, the small gold plate on which the Sacred Host lies. The host is now merely a piece of unleavened bread, but soon it will be transformed into God himself. The deacon, who is charged with care of the sacred vessels, unveils the chalice and gives the priest the paten with the host on it. Though the deacon cannot consecrate, he still is ordained to the first degree of the sacrificial priesthood, so it belongs to him to present the oblations to the priest to be offered. The priest takes the paten and offers the host to God. He also offers the smaller particles for the Communion of the Faithful. These are in the ciborium, another vessel much like a chalice that is placed on the altar when the chalice is brought up.

Suscipe, sancte Pater, omnipotens ætérne Deus, hanc immaculátam hóstiam, quam ego indígnus fámulus tuus óffero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabílibus peccátis, et offensiónibus, et neglegéntiis meis, et pro ómnibus circumstántibus, sed et pro ómnibus fidélibus christiánis vivis atque defúnctis: ut mihi, et illis profíciat ad salútem in vitam ætérnam. Amen.
Accept, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this unspotted host, which I, thy unworthy servant, offer unto thee, my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present: as also for all faithful Christians, both living and dead, that it may avail both me and them for salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.

In the prayer said here, the Father is addressed, who was the recipient of all sacrifices of the Old Covenant and is likewise the recipient of this sacrifice. Like all Offertory prayers, it is said silently. The host's spotlessness is mentioned, as animals sacrificed under the Old Covenant were required to be pure and without blemish (Exodus 12:5, Leviticus 1:3). The host is offered to account for the "innumerable sins" of the priest and the congregation, as Christ's sacrifice was made for the forgiveness of our sins, and the Mass is that same sacrifice. The priest prays for all faithful Christians living and dead, the latter referring to the poor souls in Purgatory, who can be helped by our prayers (2 Maccabees 12:42-46).

After the prayer has been said, the priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the paten, expressing the unity and sameness with the sacrifice of the Cross. This and all the Offertory prayers anticipate the host actually becoming our Lord, which occurs later. The host is placed directly on the corporal.

The subdeacon wipes the inside of the chalice and hands it to the deacon. Serving the deacon and subdeacon is the acolyte, fourth in the hierarchy of service at the altar, who then presents the cruets of water and wine. The stronger wine represents Christ's divine nature and is poured into the chalice by the deacon, whereas the weaker water represents his human nature and is poured by the subdeacon. During his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus turned water into wine, hence the wine representing the divine nature. Also, after he died, blood and water flowed from Jesus' side. All this occurs on the Epistle side of the altar, not in the middle, as the union between Christ's dual natures occurred upon his coming from heaven to earth. This descent from heaven to earth is represented in the movement from the center of the altar to the side. Accompanying this ceremony is an ancient prayer.

Deus, qui humánæ substántiæ dignitátem mirabíliter condidísti, et mirabílius reformásti: da nobis per huius aquæ et vini mystérium, eius divinitátis esse consórtes, qui humanitátis nostræ fíeri dignátus est párticeps, Iesus Christus, Fílius tuus, Dóminus noster: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus: per ómnia saecula sæculórum. Amen.
O God, who, in creating human nature, didst wonderfully dignify it, and still more wonderfully restore it, grant that, by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of his divine nature, who vouchsafed to be made partaker of our human nature, even Jesus Christ our Lord, thy Son, who with thee, liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: world without end. Amen.

The priest first praises God for having dignified human nature at the creation (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 8:6) and then restoring it even more wonderfully by taking it upon himself. Next, he prays that, just as Jesus took on our human nature, we might, by these mysteries, take part in his divine nature, which we do by partaking of this Blessed Sacrament as Jesus promised (John 6:57).

The deacon hands the chalice to the priest, who offers it to God in the same manner as with the host. The deacon supports the foot of the chalice and says the prayer with the priest as another exercise of the first degree of the priesthood. Hence, whereas the prayer with the host, said by the priest alone, uses the words, “I offer,” the prayer with the chalice, said by the priest and deacon, uses the plural, “We offer.”

Offérimus tibi, Dómine, cálicem salutáris, tuam deprecántes cleméntiam: ut in conspéctu divínæ maiestátis tuæ, pro nostra et totíus mundi salute, cum odóre suavitátis ascéndat. Amen.
We offer unto thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching thy clemency, that it may ascend before thy divine majesty, as a sweet savor, for our salvation, and for that of the whole world. Amen.

The prayer used to offer the chalice is similar to the one for the host, praying for acceptance of the sacrifice and that all may receive the benefits thereof. Like with the paten, the priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the chalice. When the chalice is resting on the altar, the deacon covers it with the pall, a small, stiff square cloth that is placed over the chalice as both a practical measure to protect its contents and a sign of the sacredness of the sacrament.

After covering the chalice, the deacon hands the paten to the subdeacon, who holds it at the bottom of the altar steps before his eyes, covered by the humeral veil, a large cloth in the color of the day worn over his shoulders. This custom originated when the paten was much larger and thus had to be removed when not needed. Even today, only what is strictly necessary for the sacrifice is on the corporal when it is offered. There is also the symbolism of the subdeacon covering his eyes in the manner of the Seraphim covering their eyes with their wings before the throne of God (Isaiah 6:1-2). Thus, yet again, we unite ourselves with the holy angels in the Mass.

Here we see especially that the Offertory prayers follow roughly the structure of an ancient anaphora; that is, the long prayer in which the oblations are truly offered and become our Lord. Though the actual sacrifice occurs a little bit later, it has already been seen that the Offertory prayers are an anticipation, and so they follow this structure. In the prayer at the mixing of water and wine, the priest gives thanksgiving for the work of salvation. In the other prayers that have been said thus far, the priest makes the oblation, which is concluded in this next prayer, in which the priest bows down and humbles himself in petitioning for acceptance of this Sacrifice.

In spíritu humilitátis et in ánimo contríto suscipiámur a te, Dómine: et sic fiat sacrifícium nostrum in conspéctu tuo hódie, ut pláceat tibi, Dómine Deus.
Accept us, O Lord, in the spirit of humility and contrition of heart, and grant that the sacrifice which we offer this day in thy sight may be pleasing to thee, O Lord God.

He proceeds with a sort of epiclesis, in which he prays that the Holy Ghost, the giver of life, will come down and give life to the oblations to make them the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Of course, this transformation does not occur yet, but the Holy Ghost has been invoked and is present, raising the oblations above the level of earthly things. When saying this prayer, the priest raises his eyes to God to ask for his blessing, and then blesses the oblations with the Sign of the Cross.

Veni, sanctificátor omnípotens ætérne Deus: et bene ☩ dic hoc sacrifícium, tuo sancto nómini præparátum.
Come, O almighty and eternal God, the sanctifier, and bless ☩ this sacrifice, prepared for the glory of thy holy Name.

They are further raised above earthly things by the honor of blessed incense. The altar has already been incensed at the beginning of the Mass, but now that we are entering into the actual sacrifice, the oblations, the altar, the sacred ministers, and all of the faithful are honored again with incense. The incense is blessed by the priest in a longer prayer invoking the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, the prince of the heavenly host who holds a golden thurible by the altar of God, and of all the saints, whose prayers are represented in the burning of incense (Apocalypse 8:3-4).

Per intercessiónem beáti Michaélis Archángeli, stantis a dextris altáris incénsi, et ómnium electórum suórum, incénsum istud dignétur Dóminus bene ☩ dícere, et in odórem suavitátis accípere. Per Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.
May the Lord, by the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, who standeth at the right side of the altar of incense, and of all his elect, vouchsafe to bless ☩ this incense and receive it as an odor of sweetness: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The priest incenses the oblations in a very special way. He makes three Signs of the Cross with the thurible over the oblations, representing again the unity between the Cross and the Mass, and then three circles, two counter-clockwise and one clockwise, representing the Trinity. He says a short, poetic prayer while incensing the oblations.

Incénsum istud a te benedíctum ascéndat ad te, Dómine: et descéndat super nos misericórdia tua.
May this incense, which thou hast blessed, O Lord, ascend to thee, and may thy mercy descend upon us.

Then, while incensing the crucifix and the altar in the same manner as at the beginning of Mass, the priest recites a portion of Psalm 140, comparing our prayers to the rising up of incense and praying against himself falling into sin.

Dirigátur, Dómine, orátio mea, sicut incénsum, in conspéctu tuo: elevátio mánuum meárum sacrifícium vespertínum. Pone, Dómine, custódiam ori meo, et óstium circumstántiæ lábiis meis: ut non declínet cor meum in verba malítiæ, ad excusándas excusatiónes in peccátis.
Let my prayer, O Lord, be directed as incense in thy sight: the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and a door round about my lips. May my heart not incline to evil words, to make excuses for sins.

The priest recites yet another prayer as he hands the thurible to the deacon, this one speaking of the fire of God's love.

Accéndat in nobis Dóminus ignem sui amóris, et flammam ætérnæ caritátis. Amen.
May the Lord enkindle within us the fire of his love, and the flame of everlasting charity. Amen.

The deacon incenses the priest as before, and this time the choir, clergy, and congregation are also incensed, because although the faithful gathered in the church are not ordained priests, all baptized Christians are ordained into Christ's royal priesthood, so we can all unite ourselves to the Mass and offer it with the priest (1 Peter 2:5).

Notice how, when the altar was incensed at the beginning of the Mass, there was only a simple prayer to bless the incense, and everything else was in silence; but now, the priest recites prayers constantly. Clearly, everything is much more solemn now, for we are about to have God himself become truly present. At this point, if the priest were to drop dead at the altar, the host and chalice would have to be treated as sacred objects, even though they are not yet the Body and Blood of Christ.

Next, the priest washes his hands. To wash the priest's hands is not the function of a fellow priest or a fellow sacred minister, so it is not done by the deacon or subdeacon. Rather, it is the function of a servant, so it is done by the acolytes, the servants at the altar. The word “acolyte” means “follower” or “attendant.”

The washing of hands is reminiscent of our Lord washing the feet of the apostles and symbolizes the purity necessary to offer such a perfect sacrifice (John 13:5-10). Everything related to sacrifices in the Old Covenant was required to be perfectly pure, so the priest of the sacrifice of the New Covenant must also be pure (Exodus 25:29, Leviticus 24:4, 1 Chronicles 28:18, 2 Chronicles 4:20). Doing it at this time also has the practical value of washing off any filth that may have gotten on his hands during the incensations. Like many things in liturgy, there is both a practical and a symbolic purpose. Once again, the prayer at this time is supplied by a psalm, in this case Psalm 25.

Lavábo inter innocéntes manus meas: et circúmdabo altáre tuum. Dómine: Ut áudiam vocem laudis, et enárrem univérsa mirabília tua. Dómine, diléxi decórem domus tuæ et locum habitatiónis glóriæ tuæ. Ne perdas cum ímpiis, Deus, ánimam meam, et cum viris sánguinum vitam meam: In quorum mánibus iniquitátes sunt: déxtera eórum repléta est munéribus. Ego autem in innocéntia mea ingréssus sum: rédime me et miserére mei. Pes meus stetit in dirécto: in ecclésiis benedícam te, Dómine.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen.
I will wash my hands among the innocent: and I will compass thine altar, O Lord. That I may hear the voice of praise: and tell of all thy wondrous works. I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house and the place where thy glory dwelleth. Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked: nor my life with blood-thirsty men. In whose hands are iniquities, their right hand is filled with gifts. But I have walked in my innocence: redeem me, and have mercy on me. My foot hath stood in the direct way, in the churches I will bless thee, O Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

As King David writes, the priest washes his hands “among the innocent,” for purity to stand before the altar of God. The priest also adores the Church in the words of the psalm, as the place where God's glory dwells. Throughout the psalm, the priest places himself with the innocent and those in God's favor, not with the evildoers, as he says, “But I have walked in my innocence.” Of course, it is truly Christ who offers himself up, with the priest acting, as said before, in persona Christi. Christ is really the one saying the psalm here, speaking through the priest, as only Christ and his Blessed Mother have truly walked in their innocence. However, the priest himself must be innocent at least of mortal sin, and he must have tremendous spiritual strength and personal sanctity to fulfill his office and offer the holy sacrifice.

The pseudo-anaphora in the Offertory concludes with the anamnesis: the memorial of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord. The Mass is, after all, the same Sacrifice that Christ offered, so, in addition to all the symbolism, the Passion must also be directly recalled. Christ's death was not the end, though, as on the third day of his death, he resurrected in hope that we might do the same. Being the necessary complement of his Passion and a necessity to have the Mass or the Church, the Resurrection is recalled. Finally, the Lord's ministry on earth was completed with his glorious Ascension into heaven, which is also recalled.

Súscipe, sancta Trinitas, hanc oblatiónem, quam tibi offérimus ob memóriam passiónis, resurrectiónis, et ascensiónis Iesu Christi, Dómini nostri: et in honórem beátæ Maríæ semper Vírginis, et beáti Ioannis Baptistæ, et sanctórum Apostolórum Petri et Pauli, et istórum et ómnium Sanctórum: ut illis profíciat ad honórem, nobis autem ad salútem: et illi pro nobis intercédere dignéntur in coelis, quorum memóriam ágimus in terris. Per eúndem Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.
Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation which we make to thee, in memory of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, these, and all the saints, that it may avail unto their honor and our salvation, and may they vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Also in this prayer, the saints are commemorated. Mentioned explicitly first is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Christ and later wept at the foot of the Cross, both of which relate closely to the Mass. St. John the Baptist is also explicitly mentioned, as are Ss. Peter and Paul. These are mostly the same saints invoked in the Confiteor for the same reasons. Next, the priest invokes the saints whose relics are in the altar by the simple phrase, “et istorum,” meaning, “and these.” Use of such a simple and familiar pronoun here indicates very close participation in the sacrament of the altar and the significance of the altar itself to the sacrifice. It is further indication of Christ speaking through the priest, as Christ is represented in a way in the altar itself as well as the Mass offered thereon.

The Church finally invokes all the saints, with the desire to honor them. Certainly, the Mass must be pleasing, not only to our Lord, but also to our Lady, the Mediatrix of all graces. Ss. Peter and Paul also deserve special mention here: as the founders of the Church, we desire her most solemn worship to be give honor to them also as a continuation of their ministry of worship to God. The second desired result is, of course, our own salvation, attained through the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ and through the merits and intercession of the saints: overall, most perfectly through the Mass.

Kissing the altar and turning toward the people, the priest says in a slightly elevated voice, “Orate, fratres,” and the continues silently while turning back to the altar.

Oráte, fratres: ut meum ac vestrum sacrifícium acceptábile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipoténtem.
Suscípiat Dóminus sacrifícium de mánibus tuis ad laudem et glóriam nominis sui, ad utilitátem quoque nostram, totiúsque Ecclésiæ suæ sanctæ.
Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty.
May the Lord receive the sacrifice from thy hands, to the praise and glory of his name, to our benefit and that of all his holy Church.

This originated in the Middle Ages, relatively recently, hence the anomaly of it being whispered despite being addressed to the people. It is an expanded form of “Oremus,” which precedes other prayers, and is the last time the priest turns to the people before the sacrifice is offered and Christ is on the altar. As an interesting sidenote, every other time the priest turns to the faithful, he turns around to his right and then turns back to his left, but here, he turns back to his right and completes the circle.

Here, the priest invites the people, who have Christ's royal priesthood, to assistance in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus instituted this Sacrament “for many,” thus the people must be able to assist in it (Matthew 26:28). The deacon responds on behalf of the congregation, praying for the acceptance of the sacrifice to the benefit of the congregation and the whole Church.

Just as the prayerful preparation at the beginning of the Mass concluded with the priest collecting the prayers of the faithful in the collects, the Offertory concludes with the secret prayer, which is proper to the day. This was originally the only Offertory prayer and thus the only one said silently, giving it the name “secret.” Rest assured, its text is publicly available. The number of secrets is always the same as the number of collects, and saints are commemorated likewise in the secrets. Whereas in the collects the priest prayed for holiness and mercy, in the secrets he prays once more for acceptance of the sacrifice. The last secret is concluded singing aloud.

Per omnia saecula saeculorum.
World without end.

New terms
  • Offertory verse – The verse from a psalm that the choir sings at the beginning of the Offertory.
  • Chalice – The silver and gold cup in which the wine is offered to God and transformed into his Precious Blood.
  • Paten – The small silver and gold plate on which the host lies.
  • Host – The bread that is transformed into the Body of Christ.
  • Ciborium – A silver and gold cup similar to a chalice in which additional hosts are kept. It is covered with a lid when not needed.
  • Acolyte – A server who assists the priest, deacon, and subdeacon by presenting the cruets of wine and water and by washing the priest's hands.
  • Humeral veil – A large cloth veil in the color of the day that the subdeacon wears around his shoulders and uses to cover the paten while he is holding it at the foot of the altar.
  • Anaphora – The long prayer in which the bread and wine are offered to God and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Epiclesis The part of the anaphora in which the priest prays for the Holy Ghost to come and bless the host and chalice.
  • Anamnesis – The part of the anaphora in which the priest recalls the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ.
  • SecretAn offertory prayer proper to the day that is said silently.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 5: The Nicene Creed

At the beginning of the readings, we hear from St. Paul or one of the other apostles in the Epistle. Before and after the readings, throughout the Mass, we hear and say the words of King David in the Psalms. All this is in preparation to hear the words of our Lord in the Gospel. Then, after being instructed on the theme of the day by the Holy Scriptures, in the words of a king, an apostle, and our Lord, we profess our faith in the words of the Church.

The Credo, also called the Nicene Creed, is the statement of our Catholic faith. It was initially drafted at the First Council of Niceae in AD 325 then revised into the form we have today at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381. It is sung every Sunday, as well as on feasts of our Lord and our Lady, the central figures of our faith, and on some feasts of saints, who lived this faith in a most exemplary manner. Many of these saints are also martyrs, who willingly died for this faith. The Credo is named after its first word, which is Latin for “I believe.” In times of persecution, the martyrs would often try to write the word “credo” on their breast in their own blood, if possible while still conscious, as a final act of that faith that they held to so perfectly, like our Lord did, even unto death.

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipoténtem, factórem coeli et terræ, visibílium ómnium et in visibílium.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

The Credo begins in the same manner as the Gloria, with the priest intoning the first phrase and the priest and choir continuing independently. “I believe” here means not a mere mental affirmation, nor the casual use of the word to express a quantity of doubt, but rather true faith, in our mind, lips, and heart, in one God, without any doubt or uncertainty. This faith is placed in one and only one being, God, who must be placed above all others, in lieu of any earthly goods or other human being. This single supreme being is described as “the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”

From the beginning, we address God with the incredibly familiar title of our own father, who loves us as his own children. It is because of that love that we are able to receive Christ in the Mass. He is nevertheless almighty and omnipotent, maker of heaven and earth and therefore existing beyond our universe, not limited by the laws of physics or other limitations that he placed on our universe. The mention of all things “visible and invisible” is an allusion to the holy angels, the noblest of God's creatures, invisible to us, to whom we have already united ourselves at the beginning of the Mass. Assisting in the Mass by uniting ourselves spiritually to the Holy Sacrifice is akin to the work of the angels in assisting at God's throne.

To continue, we profess our faith in the second person of the Trinity using his Holy Name, Jesus.

Et in unum Dóminum Iesum Christum, Fílium Dei unigénitum.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.

In Hebrew culture, a person's name was attached to their entire identity as a person. Thus, in uttering this Holy Name, we are condensing into one word the greatness of God and his infinite love for us in sending us Christ. St. Paul wrote that at the sound of this name every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9-11). Here, as at every point in the Mass and other liturgies where the Holy Name is mentioned, all bow their heads in worship of his Name. It is also good devotional practice to bow one's head in daily life when the Holy Name is heard, even if it is used profanely.

In the Credo, we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our one Lord and the only-begotten Son of God the Father. As before, the Church goes out of her way to express the singular. I believe in one God, and now in one Lord, the only-begotten Son of God. A major issue discussed at Niceae was that of the dual nature of Christ. Being both fully God and fully man, he is nevertheless only one. He is the only-begotten of the Father, from the Greek word monogenes, meaning the only one of a kind, already indicating a very special relationship amongst the persons of the Trinity (Psalm 2:7, Mark 14:36, Luke 3:22, Hebrews 1:5).

The Credo begins this section by discussing Christ's first and eternal Nativity, born of the Father before all ages (John 1:1, Apocalypse 1:8, 2:8, 22:13).

Et ex Patre natum ante ómnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri: per quem ómnia facta sunt.
Born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

The Church elaborates somewhat poetically on this before noting again that he is begotten, not created, as he was in existence before all ages. Rather, the Father, by his own will, caused the Son to come into existence, and the Son, as the Credo continues to say, is of one substance with the Father (John 14:7‑11). This is particularly interesting in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as we are offering the Son to the Father; or, rather, he is offering himself to the Father, and we are assisting in this sacrifice. Next in the Credo is almost an exact quote of John 1:3, that through Jesus all things were made, as God's creative power presupposes the necessary existence of his Son.

The Church then proceeds to laud Christ's second Nativity, his Incarnation.

Qui propter nos hómines et propter nostram salútem descéndit de coelis.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.

She acknowledges that he came from heaven to earth, not only for us men in and of ourselves, whom God created in his own image; but more deeply for our salvation, so that we can be reunited to God's good will. The whole thing is best summarized in the popular verse John 3:16. We kneel as the next part of the Credo is sung, in awe and adoration of one of the greatest mysteries of our faith, the Incarnation.

Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto ex María Vírgine: Et homo factus est.
And by the Holy Ghost was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

“By the Holy Ghost,” who, as we will sing later, is the giver of life proceeding from the Father and the Son, thus necessary to give Jesus divine life. “He was incarnate,” that is, the substance of God, the Divine Word, took on the form of human flesh (John 1:14). “Of the Virgin Mary,” our Lord's Mother, the Ark of the New Covenant, the New Eve; in short, the woman chosen by God to give to our Lord his human form, the sacrifice of which attains for us our salvation. “ET HOMO FACTUS EST.” “And became man.” Not enough emphasis can possibly be put on those words. Our Lord, the only-begotten Son of God, became truly human, taking on human flesh and human weakness, only to suffer and die in the worst possible way so that we could be saved. That sacrifice is re-created in the Mass, when the bread and wine transform into the Flesh and Blood of our Lord, both products of him becoming man.

After “Et homo factus est” has been sung, all rise. By this time, the ministers have finished saying the Credo for themselves. The deacon takes the burse (a small, square pocket in the color of the day) and ascends the steps of the altar. There he takes out the corporal (a larger square cloth of plain white linen, without embroidery) and unfolds it in the center of the altar, where the host and chalice will later be placed.

The Sacrifice of the Mass, being the same sacrifice as was offered at Calvary, is offered atop a plain linen cloth, just as our Lord, after his death, was buried in a clean linen shroud (Matthew 27:59). The name “corporal” comes from the Latin word “corpus,” meaning “body.” Being so close to the priesthood, deacons are charged with care of the sacred vessels, which by extension include the corporal. As previously stated, the Holy Sacrifice can occur only because of our Lord's Incarnation, so after we sing of the Incarnation in the Credo, the deacon makes this initial act of anticipation for the actual offering of the Sacrifice, which occurs after the Credo has been sung.

While the deacon is preparing to offer the Sacrifice by spreading out the corporal, the choir sings of this sacrifice.

Crucifíxus étiam pro nobis: sub Póntio Piláto passus, et sepúltus est.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried.

As in the Apostles' Creed, a shorter profession of faith composed by the apostles, the Church does not merely say that our Lord died. She explicitly mentions that he was crucified, attesting to the huge significance of the Cross. The Cross represents our salvation, God's love for us, and particularly the victory of the Cross over Satan. It is noted again that, like the Incarnation, it was for our sake. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, as the Credo continues. Crucifixion was the most painful method of execution in history, so the word "suffered" here is an understatement. Giving the name of the Roman Governor here is another feature inherited from the Apostle's Creed as a woe to the man who gave official permission to crucify Jesus at the slightest threat to his own reign (John 19:12-16). Just as with other dead bodies, Christ's body was buried, bringing to light the complete reality of his actual, human death.

There is not one moment of delay in proceeding to sing of the Resurrection, which is also noted in the Credo to be “in accordance with the Scriptures.”

Et resurréxit tértia die, secúndum Scriptúras.
And rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

It was first of all foretold by Jesus himself as the sign of Jonah the Prophet, who was swallowed by a whale and regurgitated on the third day (Jonah 2:1-11, Luke 11:29), and as destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days (Matthew 27:40, John 2:19). All of the prophets of the Old Testament also foretold the Resurrection (Job 19:25-27, Isaiah 26:19-21, Ezekiel 37:12-14, Daniel 12:1-3). Jesus always went out of his way to fulfill every last word of the prophecies, and this is concluded with the Resurrection. At the Resurrection, his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are finally and permanently reunited, so in the Mass all of these become present. Finally, the Resurrection proved once and for all that Jesus was God and that his sacrifice on the Cross was the perfect sacrifice that would achieve our salvation. Our entire faith and religion is because of the Resurrection.

Following that, his ministry on earth was done, and he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Et ascéndit in coelum: sedet ad déxteram Patris.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Ascension here does not refer to actual spatial height, but moving into a higher existence, that of the Kingdom of Heaven, which exists beyond our universe. There he sits at the right hand of the Father, serving with him, in the unity of the same triune Godhead, as Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus now being there in his human nature as well as his divine nature (Psalm 109:1, Mark 16:19, John 14:13). As Jesus warned while he was here, he will come again in judgment (Matthew 25:32-46).

Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória iudicáre vivos et mórtuos: cuius regni non erit finis.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

Unlike the humility of his first coming, his second coming will be glorious (Matthew 25:31). In the Mass and all of the sacraments, we receive divine grace so that we may be judged favorably. On Judgment Day, all temporal powers and kingdoms will cease, and there will remain only the Kingdom of God (2 Peter 3:13, Apocalypse 21:1), which, as the Credo states to conclude its second part, will continue forever and have no end (Daniel 2:44, Matthew 24:35, Luke 1:33).

Thus concludes the second part of the Credo, the part discussing God the Son. Since it is our belief in Christ that defines Christianity, and the Mass especially is primarily (though not solely) about the Son, it is fitting that this is the longest part. In the third part, we sing of the Holy Ghost and all of his fruits.

Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum et vivificántem: qui ex Patre Filióque procédit.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

He is Lord, just as the Father and the Son are both Lord, yet in the words of the Athanasian Creed, “not three Lords, but one Lord.” (The Athanasian Creed, or Quicumque Vult, is a much longer profession of faith dating from the fifth or sixth century, elaborating primarily on the Incarnation and the Trinity.) Within the Trinity, the function of the Holy Ghost is as vivificantem, that is, giver of life (Job 33:4, Matthew 3:16). The Spirit of God proceeds from the Father and the Son, the two other persons of the Godhead, who have given us the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, in upholding Christ's promise to be with us forever (Matthew 28:20, John 14:15-18, 14:26). The Eastern Orthodox denominations insist upon omitting the word “Filioque” at this place in the Credo, such that it reads only: "who proceeds from the Father." However, the previously cited passages from the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John prove otherwise, and if the Father and Son are both of the same substance, the substance of God, and the Holy Ghost is also a person of this Trinity separate from and equal to the Father and the Son, then it must follow that the Holy Ghost proceeds from both the Father and the Son. “Filioque” was not present in the original creed, but was added sometime in the eighth century.

Qui cum Patre et Fílio simul adorátur et conglorificátur: qui locútus est per Prophétas.
Who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

With the Father and the Son, the Holy Ghost is also adored and glorified as part of the Godhead, a fact stated both in the Credo and in the Preface of the Most Holy Trinity, which is often sung later in the Mass. This line expresses the trinitarian nature of our worship and especially of the Mass, which began with the Sign of the Cross. Furthermore, it is the Holy Ghost, in speaking through all the Prophets from Moses to St. John the Baptist, who has guided and led God's people throughout the ages under the Old Covenant and continues to do so through the Church under the New Covenant. Christ promised us the Paraclete to be with us and help us until the end times (John 14:16).

The Church today occupies the function of prophets, and she confers the life-giving grace of the Holy Ghost won for us by Christ's Passion (Acts 8:12-17, 19:2-6). The Holy Mass is the prime example of this. Thus, we next profess our faith in Holy Mother Church, ascribing to her the Four Marks of the Church. Only the Catholic Church, the one true Church established by God, has these four qualities: the Church is one (unam), holy (sanctam), catholic (catholicam), and apostolic (apostolicam).

Et unam sanctam cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Unam: the Church is one, as Jesus steadfastly prayed for (John 17:11, 21-23) and as St. Paul wrote of (Romans 15:5-6, Ephesians 4:3-6, Philippians 1:27, 2:2). This negates Protestantism, which is divided into over nine thousand denominations, lacking any sense of unity. The Mass in particular displays many elements of unity in the Church, as this single liturgy, down to the exact same words, unites all Western Catholics throughout the world and throughout history.

Sanctam: the Church is holy; that is, she was established by Jesus Christ, and God has given her special protection and powers. Matthew 16:18-19 speaks of the Church's special protection from the devil, such that the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against her, as well as the power of the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and the power of binding and loosing. In addition, St. Paul speaks of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Colossians 1:18) and as the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:24-32). Both of these indicate holiness by virtue of union with God. In addition, only to the holy Church does Christ make himself present in the Mass.

Catholicam: the Church is catholic, meaning “universal,” which since the first century has been the most often applied descriptor of the Church. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in AD 107, “Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” This universality applies in both space and time: the Church can be found all over the world (Romans 11:25, Apocalypse 7:1), and she has existed uninterrupted since Christ was on earth and will continue to exist “even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20). The Mass is universal in both of these senses, particularly in time.

Apostolicam: finally, the Church is apostolic, being founded upon the teachings and practices of the apostles, who formed the Church from the beginning. The Credo itself is an expansion of the Apostles' Creed, the dogma of the apostles. In addition, the Mass was offered daily by the apostles, perhaps without regard to sermon length (Acts 20:7-12).

Confíteor unum baptísma in remissiónem peccatórum. Et exspécto resurrectiónem mortuórum. Et vitam ventúri saeculi. Amen.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Christ commanded the Church to baptize using the verbal Sign of the Cross (Matthew 28:19), and we are baptized with the Holy Ghost (Mark 1:8) in Christ's death (Romans 6:3), so that we may resurrect with him and be given a new life, free from the stain of original sin (Romans 5:12-15, 6:4-11). As Christ only died and resurrected once, we need to be reborn and cleansed of our original sin only once, and thus we confess only one baptism for the forgiveness of our sins. Baptism is necessary to be a member of the Church and thus to participate fully in the Mass, and it is also normally a requirement for salvation.

The Credo concludes on an eschatological note. We do not merely believe in the resurrection of the dead, we look forward to it. If we have truly loved God and kept his commandments, including assisting at the Mass, we have the sure hope of attaining everlasting paradise in heaven and enjoying perfect, eternal jubilation in the New Jerusalem, whereas the wicked and those who reject God will suffer eternal torment (Apocalypse 20:1-15).

Like with the Gloria, we bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross at the end of the Credo. The Credo, like the Gloria, has a trinitarian character brought to fulfillment at the end, but here the Sign of the Cross is concluding the profession of our great faith, defined by the Cross. The Credo concludes, “Amen,” to indicate our complete acquiescence to this divinely-ordained faith, that of the only religion in which truth and life are to be found (John 14:6).

The singing of the Credo is the end of the Mass of the Catechumens: the first part of the Mass, which prepares us to offer the Holy Sacrifice. Following this is the major transition point in the Mass. Originally, those who were not yet baptized (the catechumens) would be dismissed at this point, as only members of the Church, who had received the potential for divine life through Baptism, may assist in offering up the Holy Sacrifice. The second half, called the Mass of the Faithful, begins with the Offertory, in which the priest makes the initial offering of bread and wine, before they are transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord.

New terms

  • Nicene Creed or Credo – The long profession of faith, composed at the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 and revised at the First Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381, which is sung at Mass on Sundays and major feasts.
  • Burse – A square pocket in the color of the day that is used to hold the corporal.
  • Corporal – A large square cloth of plain white linen that it spread out in the middle of the altar, where the sacrifice will be offered.
  • Apostles' Creed – A shorter and more ancient profession of faith composed by the apostles, not used in the Mass.
  • Athanasian Creed or Quicumque Vult – A long profession of faith from the fifth or sixth century attributed St. Athanasius, elaborating mainly on the Trinity and the Incarnation.
  • Four Marks of the Church – The four qualities possessed only by the Catholic Church, the one true Church established by God – one, holy, catholic (or universal), and apostolic.
  • Mass of the Faithful – The second half of the Mass, in which the sacrifice is offered.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 4: The Epistle, Gospel, and what occurs in between

Everyone, please pray for Ireland! In less than 24 hours, they vote on whether or not to legalize abortion. Millions of innocent lives are at stake!

Previous parts in this series:

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiæ (IIIa, Q. 83, A. 4), notes that the first half of the Mass, known as the Mass of the Catechumens, is for the purpose of preparation of the faithful to receive the Sacrament, as required in Scripture (Ecclesiastes 4:17, Sirach 18:23, Matthew 5:24, 1 Corinthians 11:27). St. Thomas further divides this preparation into two parts. The first is prayerful preparation, consisting of everything that we have already covered, from the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar to the collects. Further, in order to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, one must be properly instructed in the faith. Thus, St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29 referred to the necessity of “discerning the Body of the Lord.” A bulk of this instruction is done in catechism, before the reception of First Holy Communion, as this is the basic instruction necessary to be a full member of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ. However, immediately before offering up the Holy Sacrifice, we also receive the instruction necessary to partake of the Mass proper to that particular day.

The readings bring out the particular occasion for which the Mass is being offered, whether it be a great feast such as Easter, a penitential occasion such as Ash Wednesday, a great saint and martyr such as on the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29, or even just an ordinary weekday. The parts of the Mass specific to that particular occasion, called the “propers,” include the Introit and the collects that were already sung, but consist primarily of the readings.

For about the past thousand years, the readings have consisted of one lesson, called the Epistle, from either an epistle of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, or occasionally the Old Testament; followed by a lesson from one of the Gospels, with psalms sung in between the two readings. In the early Church, many lessons were read, including lessons from the Old Testament followed by lessons from the writings of the Apostles. (The Bible as we know it did not exist until the time of St. Jerome in the fourth century.) By the time of St. Gregory the Great in the late sixth century, the pattern of the lessons became fixed as what it is today, with one Epistle and one Gospel reading. On Ember Days, the very ancient practice of reading lessons from the Old Testament is retained. On almost all other days, though, the readings begin with the Epistle.

The deacon, who is just one step away from priesthood and therefore assists very closely in offering up the Mass, will sing the Gospel, which is the greater of the two lessons. The subdeacon, being a sacred minister, also assists closely in the Mass, but not as closely as the deacon. Thus, the subdeacon sings the Epistle. After the last collect, the subdeacon takes the book, goes to the epistle side of the altar (hence its name), and, standing at the bottom of the steps facing the altar, sings the Epistle. The priest remains standing at the altar, while everyone else sits to listen and be instructed. When the Epistle has been sung, the choir responds quietly, saying (not singing), “Deo gratias,” which means, “Thanks be to God.” What other response could we make to hearing the Word of God than to quietly thank him for the instruction he has given us through his servant and apostle? The subdeacon then goes up to the altar to receive the priest's blessing.

Following the Epistle is ordinarily a Gradual and an Alleluia verse. The Gradual is the oldest chant in the Mass, being as old as the readings themselves, which, as said before, date from the early Church. In ancient times, an entire psalm was often sung in this place. Today, the Gradual is just a few verses of a psalm. This practice of psalms alternating with scriptural readings dates back to the worship of the Jewish Synagogue and the Jewish Temple, the latter having the fifteen Gradual Psalms sung on the highest feasts. (These psalms are noted in the Bible as, depending on the translation, “gradual canticle,” “song of degrees,” or “song of ascents.”) The Gradual and the following Alleluia verse are the most difficult chants of the Mass to sing, as elaborate musical praise to God is due to accompany the proclamation of his Word.

This element of praise is especially brought out in the Alleluia verse that follows, in which the word “alleluia” is sung by the cantors and repeated by the choir, a verse or two from a psalm is chanted by the cantors, and then the choir repeats “alleluia.” “Alleluia” is a Hebrew word meaning, “all hail to him who is.” “All hail” is the same as “glory in the highest,” as in the Gloria, and “him who is” is a reference to Exodus 3:14, when God identified himself to Moses as, “I am who I am.” Described by the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia as “the liturgical mystic expression," this word is used to give praise to God first in Tobit 13:22, then in Psalm 104 and many other psalms, including the beginning and end of Psalm 150, but the word is used in the New Testament only in the book of Apocalypse. In the Alleluia verse in the Mass, we give praise to God for his Word revealed through Jesus Christ in the Gospel.

A couple times in the year, the Church desires to expand her praise of God beyond the one word “alleluia,” so in place of the repeated alleluia after the verse, a Sequence is sung. The Sequence is a longer hymn, not from scripture, that elaborates on the verse. For example, here is the Gradual, Alleluia verse, and Sequence for Easter Sunday.

Hæc dies, quam fecit Dóminus: exsultémus et lætémur in ea. Confitémini Dómino, quóniam bonus: quóniam in saeculum misericórdia eius.

Allelúia, allelúia. Pascha nostrum immolátus est Christus.

Víctimæ pascháli laudes ímmolent Christiáni. Agnus rédemit oves: Christus ínnocens Patri reconciliávit peccatóres. Mors et vita duéllo conflixére mirándo: dux vitæ mórtuus regnat vivus. Dic nobis, María, quid vidísti in via? Sepúlcrum Christi vivéntis et glóriam vidi resurgéntis. Angélicos testes, sudárium et vestes. Surréxit Christus, spes mea: præcédet vos in Galilaeam. Scimus Christum surrexísse a mórtuis vere: tu nobis, victor Rex, miserére. Amen. Allelúia.
This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it. Give praise unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.

Alleluia, alleluia. Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises. The Lamb the sheep redeemeth: Christ, who only is sinless, reconcileth sinners to the Father. Death and life have contended in that conflict stupendous: the Prince of Life, who died, deathless reigneth. Speak, Mary, declaring what thou sawest wayfaring. “The tomb of Christ who now liveth: and likewise the glory of the Risen. Bright angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting. Yea, Christ, my hope is arisen: to Galilee he goeth before you.” We know that Christ is risen, henceforth ever living: Have mercy, Victor King, pardon giving. Amen. Alleluia.

In the Middle Ages, many sequences were composed, so that by the beginning of the sixteenth century many feasts had sequences. However, at the Council of Trent, the number was reduced to just four so that this type of expanded praise could be reserved the highest and most theologically deep feasts.

When the character of the Mass is sorrowful, such as in Lent and at Masses for the Dead, the Alleluia verse is not sung, as such a joyful element would be out of place. Instead, a Tract is sung, which is a longer portion of a psalm sung without refrain or antiphon. Very elaborate chant melodies are also composed for Tracts, though they are also often sung to simple psalm tones. The extended length of the Tract expresses the Church's desire to extend her watch with Christ during those times. At Masses for the Dead, the famous sequence Dies iræ is sung after the Tract. In this case, as with the sequence Stabat mater dolorosa on the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the purpose of the Sequence is not to expand our praise and joy, but our lament and sorrow.

During these chants, a few ceremonies take place. After the subdeacon has finished singing the Epistle, the ministers read the Gradual and whatever follows to themselves. Then the subdeacon moves the missal, the book from which the priest reads the texts of the Mass, to the gospel side of the altar. He ascends the steps of the altar on the epistle side, takes the missal, descends the steps, ascends the steps on the gospel side, and then places the missal there. “Steps” in Latin is “gradus,” hence the name “Gradual.” This ceremony has two different levels of meaning. First, the ascension and descension of the altar steps represents our walk through life (Ecclesiastes 1:3-6), and the Gradual Psalms of Jewish Temple worship were sung while ascending the steps of the Temple. Second, whereas most of the Mass until now paralleled Jewish Temple worship, the Gospel is where that parallel ends. The movement of the missal from the epistle side to the gospel side represents the transition from the Old Covenant to the New, and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what sets the worship of the New Covenant apart from that of the Old.

After the missal has been moved, the deacon, whose function it is to sing the Gospel, comes and lays the Gospel book on the altar. The altar represents Christ, so laying the Word of God on top of it represents the union between the two: Christ as the Word made flesh (John 1:1-14). The priest puts incense in the thurible and blesses it. The deacon then kneels on the top step of the altar, bows low, and prays for purity and worthiness to proclaim the Gospel, alluding to a seraph's purification of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5-7), before asking the priest's blessing.

Munda cor meum, ac labia mea, omnípotens Deus, qui labia Isaíæ Prophétæ cálculo mundásti igníto: ita me tua grata miseratióne dignáre mundáre, ut sanctum Evangélium tuum digne váleam nuntiáre. Per Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

Iube, domne, benedícere.

Dóminus sit in corde tuo et in lábiis tuis: ut digne et competénter annúnties Evangélium suum: In nómine Patris, et Fílii, + et Spíritus Sancti. Amen.
Cleanse my heart and my lips, O almighty God, who didst cleanse the lips of the prophet Isaias with a burning coal, and vouchsafe, through thy gracious mercy, so to purify me, that I may worthily announce thy holy Gospel. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sir, give me thy blessing.

The Lord be in thy heart and on thy lips, that thou mayest worthily and in a becoming manner, proclaim his holy Gospel. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The procession is then formed to the place where the Gospel is to be proclaimed. The Gospel is sung facing north, symbolically toward the pagan barbarians (Jeremiah 1:14). Although the Gospel is proclaimed for everyone, it is especially directed toward those who have not yet heard the Word of God, in hopes of their conversion. Servers hold candles on either side of the Gospel book (which is held by the subdeacon), representing the light of Christ revealed in the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). To begin, the deacon greets the people with “Dominus vobiscum,” the only time in liturgy when anyone other than a priest says this greeting.

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Sequéntia sancti Evangélii secúndum __.
Gloria tibi, Domine.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to __.
Glory to you, O Lord.

“Glory to you, O Lord,” we say in anticipation of hearing the Gospel of Christ. This response is omitted only during Holy Week when the Gospel is that of the Passion of Christ. While singing this, the deacon makes small Signs of the Cross with his thumb first on the Gospel book, then on his forehead, lips, and breast, nonverbally praying that the Gospel may be on his mind, lips, and heart. The deacon then honors the Gospel book with incense and sings the Gospel. The choir responds saying quietly, not singing, “Laus tibi, Christe.” “Praise to you, Christ,” the one whose good news we have just heard. This is perhaps a higher form of the response, “Deo gratias,” that follows the Epistle.

After the Gospel has been sung, the Gospel book is brought back to the priest, who kisses it, whispering a poetic prayer.

Per Evangélica dicta, deleántur nostra delícta.
By the words of the Gospel, may our sins be blotted out.

This prayer originates from the Middle Ages. The deacon then incenses the priest, on whose behalf he has sung the Gospel. Often at this time, particularly on Sundays and major Holy Days, the Epistle and Gospel are then read again (not sung) in the vernacular and a sermon is preached. Necessary announcements may also be made at this time. This is not a part of the liturgy, and no mention is made of it in the missal.

Some have contended that the Epistle and Gospel ought to be sung in the vernacular rather than in Latin. However, the rubrics of the missal require that they be sung in Latin, and rightfully so. Latin is still the universal language of Christ's universal Church, and the Mass is the Church's highest form of worship to God, so it uses her sacred language. Christ is the Word of God made flesh, and the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, so the chanting of Sacred Scripture in the Mass must use the sacred language of the Church. In addition, Latin is more all-encompassing when the congregation comes from multiple linguistic backgrounds. Therefore, in the liturgy, Latin must be used in singing the Epistle and Gospel. It is both allowed and encouraged, however, to read the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular before the sermon, to aid in the congregation's understanding of it.

New terms

  • Mass of the Catechumens – The first half of the Mass, which prepares us for the sacrifice itself.
  • Propers – The parts of the Mass that are specific to the occasion.
  • Epistle – The first reading, sung by the subdeacon, from an epistle of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, or the Old Testament.
  • Gospel – The second reading, sung by the deacon, always from the Gospels of the New Testament.
  • Gradual – The psalm verses sung, often to an elaborate melody, after the Epistle.
  • Alleluia verse – A verse from a psalm, preceded and followed by the word “alleluia,” sung after the Gradual on days of a joyful nature.
  • Sequence – A hymn that is sung after the Alleluia verse or Tract on a few special occasions.
  • Tract – A longer section of a psalm that replaces the Alleluia verse on days of a sorrowful nature.
  • Missal – The book from which the priest reads the texts of the Mass.