Commentary on the Mass

The Liturgy of the Catechumens
often referred to as
The Liturgy of the Word

The Salutation

Here, with the Salutation between priest and people, is the way Mass began in the earliest years after the Resurrection. It had begun as a polite Jewish greeting, not confined to religious services. In the Book of Ruth, for instance, the greeting was called out by Boaz to the reapers in his fields, and they answered in turn (cf. Ruth 2:4); however, in Christian usage it has deeper significance, emphasizing that the service we, priest and people, now offer to God is a corporate offering.

The Collect

This opening prayer, usually known as the Collect for Purity, sets the tone for what follows, beseeching Almighty God to cleanse our hearts and minds and to make us worthy to partake of the Body and Blood we are about to receive.

Note: The noun collect best serves us when we think of it in its verb form: to collect. It preserves or ‘collects’ prayers commonly used as far back as the earliest Western (i.e., Catholic) usage. It defines a particular short form of prayers which consists of three or four parts. When it refers to a particular festival or a particular Epistle or Gospel for the Mass that is to follow, it is referred to as the Collect of the Day. Sometimes particular collects are to be said for an entire liturgical season (e.g., Ash Wednesday’s Collect is to be repeated until Palm Sunday). The more you use The Book of Common Prayer, the more you will come to recognize the beauty of the ‘collect’ form and its application in the BCP.

Gloria in Excelsis

After pleading on our knees for God’s mercy, we now stand and, modeling our words on the angelic antiphon sung at Christ’s birth, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,(Lk. 2:14) we call out, Glory be to God on high. . . .: We sing of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost most glorious. Three paragraphs, three Persons, One God. And embedded in the middle of paragraph two, devoted to God the Son, we call on Him that takest away the sins of the world [to] receive our prayer [and to] have mercy upon us.

We come before the throne of God, awed by His majesty, thrilled by His shining glory, filled with heavenly joy at the coming encounter, and we sing. The Gloria in Excelsis makes clear that the only pathway to closing the gap which exists between us and the Father is through our Blessed Lord, Jesus, the Christ.

Like the Te Deum laudamus (BCP, 10-11), the Gloria in excelsis utilizes a trinity of verses of praise (three acclamations), each glorifying one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The thrust of this hymn is conveyed in the second verse, which proclaims the arrival of the Redeemer and our place in His creation. The first verse exalts the heavenly King, God the Father; the third verse proclaims the rightful place of the Holy Ghost as an equal Person of the tripartite God Christians proclaim.

Note:

  1. We bow three times during the Gloria, once in the first paragraph and twice in paragraph two: a. At the words we worship the, b. At the name of Jesus Christ’ (cf. Phil. 2:10), then at receive our prayer.
  2. We sign the cross as we say Holy+Ghost at the end of  paragraph three to remind us that the benefits of the Son’s Redeeming death and Resurrection continue to be available through the Holy Ghost in His Church.
  3. Italics are not used for the ’Amen’ at the end of the Gloria in Excelsis because priest & people are singing it together. Italics indicate the need for a response by the congregation.

 

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