THE LITURGY of the CHURCH
A few important notes...
• The Eucharist is one of the Seven Sacraments,
but it is what the Church refers to as “the source
and summit of the Christian life.”
• The celebration of the Eucharist is at the heart of
the Mass, our most important liturgy.
• The word Eucharist comes from a Greek word,
eucharistia, which means “to give thanks.”
– AKA: the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion.
What’s in a name?
• Mass: from the Latin phrase “Ite missa est,” or “Go, it is
the dismissal.”
– In the Western (or Latin) Church, the Eucharistic celebration is
referred to as the Holy Mass.
– "In antiquity, missa simply meant 'dismissal'. In Christian usage,
however, it gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word
'dismissal' has come to imply a 'mission'. These few words
succinctly express the missionary nature of the Church.” (Pope
Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, 51.)
• Liturgy: from the Greek word leitourgia, a word which
means “public work” meaning a public work done on
behalf of the people.
– Eastern Churches refer to the Eucharistic celebration as the
Divine Liturgy.
The Last Supper: The birth of the Mass
• “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took
bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This
is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In
the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is
the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink
it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread
and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he
comes. 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.” (St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, written c. 56 AD)
The Structure of the Mass
The Mass can be divided into two parts:
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The Liturgy of the Word
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Introductory Rites
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The Liturgy of the Eucharist
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Introit (Entrance Chant)
Greeting
Penitential Rite
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First Reading
Psalm
Second Reading
Alleluia
Gospel Reading
Homily
Credo (Profession of Faith)
General Intercessions
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Introductory Dialogue
Preface
Sanctus
Institution (Consecration)
Memorial Acclamation
Conclusion
Communion Rite
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Prayer Over the Gifts
The Eucharistic Prayer
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Confieteor
Kyrie
Gloria
Collect (Opening Prayer)
Liturgy of the Word
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Preparation of the altar and gifts
(Offertory Chant)
Lord’s Prayer
Sign of Peace
Fracture (Agnus Dei)
Holy Communion (Communion Chant)
Prayer After Communion
Concluding Rite
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Greeting, Blessing and Dismissal
[Final hymn]
Christian Worship in the early Apostolic Age
c. 30 – 70 AD
• Jerusalem: the Temple, the synagogue, the Eucharistic liturgy
– Jewish Christians living in and around Jerusalem still attended prayers
at the Temple until c. 70 AD.
– Many Jewish Christians also attended Scripture services at synagogues
on the Sabbath.
– Gentile and Jewish Christians also recognized “the Lord’s Day”
(Sunday) by meeting together during the night before or very early in the
morning and celebrating the Eucharist with their bishop, priests and
deacons.
• Diaspora: the synagogue and the Eucharistic liturgy
– Jewish Christians in the Diaspora (those living in cities outside the
vicinity of Jerusalem and Israel) attended Scripture services at
synagogues on the Sabbath and still made pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
– Gentile and Jewish Christians also recognized “the Lord’s Day”
(Sunday) by meeting together during the night before or very early in the
morning and celebrating the Eucharist with their bishop, priests and
deacons.
Christian Worship in the late Apostolic Age
c. 70 – 100 AD
• Jerusalem: Temple destroyed, Christians flee
– Temple worship ends and both Jews and Christians
flee Jerusalem.
• Diaspora: Jewish Christians are excluded from synagogues
– Elements of the synagogue liturgy are absorbed into
the Eucharistic liturgy.
• Use of lectionary-based Scripture readings along with an
interpretive homily and the singing of psalms.
• With these additions, the basic form of the Mass is now
complete (Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist).
Christian Worship in the Book of Revelation
c. 100 AD
• Apostle John experiences a vision which includes a peek
at the eternal liturgy of heaven.
• Heavenly liturgy includes some elements of the old
Temple liturgy, etc.
– An altar, the use of lights (i.e. candles), golden lamp stands,
elders, golden crowns, a chalice, incense, fine vestments, et al.
• This is viewed by the early Christians as a glimpse at the
“ideal” liturgy.
– Archaeological and literary evidence suggests that local
churches, even in the early decades of the Church, gave much
attention to the appointments of the altar and local communities
provided the best appointments that they could afford.
– Early records of Roman persecution of the Church record the
forced closure of churches and the confiscation of books as well
as chalices and candlesticks of gold and silver.
Sunday Mass described by St. Justin Martyr
c. 150 AD
“No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the
regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us
by Christ.
We do not consume the Eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as
Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh
and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words
contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.
The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They
tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup,
he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly
reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we
praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.
On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The
recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished,
the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the
readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.
On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives
thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, ‘Amen’. The Eucharist is distributed, everyone present
communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.
The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the
custody of the presider, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether
because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.
We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and
chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was
crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have
passed on for your consideration.” (St. Justin Martyr, First Apology)
Location of the Liturgy
• The Last Supper
– Cenacle or “Upper Room”
• House Churches
– Domus Ecclasiae
– Paul’s greeting in Romans
16:3-5 to Prisca and Aquila,
in which he also “greet[s]
the church that is in their
house.”
• Church Buildings
– Domus Dei
– Roman basilica quickly
becomes the favored
structure for churches
Developments in Christian Worship
c. 4th Century
• Scriptural canon is now uniform
throughout the Church (for use in the
lectionary).
• Religious freedom allows the Church to
add more elements of the “liturgical ideal”
– Entrance procession with torches (i.e.
candles), use of incense and fine vessels and
vestments.
– More structured/codified ritual in the liturgy.
The Language of Worship
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In first and second centuries, the liturgy was usually celebrated in Greek, the lingua
franca of the Mediterranean world.
As Christianity spread in the third century, other regional languages began to be
used in worship.
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Greek continued to be used in the regions of Greece, Asia Minor and Israel, Syriac began to
be used in the region of Syria, Coptic in Egypt and Armenian in the kingdom of Armenia
while the Church in North Africa and Italy began to use Latin.
By the fourth century, the liturgies of four particular sees (namely Rome, Antioch,
Alexandria and Constantinople) as well as the kingdom of Armenia, began to exert a
formative influence on the liturgies of local churches in their region of influence. Each
of these traditions retained specific liturgical languages and the liturgies which
coalesced around these sees are known as particular “rites.”
– The five major Rites (along with their city or region of origin and their
respective liturgical languages are:
• Latin Rite (Rome - Latin)
• Byzantine Rite (Constantinople - Greek)
• Syriac (Antioch - Syriac)
• Alexandrian (Alexandria - Coptic)
• Armenian (Armenia - Armenian)
The Rites of the Church
The Latin Rite (Our Rite)
• Liturgical language is Latin.
– Since 1970 (after Vatican II), permission has
been granted for the Mass to be celebrated in
English, but the use of Latin is to be retained,
especially in the chants.
• Two forms of the Holy Mass:
– Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form.
– Both forms are to be fostered and
encouraged.
Musical Parts of the Holy Mass
• Ordinaries
– Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei
– Remain the same from Mass to Mass
– Church documents encourage the use of Latin chant
for these
• Propers
– Introit, Gradual (or Responsorial Psalm), Sequence,
Alleluia or Tract, Offertory and Communion
– Assigned to particular Masses
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One, holy, catholic and apostolic