So if there’s anything that every Catholic should do, it is to not only go to Mass on Sunday, but also to appreciate and love the Mass. I’ll have to admit it took me many years to start to love it. It took my mother prodding me to become a lector in 8th grade in order for me to finally appreciate what it was I was going to church for.
And so I will attempt to outline a typical Sunday Novus Ordo and show you why every moment of Mass is just well, awesome.
I. Liturgy of the Catechumens
A. The Introit/Processional
If your church has the ability, there will be a Gregorian Chant schola that will chant the Introit, which is basically an intro psalm to what the Mass is praying about. Some famous Introits are the ones for Rorate Caeli, Gaudete Sunday, and Laetare Sunday. After the Introit, there may be a processional hymn that also supports the “theme” of the day’s lessons.
This is when we, together with the priest, make our public confession. We confess to God and each other that we have sinned. And to see an entire congregation pound their chests as we say “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” or “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” We then ask for God’s mercy (Luke 18:13-“And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner”) as we prepare ourselves to hear the word of God and also prepare to see Heaven come to Earth as bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
C. Gloria (omitted in Lent and Advent)
” Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” ~Luke 2:14. Singing the same words as the angels who sang when the birth of Christ was announced, we sing together praising and worshiping God with the same words as many centuries of Saints and sinners alike.
It’s very easy to miss this prayer, because it is very quick, but if you get the chance to read them, they are very inspiring. For example, the Collects of Lent ask for prayers that we may fast more reverently as we avoid sin and temptation and the like.
E. The Readings, Responsorial, Alleluia, Gospel, and Homily
For some people, this is where the mental fun begins. The First Reading is typically something out of the Old Testament or sometimes Revelation. The Responsorial Psalm is a Psalm that relates to either the day or the readings. The Second Reading is typically one of St. Paul’s Letters. Alleluia is Hebrew for “Praise God” as we prepare to hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel. I usually like to analyse the readings in chronological order, meaning First, Gospel, then Second. Typically, it means looking at the Old Testament and what God asked of us or asked how we should prepare for something, then seeing how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament, then seeing St. Paul elaborate on how it is we are to live as Christians. After the readings is hopefully a good homily by the priest or deacon, clarifying the readings and telling us what it is we are called to do.
Another thing to look at with the readings and homily is how they relate to the Trinity. The First and Second Reading can be looked at as representing the word of God the Father. The Gospel is the words of God the Son. The homily is the priest inspired by God the Holy Spirit to elaborate the words before him and giving them to us.
F. Intercessory Prayers
These are prayers that are asked for the intentions of the people and/or the bishop and Pope. They can be optional.
G. Nicene Creed
This is where we end the Liturgy of the Catechumens. Not only do we say it together, but in saying “I believe” we individually affirm our beliefs in the most concise way possible. The fact that the Nicene Creed is what helped unite us all the back in 325 AD just makes it more awesome. Not to mention that Santa Claus helped make the Creed. It’s just a beautiful statement that’s been said for almost 1700 years now, and we are a part of that.
II. Liturgy of the Eucharist
A. The Offertory
This is where the Church collects offerings from the congregation. Sometimes, there’s a cool offertory hymn, or an Offertory Chant. It’s pretty grand or cool. It’s also where we can give our material wealth for the Church’s benefit and maintenance. If there is no hymn, then the bread and wine which are to become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are prepared for consecration. Blessed be God forever.
B. Sursum Corda
This is where things get serious. The whole point of the Mass starts here. It is right and just to lift our hearts to the Lord. The priest then starts the Anaphora and we get to experience something literally out of this world.
In the Mass, Heaven comes down to Earth when the consecration happens. We then sing together with the angels another angelic hymn. “In the year that king Ozias died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: and his train filled the temple. Upon it stood the seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they hew. And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory.” ~Isaiah 6: 1-3. The fact that we are singing together with the angels is already something we cannot comprehend. Heaven comes down to Earth and by this time the Mass has already entered outside of time.
D. The Consecration
On our knees, we see the priest in persona Christi reciting the words of the Anaphora. With those words, and with incomprehensible mystery, we see the reason why we come to Mass. Bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. If anyone dares accuse Catholics of not having a personal relationship with Christ, reply by saying that we believe that he actually, physically comes down to Earth and in his grand humility, allows us to consume him. God came down to earth to become man so that man can become like God. Just try wrapping your heads around that, and then give up trying and go ahead and accept that he loves all of us to the point of allowing us to have him.
E. Mysterium Fidei
We then proclaim the mystery of faith. We partake in the Eucharist and profess that Christ has resurrected and will come again.
F. The Lord’s Prayer
We then pray the only prayer Jesus has ever taught us. Just imagine it. At that moment, we are actually praying as Jesus commanded us. All our prayer has to be based on that prayer. May the Lord’s will be done.
G. Sign of Peace
Well, this is where some nonsense happens, like people walking around the church to shake hands or hug, or people flashing peace signs, but when it is done reverently (or not at all) it is when we are at peace because Christ is with us.
H. Agnus Dei
We then proclaim the Lamb of God. May he have mercy on us and may he grant us peace.
I. Ecce Agnus Dei
“The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.” ~John 1:29.
We then respond with the same statement as the centurion. “And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.” ~Matthew 8:8.
We are not worthy to receive God, and yet he loves us so much that he is willing to forgive us. If we are judged by our iniquities, none shall stand, and yet we are allowed to receive him.
This is where we receive our Lord. We are fed the food for our souls and actually, physically have God within us. How awesome is that?
The Tabernacle is closed. The Host is stored safely and we meditate in thanks that we have received God.
L. Ite Missa Est
After the post-communion prayers, the priest gives the final blessing. The Mass has ended, and so let us go forth glorifying the Lord by our lives.
The Mass is the most beautiful thing we have. It takes a lot of focus and a lot of exposure to learn and appreciate it. Daily Mass in addition to Sunday Mass helps out a lot because the reading cycles given by Holy Mother Church are basically lessons for life spread out in one year. Life can be learned through Mass. The destiny meant for Christians can be seen at Mass. Let us all learn to appreciate it more for what it does for us.
Next time, if possible, I’ll post a version on the Extraordinary Form.
Have a blessed Lent.
“When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.” ~ St. John Chrysostom