As Catholics, we know very well that the basic structure of the Mass has four parts: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and Concluding Rites. This knowledge may give us a wrong perception. We may think we hear the Word of the Lord only during the liturgy of the Word, or more specifically, during the readings! In reality, the Word of the Lord is included throughout the Mass. Further, the invitation and response between the celebrant and the congregation is a biblical dialogue.
Introductory Rites include a penitential rite, recitation of the Kyrie on weekdays, recitation of the Gloria on Sundays and major feasts, and the Opening Prayer of the day. The Liturgy of the Word follows the Opening Prayer. There are three readings and a psalm on Sundays and major feasts, and two readings and a psalm on weekdays. The Gospel follows, preceded by the Alleluia, except during Lent. After the Gospel, the celebrant delivers the homily, and the congregation recites the Creed on Sundays and major feasts.
After the Liturgy of the Word is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which begins with the Offertory Rites. The Eucharistic prayer follows, with a proper Preface and the recitation of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy…). The Eucharistic prayer ends with the doxology and the great Amen. The Communion Rite begins after the Lord’s Prayer. It includes the prayer for peace, the sign of peace, and the reception of Holy Communion. Finally, the priest dismisses the people. The last part of the Mass is called Concluding Rites or Dismissals.
In this article, we will see some of the examples of prayers, acclamations and responses, rooted in the Bible, from the third revised translation of the Roman Missal.
Introductory Rites: Greetings
Perhaps the most noticeable change is the first response from the congregation after the profession “Amen.” The celebrant, after making the Sign of the Cross, greets the people “The Lord be with you.” Instead of “And also with you,” the people answer “And with your spirit,” a closer translation of the Latin, “Et cum spiritu tuo.” This dialogue comes from the Bible. “The Lord be with you” can be found in Luke 1: 26-28 (Ru 2: 4; 2 Chr 15:2), “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” The congregation responds from 2 Timothy 4: 22 (Gal 6:18; Phil 4:23), “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with all of you.” This conversation is also a dialogue of faith and a wish of love. It is noted here that another form of the celebrant’s greeting “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you,” comes from 2 Corinthians 13:13; and from Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Philippians 1:2; Galatians 1:3, and Ephesians 1:2.
The Penitential Rites offer more than a few choices. The celebrant and the congregation pray: “Lord, have mercy,” which comes from Baruch 3:2 (Ps 41:10; 123:3; 51:1), “Hear, O Lord, for you are a God of mercy; and have mercy on us, who have sinned against you.” Praying “Christ, have mercy,” we focus directly on Christ’s mercy to us and ask him for forgiveness. Luke 17:12-13 states: “As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have mercy on us!’” In Matthew 17:15, we read of a man asking Jesus to have mercy on his son.
If the priest chooses the longer Penitential Rite or Confiteor, “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. . .” we notice gestures and words from the Bible. As penitents, we take our right hand, curl it into a loose fist and strike our breast. In the Old Testament, Jeremiah (31:19) said, “I turn in repentance; I have come to myself, I strike my breast; I blush with shame, I bear the disgrace of my youth.”
In the New Testament, Luke (18:13) describes the repentance of the tax collector: “But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” Again, Luke 15:18-20, in the story of the benevolent father, relates both the repentance of the son and the love of the father: “I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”
Another noticeable change in the Introductory Rites is the Gloria. Instead of saying “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth,” we will say “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” The new translation is closer to the Latin text, “Gloria in excelsis Deo and in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis,” and reflects more faithfully the message from Luke 2:14, “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” In addition, the terms “we adore you, we glorify you,” and “the only begotten Son” are found in both the Gloria and the Creed.
The Introductory Rites conclude with the Opening Prayer. These prayers have been re-translated. The revised prayers make the roles of the three Persons of the Trinity more precise. They also recall the writings of the Fathers of the Church in the early centuries. The response “Amen” strongly and solemnly affirms our belief in one God, in three Persons, and in the unity of these three Persons with us.
“Amen” itself is a profession of faith. It means “truthfully,” “permanently” or “So be it.” According to biblical scholars, “Amen” is used 52 times in the Synoptic Gospels, and 25 times in John. The “Amens” from Matthew 6:13; 28:20; Mark 16:20; Luke 24:53; and John 21:25, are called the final five “Amens.” In Romans, “Amen” also occurs in several doxology formulas (1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:24. 27). Paul uses “Amen” to conclude prayer “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen” (Rm 11:36). Catholics follow Paul’s example, using “Amen” to glorify the Lord at the end of prayer.
The Liturgy of the Word follows the Opening Prayer. After hearing “the Word of the Lord,” the congregation responds “Thanks be to God.” Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians proclaims: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15; 1 Cor 15:57).
After the Gospel, the celebrant delivers the homily, and the assembly recites the Creed on Sundays and major feasts.
The new version of the Nicene Creed focuses more on the personal intimate relationship between the individual and God. Therefore, instead of saying “We believe in one God. . . ,” we say “I believe in one God. . . I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ. . . , I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. . . , I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” People may say that “I believe” and “We believe” mean the same thing. However, the original text from Latin, “Credo,” means “I believe.”
The term “believe” is used many times in the New Testament. Some of the most well known statements come from John’s Gospel: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves (Jn 14:10-11).”
The most popular personal response “I believe” was Mary Magdalene’s profession of faith, from John 11:25-27, “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
In the new version of the Creed, we say: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.” The term “Only Begotten” comes from Psalm 2:7, “You are my son; today I have begotten you,” and from Acts 13:33, “We ourselves are proclaiming this Good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’” The term “Only Begotten Son of God” in the Creed reminds us of the words of the Gloria, “Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” “Born of the Father before all ages” makes the meaning of “Only Begotten Son of God” more precise. Jesus was with God the Father before time began. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (Jn 1:1-2).
In the Nicene Creed, we speak of the Holy Spirit as adored and glorified with the Father and the Son. Here, we are reminded of the use of “adore and glorify” in the Gloria, “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you. . . .” Jesus himself mentioned the work and presence of the Holy Spirit: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In John 14:16-17, we read “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
The Liturgy of the Eucharist follows the Creed. As in the Creed, there is the inspiration of a personal intimate relationship with God. The celebrant invites the assembly, “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” This phrase recalls Matthew 5:24, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
The Preface to the Eucharistic prayer shows another noticeable change related to the biblical dialogue. At the invitation of the celebrant, the congregation responds: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. . .” Lord God of hosts is from Isaiah 6:3 and Psalm 46:7. Similarly, we read in Luke 2:13, “And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”
And, at the end of the Consecration, there will be three acclamations, rather than the four we now have. They are: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again,” “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again,” and “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.” These three acclamations provide a more literal translation of the original Latin text. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” is deleted.
The dialogue between the celebrant and the faithful before the distribution of Holy Communion is significantly changed. The celebrant will say: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb” (Jn 1:29; Rv 19:9). The congregation responds: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Mt 8:8; Lk 7:6).
Finally, during the Concluding Rites, instead of saying “The Mass is ended, go in peace” the celebrant will say: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” or “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” (Mk 16:15, and Acts 1:8) or “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” After receiving the body and blood of Christ, we go into the world with a mission. In Latin, “Ite, misa est,” from which comes the term “Misa” or Mass, includes a mission.
The Mass is not only the performance of rites and celebration of “Sacred Mysteries.” The Eucharist should also be the celebration of the Meal during which people dialogue biblically. The Mass is not only celebrated in the Church by Catholics, it should also be preached to all people. TP
Father Dao, O.P., ordained a Dominican in 1982, serves as administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Montclair, Calif. He earned a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at the University of Houston.