Liturgy Teaching Points
Liturgy Teaching Points are provided by the Holy Spirit Liturgy Committee. These teaching points are used to help educate our parish members on the importance and significance of specific topics, customs, or prayers used during the liturgy. If there is a topic you would like to know more about, contact Cassie at the parish office.
February’s liturgy teaching point reviews part of the dialogue that takes place towards the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After the priest washes his hands, the congregation stands and Father prays, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” And we respond, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” In this exchange, we see the whole purpose of the Mass summed up concisely in two parts. When we say “for the praise and glory of your name,” we are acknowledging that we are here to glorify the Father. When we gather for the Eucharist, we shouldn’t be coming to get something out of it. Our primary reason for coming should be to worship God. The second purpose of the Mass is that the world is saved. Through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice of Himself, he redeemed the world and saved us from death. Each Mass we partake of the sacrifice as our Lamb lays down His life in exchange for ours. Let us give glory to God always as we rejoice in His great love of us. The love so great that the Father offered His beloved Son up to enduring a cruel death for our salvation.
Over the past few months, the liturgy teaching points have explained some of the postures we assume during Mass. The final two are bowing and prostrating. Bowing signifies reverence, respect, and gratitude. In the Creed we bow at the words that commemorate the Incarnation. We also bow as a sign of reverence before we receive Communion. The priest and other ministers bow to the altar, a symbol of Christ, when entering or leaving the sanctuary. As a sign of respect and reverence even in our speech, we bow our heads at the name of Jesus, at the mention of the Three Persons of the Trinity, at the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and at the name of the saint whose particular feast or memorial is being observed. Prostrating is a posture we don’t witness very often. This is when an individual lies full-length on the floor with their face to the ground. It is reserved for those who are ordained. A posture of deep humility, it signifies willingness to share in Christ’s death so as to share in his Resurrection. It is used at the beginning of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and also during the Litany of the Saints in the Rite of Ordination, when those to be ordained deacons, priests, and bishops prostrate themselves in humble prayer and submission to Christ. As we go through all of these movements, may our attentiveness and participation in prayer grow deeper each time we assume a new posture.
The December liturgy teaching point this month focuses on two more of the postures that Catholics assume during the liturgy. Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and the homily and may also sit for the period of meditation following Communion. All should strive to assume a seated posture during the Mass that is attentive rather than merely at rest. Another frequent movement is genuflecting. As a sign of adoration, we genuflect by bringing our right knee to the floor. Many people also make the Sign of the Cross as they bend their knee. Traditionally, Catholics genuflect on entering and leaving church if the Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary of the Church. The priest and deacon genuflect to the tabernacle on entering and leaving the sanctuary. The priest also genuflects in adoration after he shows the Body and Blood of Christ to the people after the consecration and again before inviting the people to Holy Communion. May this gesture help us grow in deeper respect and reverence for our Lord each time we genuflect.
Our liturgy teaching point for November is about the communion of saints. During this month we traditionally pray for those who have gone before us - that they may be admitted to the heavenly banquet in heaven. When we participate in the Mass, we are united to the communion of saints particularly through the Eucharist. Since the saints in heaven are participating fully in the love of the Trinity, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we are closer to the saints in heaven than ever before. A Catholic singer and songwriter named Danielle Rose wrote “I will meet you at the table / I will meet you in His heart / In the company of angels / In the place where all things start / We receive each other's presence / We are all made one in Him / Though I cannot see your face / I will see you in the Eucharist.” It is a good reminder that when we are participating in this banquet here on earth we are joined to and in communion with the eternal banquet of heaven. It may be easy to forget this since we cannot see it, but the veil is thin and we are surrounded by countless angels and saints when we take part in the Mass.
Our liturgy teaching point this month focuses on one of the postures that Catholics assume during the liturgy. How we go back and forth between sitting, standing, kneeling, bowing, etc. probably is second nature to us, but someone who is not familiar with Mass might be confused by all the ways we move and pray throughout the liturgy. One of our first actions is to stand. Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly. Since the beginning of the Church, standing has been understood as the stance of those who have risen with Christ and seek the things that are above. When we stand for prayer, we assume our full stature before God, not in pride but in humble gratitude for the wonderful things God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us. By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgement of this wonderful gift.
Our liturgy teaching moment for September focuses on one of the most common dialogues within the Mass. “The Lord be with you” and our response to it: “And with your spirit.” There is a lot of depth and significance in this brief exchange. There are multiple meanings behind the first part - “The Lord be with you.” In this simple line, we are reminded of Jesus saying, “When two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” It also calls to mind the reality of God’s life dwelling within our souls by virtue of our baptism. We are also reminded of the many times in Scripture that God or his angels approach figures in Scripture like Moses, King David, and even Mary with the words, “The Lord is with you.” Each time they are approached at major moments in their lives, God assures them of His constant presence and help. When we hear this we are reminded that God is with us each day and at each Mass. He is with us in our joys and struggles at all times.
When we respond by saying, “And with your spirit,” we are acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s unique activity through the priest during the sacred liturgy by virtue of his ordination. One scholar explains that we are “addressing the ‘spirit’ of the priest; that is, that deepest interior part of his being where he has been ordained precisely to lead the people in this sacred action. They are saying in effect, ‘Be the priest for us now,’ aware that there is only one priest, Christ Himself. And that this one who represents him now must be finely tuned to perform his sacred duties well.”
As we prepare to celebrate this Mass, may we remember that we are in the presence of the Lord who is present at all times but especially in the Eucharist we are about to receive and may we pray in gratitude for our priests who perform this holy sacrifice.
Who or what are you offering your Mass for today? (pause) Did you know that you can offer your Mass for someone or for a specific intention? When we were baptized we were anointed priest, prophet and king which allows us to offer spiritual sacrifices. In the Second Vatican Council document, Light of Nations, it says, “The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that...they may offer spiritual sacrifices...The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. ...Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.”
You can offer it for someone you love, help with a situation you are in, assistance in overcoming a specific sin, to grow in virtue, or for the souls in purgatory. You can offer your intention up during offertory when the priest begins the preparation and blessing of the gifts. The priest then prays, “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” When we hear this, we know that our intentions are being presented to the Lord with the sacrifice of Jesus giving Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. So, who or what intention will you offer your Mass for today?
The Liturgy Committee teaching point for July focuses on Ordinary Time. This is the season of the liturgical year that is the longest. During these weeks, we hear about the life of Jesus through scripture passages. We are called to reflect on his life and grow in our discipleship. It is a time of deepening conversion.
The title of “Ordinary Time” presents us a two-fold challenge. On the one hand, we know there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about our daily reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus. We shouldn’t allow the extraordinary message of the Gospel fall on complacent ears. We are tempted to equate ‘ordinary’ with ‘boring’ or ‘uninteresting’ but, as the saints remind us, great holiness is found in our ordinary, day-to-day experiences.
At the same time, the nature of the ‘in-between’ time of these weeks after Pentecost reminds us that the whole Christian life revolves around the mysteries we celebrate on our high holy days - the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. St. John Paul II exhorted the Christian people to “live in the light of his Paschal Mystery - the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. ‘We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!’” Ordinary time is a challenge to orient our entire lives towards Christ, even the ordinary, in-between days.
he Liturgy Committee teaching point for June focuses on the ambo from which Sacred Scripture is proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word. The word ambo signifies elevation or a mountain. Some scholars tie it back to Jesus preaching from the mount as Scripture tells us. But usually the ambo is connected to the angel who appeared to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning when she was looking for Jesus. The angel stood on the rock that was rolled back from the tomb and told her, “He is not here, but has been raised.” The angel proclaimed the Good News to her.
At the ambo, we hear Sacred Scripture proclaimed to us at each Mass. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says, “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in Church, God himself speaks to His people and Christ present in His Word proclaims the Gospel.” We are fed through this word, too. The Liturgy of the Word can also be called the Table of the Word. We are fed through hearing God’s Word which prepares us to then receive Jesus present in the Eucharist at the altar, the sacrificial table we use during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Through these two tables, we are nourished during Mass. We can think back to Jesus present to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. As he walked with them, he began to break open Scripture and explain it to them. When they reached Emmaus, he broke bread and their eyes were opened and their hearts were burning. May we too open our hearts to receive Christ at every Mass in both Word and Flesh.
The Liturgy Committee teaching point for May focuses on the Paschal Candle. Our Catholic Liturgy always makes use of fire and light as a symbol of Christ, whose teaching enlightens our minds and whose grace enkindles our hearts. Candles in general are used to remind us of the presence of Jesus: we see them burning near the tabernacle and at the altar every time we come for Mass.
We are reminded of the importance of candles especially during Eastertide, when the Paschal or Easter Candle is placed near the ambo in our churches. The lighted Paschal Candle symbolizes the Risen Christ Himself who is “the light of the world.” This rich symbol is the main feature of the beginning of the Easter Vigil liturgy. Take a moment after Mass to look closely at the Paschal Candle and notice: the cross that the priest traced in the wax to show that it represents Christ; the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet and the date, because Christ is the beginning and the end of all things and every generation - including the current year - belongs to him; and the five grains of incense inserted with pins into the candle, representing the five wounds which still remain in our Lord’s Risen body.
As we look upon the light of the Easter Candle at today’s Mass, let us pray that the light of Christ, risen from the dead, may dispel all darkness from our minds and hearts.
Do you know which season is the shortest in our liturgical year? The Sacred Paschal Triduum! Triduum literally means “three days.” In this short season, “the Church solemnly celebrates the greatest mysteries of our redemption, keeping by means of special celebrations the memorial of her Lord, crucified, buried, and risen.” It begins with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday and concludes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday. These short three days are also the high point of the entire liturgical year, even more important than Christmas! The whole of our Catholic faith is tied up in these three sacred days. We encourage everyone to come to each of the liturgies during Holy Week. Families with children are very welcome, too. These days are beautiful and rich in the story of Christ and the depth of His love for us. Come accompany Christ to the cross and celebrate his triumph over sin and death! The details and times for these liturgies can be found in this week’s bulletin, the Lent flyer or on our parish website.
The Liturgy Committee teaching point for March focuses on one of the options given for the penitential rite. The penitential rite gives us an opportunity to recall our sins and place our trust in God's abiding mercy. We are invited to be silent for a moment to "acknowledge our sins" so that we are prepared to "celebrate the sacred mysteries." There are three options for the Penitential Rite. At Holy Spirit Parish we regularly use the first or third option and have neglected the second option! So during Lent this year we wish to learn and use the second option. We have not used this since the translation of the Roman Missal in 2012. The dialogue goes like this:
The priest will say, "Have mercy on us, O Lord" and we respond, "For we have sinned against you." He then says, "Show us, O Lord, your mercy," to which we respond, "And grant us your salvation." We then proceed with the Kyrie or "Lord, have mercy" as we are accustomed to. This can be found in the beginning of the hymnal if you would like to refer to it as a reminder.
Our Liturgy Committee teaching point for February focuses on the offertory and presentation of the gifts. It can seem like an afterthought, but bringing the gifts of bread and wine forward in procession is far deeper than “just carrying something up.”
The theme of the offertory at Mass is one of offering a return to the Lord from the good gifts He has given to us. We present to the Father not only the freely given fruits of the earth - wheat and grape - but we also turn over to the Lord our human work - our cooperation with Him - in the forms of bread and wine. In this way, we give our very lives - works, joys, sufferings, and gifts - to the Father at the presentation of the gifts.
From the very beginning, Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. Tithing and almsgiving are acts of worship and express not only our desire to help those in need but also our generosity to God.
Of course, all of these offerings - bread and wine, tithing and alms, and our very selves - lead up to the perfect offering of Jesus Himself to the Father - for God’s glory and the good of His church.
On the First Sunday of Lent, March 9-10, we are beginning our new Gift Bearer Ministry. At different times in the past, we have had gift bearers assigned, but sometimes lately it’s unclear who is going to be bringing up the gifts at Mass. If there is a Baptism or anniversary celebration at a Mass, they will be asked if they would like to carry up the gifts. If neither of those celebrations are happening, then we would ask family members of the Mass intention. But there will be times when we will need other volunteers. If you are interested in being a gift bearer for any of our Mass times, please contact Cassie in the parish office. She is working on scheduling gift bearers for all weekend liturgies starting in the season of Lent.
Our Liturgy Committee teaching point for January focuses on a specific gesture that we see at Mass. So many of the movements during the Mass signify something greater than what our eyes see. Today we focus on the priest or bishop bowing and breathing over something. At the words of consecration, the priest leans over the chalice and speaks over the wine. In ancient times, if a messenger was sent from a king with a message to another person or group of people, they needed to bow down when they conveyed the message. Bowing would let the other party know that these words being spoken were from the king directly, not the messenger. So when the priest or bishop bows, it tells us that these words are not his own; the words they are speaking are truly the words of Christ our King. As the priest says these words, he is also breathing over the chalice. Breathing over something hearkens back to God breathing over the waters at the beginning of creation and making something new. So to breathe across the wine is to make it become something new, the Precious Blood of Christ. The bishop does a similar gesture at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. When the Chrism is being consecrated, the bishop breathes over the opening of the vessel containing the Sacred Chrism. This action also symbolizes the Holy Spirit, the breath of new life. As we gather today to celebrate the Eucharist, may we be attentive to the words and actions of the Mass that are rich in meaning and symbolism.