St. Paul The Apostle Parish, Westerville, Ohio
In previous blogs, we have discussed Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel. This letter is the game plan for the transformation of the Archdiocese of Detroit into a “joyful band of missionary disciples.”
Archbishop Vigneron states that families are “the very heart of our archdiocesan efforts to unleash the Gospel, because they are the first and most important setting in which evangelization takes place.”
He offers an action plan for families to reclaim their identity with God (Unleash the Gospel, p. 33). The first and most important action he recommends is attending Sunday Mass as a family.
Those who find the Mass boring or view it as nothing more than an obligation to fulfill may be surprised by that recommendation. However, the “Mass is about love. It is not an idea about love but the supreme encounter with love.” During the next three weeks, we will briefly explain the Mass to provide a better understanding of what happens.
This series is based on the Parish Mission at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, Michigan given by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, “The Mass: Supreme Encounter with God in Jesus.” Abbot Jeremy is in charge of the Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon. He teaches at the Mount Angel Seminary and the Pontifical University of Sant’ Anselmo, Rome. Abbot Jeremy’s Mission was based on his book What Happens at Mass.
At the end of each post, we will share a link to the videos from the Mission. We strongly encourage you to watch the videos. You will never view the Mass the same after watching Abbot Jeremy!
Gathering to Hear God Speak: Encountering Jesus in the Word
The Mass is a dialog, a conversation, between God and His people. God is acting in the Mass to save us; we the people react to His action. Mass has a structure given to us by God Himself. From the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the Mass is made up of two basic parts: The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (GIRM, 28). These, however, are so closely interconnected that they form but one single act of worship.
This week, we will focus on the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word.
The Introductory rites precede the Liturgy of the Word: The Entrance, Greeting, Act of Penitence, Kyrie, Gloria, and Collect. “Their purpose is to ensure that the faithful who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves to listen properly to God’s Word and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily” (GIRM, 46).
It is God’s goodness and grace working in our lives to bring us to Mass in the first place. What happens in Mass is that a very diverse group of people become one Body. The gathering of so many together for a single purpose is a beautiful sight. In the singing of the entrance hymn, the assembly gives witness to this unity.
God speaks to us through the reading of the Scriptures. The first reading is always from the Old Testament. These readings dip into the history of Israel when God was actively at work, calling His people to Himself. Part of the story is about Jesus; how God worked to prepare the whole world for His coming. These events from the past become events, here and now, in the people hearing Scripture proclaimed.
Christ Himself is present, to open our minds to understand the Scriptures; just as He did with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus…
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.”
And he said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:18-20, 25-27
Jesus is at Mass with us, helping us to encounter and understand Him in the Word.
The Responsorial Psalm is a conversation between God and the assembly. We respond affirming the Word which we have just heard.
The second reading is taken from the New Testament Letters and Epistles, confirming how Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies.
Proclamation of the Gospel
The priest or deacon processes with the Book of the Gospels from the altar to the ambo. The assembly stands, sings the Alleluia (except during Lent), in reverence for Jesus, the Word made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). We stand recognizing that Jesus is present in action and word now. The One who is risen is the One who did and said all of these things. The Gospel is the story about the Risen Jesus doing for us these same things.
The proclamation of the Gospel is an encounter with Jesus. By His ascension, Jesus is permanently established in the divine realm. He is totally victorious. He is constantly pouring out His life for us. Through the Holy Spirit, we know Jesus and become His disciples. We are one body, one spirit in Him. Jesus’ risen body becomes coextensive with His Body the Church. We are set on fire by the Spirit and become contagious followers of Christ.
The homily helps us better understand the Scriptures we have just heard.
In professing the Creed, we are responding “I believe” to the divinely revealed truths of the Church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem said “this summary of faith encompasses in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments.”
Prayers of the Faithful
In the Prayers of the Faithful, the people respond to the Word of God which they have welcomed in faith. The prayers include petitions for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world. We place these petitions before the majesty of God.
The Liturgy of the Word is not merely words but ultimately God’s action, what He has done for us. God’s words are His deeds. He is enacting His words in the assembly. The summary of the message is Jesus is the Messiah and He had to suffer to enter into His glory.
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll’s first talk of the Mission, “The Mass: Supreme Encounter with God in Jesus,” can be viewed here.
Next week, we will reflect on the second part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
 Jeremy Driscoll, What Happens at Mass (Chicago:Liturgy Training Publications, 2011), vii.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 56; Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium, On the worship of the Eucharist, 25 May 1967, no. 3: AAS 59 (1967), p. 542.