Understanding the Ancient Liturgy of our Salvation

By Axilera at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Often when we go to Mass it is easy to slip into the habit of "going through the motions."

We stand. We sit. We kneel. We leave.

Nothing much changes week-to-week, besides some extra flowers and maybe a different color.

What is the whole point? Why do we we stand, sit, kneel and receive Holy Communion?

In order to answer that question, over the next several weeks we will be walking through the Mass, going through the symbolism that is present in the celebration. Hopefully this will open your eyes anew to this ancient liturgy and will help you stop "going through the motions" and recognize that you are participating in something much greater than yourselves.

In fact, what you are doing today at Sunday Mass is not much different than what the early Christians did in the 2nd century, almost 2,000 years ago!

If you want evidence, here is a passage from Saint Justin Martyr, who wrote in 155 AD about the common celebration of the liturgy:

"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. 
"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 president, 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."
Did anything sound familiar? Look back and see if you can identify these part of the Mass:

Introductory Rites
- Penitential Rite
Liturgy of the Word
-Profession of Faith
Liturgy of the Eucharist
-Presentation of the Gifts and Preparation of the Altar
-Prayer over the Offerings
-Eucharistic Prayer
-Reception of Communion

Over the next several weeks we will dive into each part of the Mass and discover the symbolism behind the ancient rites and discover the beauty and glory of the Mass anew.

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