Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sacred Scripture and the Catholic Mass

I’ve heard it said that the Catholic Mass is flawed because it ignores Scripture.  Today, I’m thinking that people who subscribe to this notion (let’s call them “skeptics”) have an incomplete perception of this most holy ritual.  Let me explain.

First, in the first half of the Mass, the so-called “Liturgy of the Word,” we find Scripture passages read that relate to the particular feast or memorial that is being celebrated that day.  These consist of one or two readings from the Old and/or New Testaments, a passage from the Book of Psalms, and a Gospel reading.  These are referenced by mentioning the particular book of the Bible where they are found, such as, for example, the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, or the Gospel of St. John.   So, no problem there.  In fact, the entire Bible is covered in these readings over a three-year cycle.

It is likely that other Scripture passages included in the Mass are missed by the skeptic because no mention is made of their source.  For example, in the second half of the Mass, the so-called “Liturgy of the Eucharist,” the Lord’s Prayer is recited.  The Lord’s Prayer is found both in Matthew’s Gospel (Mat 6:9-13) and in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 11:2-4).  Also, in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” prayer is recited.  Part of this is found in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Isah 6:3) and another part in Matthew’s Gospel (Mat 21:9).  A third example is the “Lord I Am Not Worthy” prayer, also recited in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  This prayer is adapted from the passage in Matthew’s Gospel (Mat 8:8) in which a centurion told Jesus of his suffering servant, but told him it was not necessary for him to “enter under my roof” in order to cure him, but to “only say the word.”   In the Mass, we say that we are not worthy for Jesus to “enter under my roof” in order to cure our soul of sin in preparation for receiving the Eucharist, but to only “say the word.”

And speaking of the Eucharist, it is not a stretch to say that the entire Mass is based on Scripture and is summed up by Christ’s words at the Last Supper:  “Do this in memory of me.”  In other words, we were directed to transubstantiate the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ at the Last Supper, and this is the core idea of the Mass and has been from the time of the early Church.

For more information, may I suggest Chapter 7 of Kevin Johnson’s book “Why Do Catholics Do That?”  The chapter is titled “In Memory of Me.”

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