Sunday, June 26, 2016

PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY'VE NEVER SEEN A BIBLE IN A CATHOLIC CHURCH


Above:
The symbols of the four evangelists
Mathew - A winged man
Mark - A winged lion
Luke - A winged ox
John - An eagle

When I hear someone say something along the lines of, "I've been to a few Catholic services and I've never seen a Bible at any of them," it actually bothers me quite a bit more than many of the other myths and accusations that I routinely hear made against my culture. One reason being that it's an extraordinarily common thing to hear, even from people I call friends. A more disturbing reason being that it's so unlikely for anyone to be able to go to a Mass, pay any attention to what's happening at all, then walk away thinking that they didn't see a Bible anywhere, that it actually brings the character of anyone making such a claim into question.

The topic has been divided accordingly:
1. THE OBVIOUS RESPONSE
2. HOW THE BIBLE AND THE MASS ARE RELATED IN THE CATHOLIC TRADITION
3. A BREAKDOWN OF SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES THAT APPEAR IN EVERY MASS
4. CONCLUSION

1. THE OBVIOUS RESPONSE

Even if we ignore all of the Biblical connections that occur throughout the Mass, it remains that the entire first half of every Mass is dedicated entirely to the direct reading of the Bible.

I'm not perfect, but I've been to Mass nearly every Sunday and Holy Day since I completed the Catholic Sacraments of Initiation in the year 2000. Some years, during Lent, I have gone to Mass every day. Every single time I've gone to Mass, no matter where in the world, no matter what language it's in, no matter what time of day or what time of year, no matter what day of the week, the structure has always been consistent. They have also all been consistent with the rubrics of the Mass, meaning that if you look up how a Mass is supposed to be celebrated, they've all been exactly in line with it. They have also all been consistent to very early descriptions of the Mass, such as those made by Justin Martyr in his First Apology, written in 155 A.D. Every Mass has had the same basic structure since the Apostles and I've never been to one that broke that pattern.

Based on these observations, the entire first half of every Mass is devoted entirely to the reading of the Bible. On average, A Mass at your local parish is about an hour long and, literally, the entire first half hour of your average Catholic Mass is comprised primarily of just reading Scripture out loud.

It starts with the book of the Gospels being reverently held above the head of a lector (that is, a person who will later read one of the readings during the Liturgy) who processes into the Church at the opening procession of the Mass in front of the priests. Often this book is very ornate. Sometimes even being plated in gold. How someone could miss something like that is beyond me. After that, readings are read aloud from the Old Testament, Psalms, Epistles and finally a reading from one of the four Gospels, which is read by a priest or deacon. The Old Testament Reading and the Gospel are always typlogically connected and after the readings have been read, a homily is delivered in which a priest or deacon gives an exegesis on these scriptures and how they are connected according to Catholic Tradition. Usually, you will see people following along with the readings in a book called the Missal, which you will find in the pews or, sometimes, on a shelf as you come in. It contains the Scripture readings for the entire year. Whether or not people use this tool is up to them since you can hear the Scripture readings read aloud as it is.

On any given day of the liturgical calendar, the readings are identical at every Church throughout the entire world. So If you are in Sweden and I am in Mexico and we both go to Mass, we will both hear the exact same readings. Further, If you go to Mass every day, as many Catholics do, you will hear the entire Bible read aloud over the course of 3 years.

Even if you only go to Mass on Sundays, you will still hear all four gospels and selections from every single book in the Bible over the course of the 3 year cycle and it's still very easy to read along with the daily readings, which are easily available in the form of the missal or through apps and websites. For example, the daily readings are available in English, from the New American translation, which is used in Masses celebrated in English in the United states, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website by following this link and clicking on "Today's readings."

There are also a number of apps available that are very good for this. There is a free app called Laudate (which means "praise") that is full of great resources, including the daily readings. Another, which I think costs a couple of dollars, is called iMissal and has a very easy to use liturgical calendar feature that includes the daily readings.

After reading all of that, you might understand why it bothers me so much when I hear someone say something like, "I've been to a few Catholic services and I've never seen a Bible at any of them." Taking the above into account, a person who would say something like this would either have to be totally ignoring the experience or just lying altogether. Neither of those possibilities makes me feel any better since, as far as I am concerned, basing a statement about an entire religion on total willful ignorance is not any more justifiable than simply lying about it.

I could stop here, as I feel as though the myth is thoroughly dispelled, but I'd like to make an attempt at explaining how Scripture permeates the entire Mass from beginning to end.

2. HOW THE BIBLE AND THE MASS ARE RELATED IN THE CATHOLIC TRADITION

It's important, first of all, to understand how Catholics view the Bible and the Mass:
The New Testament is a product of the Mass, which predates it, and we see Scripture as something that came from and was designed specifically for use in the Holy Liturgy. Therefore, the Liturgy of the Mass and the Bible are inseparable in our Tradition. And, as a result, the Mass is permeated by scriptural references from beginning to end. Not because the structure of the Mass came from the Bible, but because the New Testament came from the Tradition of the Catholic Mass. And the Bible is likewise permeated by references to the Mass that are obvious when you come from a culture that practices that Tradition faithfully.

For more on what the Bible is to the Catholic Church and how we interpret the Bible, you can read a previous entry I have written called IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BIBLICAL?

3. A BREAKDOWN OF SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES THAT APPEAR IN EVERY MASS

Here I am going to walk you through the basic structure of a Mass and point out all of the scripture references in it, either being direct quotes, references or actions to which scripture refers. My own comments will appear in italics.

GREETING
This takes place after the opening procession in which the priests, deacons, lectors and acolytes enter the church and process down the middle, a little like a wedding if you've ever been to one... not a coincidence considering the custom of a "wedding procession" comes directly from the Tradition of a Catholic wedding liturgy. All Masses have this procession. Even funerals. But that's a subject for another time. 

PRIEST: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19)

PEOPLE: Amen (1 Chr 16:36)

PRIEST: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor 13:13)

PEOPLE: And with your spirit.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

Penitential Rite

ALL: I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, (Jas 5:16) in my thoughts and in my words (Jas 3:6) in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, (Rom. 12:16) through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.(1Thess 5:25)

If you are curious about the practice of asking others to pray for us, including the Angels and Saints, you can read  this entry I have written on the subject:
THE INTERCESSION OF THE SAINTS.


PRIEST: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. (1 John 1:9)

PEOPLE: Amen (1 Chr 16:36)

ALL: Lord have mercy. (Tb 8:4) Christ have mercy. (1 Tim 1:2) Lord have mercy.

Gloria

ALL: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. (Luke 2:14)
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory, (Rev 7:12)
Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father (Rev 19:6)
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, (2 John 3)Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; (John 1:29)
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. (Rom 8:34)
For you alone are the Holy One, (Luke 4:34)
you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, (Luke 1:32)
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father, Amen (John 14:26)

Here, readings from the Old Testament, The Epistles, and Psalms are read, followed by the Gospel reading, for which the entire congregation stands to hear. These readings change every day according to a 3 year liturgical cycle.
After the readings, a homily is delivered by a priest or deacon on the readings. The word "sermon" might be more familiar to you. (2 Tim 4:1-2)

PROFESSION OF FAITH

Here we recite the "Profession of Faith." It is usually the Nicene Creed, but, the Apostle's Creed is also sometimes used. Here is the Nicene Creed:

ALL: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, (Gen 14:19) of all things visible and invisible. (Col 1:16) I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son of God, (Luke 1:35) born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father; (Heb 1:3) through him all things were made. (John 1:2-3) For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: (John 3:13) and by the power of the Holy Spirit he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, (Matt 1:18) and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, (John 19:16) he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Cor 15:3-4) He ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51) and is seated at the right hand of the Father. (Col 3:1) He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1) and his kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:33) I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life, (Acts 2:17) who proceeds from the Father and the Son, (John 14:16) who with the Father and Son is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. (1 Peter 1:10-11) I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. (Rom 12:5) I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. (Rom 6:5) Amen

LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST

Here, the gifts of the people are brought to the altar. This includes the bread and wine that will be used in the Eucharistic sacrifice as well as the offering of the people. (Malachi 3:10)

PRIEST: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. (Eccl. 3:13) It will become for us the bread of life. (John 6:35)

PEOPLE: Blessed be God forever. (Ps 68:36)

PRIEST: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink. (Luke 22:17-18)

PEOPLE: Blessed be God forever. (Ps 68:36)

PRIEST: Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father. (Heb. 12:28)

PEOPLE: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our sake and the good of all His holy Church. (Ps 50:23)

PRIEST: The Lord be with you.

PEOPLE: And with your spirit.

PRIEST: Lift up your hearts.

PEOPLE: We lift them up to the Lord. (Lam 3:41)

PRIEST: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. (Col 3:17)

PEOPLE: It is right and just. (Col 1:3)

Preface Acclamation

ALL: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. (Is 6:3) Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. (Mark 11:9-10)                    

Eucharistic prayer

Here, the Eucharistic prayer is recited by the priest. There are four different Eucharistic Prayers which can be found at this link. Eucharistic Prayer Number 2 is included below.


PRIEST: You are Holy indeed, O Lord the fount of all holiness. (2 Macc. 14:36) Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the time he was betrayed and entered willingly into his Passion (John 10:17-18) he took bread and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take this all of you, and eat of it: For this is my body which will be given up for you. In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took the chalice and, once more giving thanks, he gave the it to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: For this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant. Which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this is memory of me. (Mark 14:22-25) Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

ALL: When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again. (1Cor 11:26)

PRIEST: Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, (John 6:51) giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you. Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor.10:17) Remember, Lord, your Church spread throughout the world; bring her to the fullness of charity, together with our Pope and our bishop, and all the clergy. Remember our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face. (2 Macc 12:45-46) Have mercy on us all, we pray, that with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with the apostles and with all the saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, may we merit to be co-heirs to eternal life, and may praise and glorify you through your Son, Jesus Christ. (2 Thes 1:4-5) Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.

ALL: Amen. (Rom 11:36)

COMMUNION RITE

The Lord's Prayer

ALL: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:9-13)

PRIEST: Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days that by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. (John 17:15)
All: For the kingdom the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen

PRIEST: Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles; I leave you peace, my peace I give to you. (John 14:27) Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live forever and ever.

PRIEST: The peace of the Lord be with you always! (John 20:19)

PEOPLE: And with your spirit!

Here, the priest directs the people to exchange a sign of peace. This can take the form of a handshake, a kiss, a hug or words of peace.

Breaking of the Bread

ALL: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace. (John 1:29)

Communion

PRIEST: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb. (Rev. 19:9)

PEOPLE: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. (Matt 8:8)

Here, the Priest and lay ministers distribute communion at the altar. 

DISMISSAL 

PRIEST: Blessed be the name of the Lord. Now and forever. (Dan 2:20) May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:51) Go in peace (Luke 7:50) to love and serve the Lord. (2 Chr 35:3)[During the blessing the people make the Sign of the Cross, the traditional sign of the baptized and a public sign of their belief in the power of God.]

PEOPLE: Thanks be to God. (2 Cor 9:15)

And then the procession leaves the same way that it came in.

4. CONCLUSION

It is my hope that I've helped to dispel the myth that Catholics never read the Bible or that their worship is unfounded or unbiblical. If you would like to learn more about the Liturgy, I would suggest reading Scott Hahn's book, "The Lamb's Supper."

For resources on Catholic Tradition in general, you can find a list of essential texts, all of which are available to read for free on the internet, in my introduction entry here:
INTRODUCTIONS