minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Missa – Psalmoi

Psalm 115 from an illuminated Psalter

Psalm 115 from an illuminated Psalter

The Book of Psalms is found in the Hebrew Scriptures. It consists of 150 poems, prayers and songs, most which are attributed to David the son of Jesse who was the King of Israel about 1000 years before Christ. Reciting or singing the Psalms as a form of devotion certainly predates the Christian Church, being well embedded in Jewish worship. This tradition continued in the church and is the foundation for the recitation of prayers in later devotions like the Jesus Prayer or the Rosary.

At Mass, during the Liturgy of the Word, the Psalms have their own special place right after the first reading. We often refer to this as the Responsorial Psalm. A cantor will approach the lectern, bowing to the altar as they draw near. Then they will sing or recite the response, which is a phrase of the psalm, and raise their hand toward the congregation as a signal to repeat. Then the cantor will sing or recite a portion of the psalm and when complete will raise their hand to the congregation again to signal a repetition of the response. This process continues until the completion of the selected psalms and is basically an antiphon, a “call and response” style of singing.

It makes for a very interesting and beautiful part of the mass as you respond and listen to the psalm being sung or chanted. The prayers and songs spoken 3000 years ago by David and others from the ancient days, still resonate with us today; often presenting a profound awakening to the fact that our problems, prayers, concerns and view of life isn’t that far removed from the days of the ancients.

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B * Responsorial Psalm

R. (8a & 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Ps. 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
C. I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry. And he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
C. Sacrifice or offering you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not; then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
C. “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
C. I announced your justice in the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

New additions

On a recent trip to Florida I had a chance to pick up a few new additions for the house. I was seeking a few certain Icons, which I didn’t have much luck with, but found some very nice alternates. The first is a beautiful Greek Icon of Christ at the last supper. I found this at the St. Photius Greek Orthodox Shrine in the old city of St. Augustine, Fl.


Also in St. Augustine I found a little shop with antique maps and manuscripts. Several beautiful pages from old Psalters and Books of Hours were in view as I entered. Here I found this page from a 15th century French Book of Hours. The Latin is from Psalm 24/25 and the majuscules on both sides are illuminated in gold.


One last stop on our way home was in Savannah, GA where I picked up this nice hand painted retablo of San Jose. Father and Child.


Missa – Primam Lectionem

The Marriage of Adam and Eve

The Marriage of Adam and Eve

The Liturgy of the Word begins with the first reading. A person called a “lector” approaches the “lectern” and reads from the “lectionary”. The latin root for all of these words comes from the verb “legere” which means to read and is also where the english word lecture comes from.

As the lector approaches the lectern they will bow toward the altar, showing reverence for the presence of Christ. They will then open the lectionary, which is a book containing the specific readings for the day, and address the congregation with the section of Scripture to be read, stating “A reading from the book of ______”. They will read through the portion of scripture and upon completion will again address the congregation saying, “The Word of the Lord”. To which the people respond by saying “Thanks be to God”.

The first reading has selections of Scripture which are mostly from the Hebrew Scriptures, or what is commonly called the Old Testament. There are times when readings may be from the book of Acts, especially during the season of Lent. The purpose of the first reading, or reading from the Old Testament is to show a comparison or continuity between the old and new. Notice how often the readings all coordinate or tie in the the Gospel reading. This demonstrates a purpose in the old and reason for the new.

Jonah and the Whale

Jonah and the Whale

The Old Testament Contains all the “classics”. Genesis with stories of Creation and the Noah’s Flood; Exodus which tells of Moses and the freeing of Israel from Pharoah. Stories of David, Solomon, Job, and the prophets like Daniel and Jonah. It is story which tells of Gods work in history, especially with the Hebrew people and is full of awe and wonder, as well sadness and horror. It is here that we also find the Psalms and books of wisdom like Proverbs. In many ways the Old Testament is a lot like J.R.R. Tolkiens’ “Silmarillion”. It is epic and mythic and sets the stage of history for the stories which come later.

It is also important to know that in the catholic church the old testament is a bit larger. Where later denominations sectioned off certain books which they called “apocrypha”, or completely removed them from their bibles, the catholic church still contains these writings which we term deuterocanonical.

The deuterocanonical books seem to have been trouble makers for a while. They were contained in the Septuagint, which was a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures used during the time of Christ and in the early church period. But as the early church began to grow; Jewish leaders rejected these books because of their support for christian beliefs. During the reformation, these same books were again rejected because of their support for catholic beliefs. However they were and still are considered part of the canon of scripture used by catholics as well as the orthodox; with a few variations.

The Martyrs from Maccabbees

From Maccabbees

For my part I can only say that there is no table of contents to the canon of scripture which was handed down by God. This means that any grouping or accepting of books included in any canon of scripture must come through the authority of the church or governing religious leaders. Catholics refer to this authority as Sacred Tradition; the right of Peter and the Apostles, and their successors to define and interpret, to bind and loose, and to govern the church. This is not understood as the mere operation of men in power, rather it is believed that this process is accomplished by the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is demonstrated in the Bible, especially in the writings of Paul, who always asserts his authority as an “apostle” as he explains the traditions of the church to the christians he is writing to. Through Sacred Tradition the catholic church accepts the Deutero-Canonical books as part of their canon.

For those visiting a catholic church, the readings can be found in the missal, a book found in the pews. While it may be a little difficult to navigate the missal, it is always a good idea to read along with the scriptures and so the readings are made available to all in this little book.


Missa – of the Catechumens

Singers at a Lecturn

Singers at a Lecturn

The first major section of the mass is the Liturgy of the Word. The Introductory Rites, which begin the Mass, only take several minutes to complete and are no less important. However, the mass is now going to change focus from confession and praise to being silent and listening to the Word of God as found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

The Liturgy of the Word was formerly called the Liturgy of the Catechumens. This was the part of mass for those coming into the faith, preparing for the Sacrament of Baptism and not yet initiated into the Sacred Mysteries. They would attend the first part of the mass, and upon it’s completion, the Catechumens would depart with a blessing as they went to pray and learn. You may see during certain masses, especially during Lent, where those who are preparing to come into the church during the Easter Vigil, go through a series of “Scrutinies”. They will take place at the completion of the Liturgy of the Word, and the Catechumen and their sponsor will depart to discuss the readings from the Mass for the day.

While this still takes place today, in a process we call the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, it is a practice that comes from very early in the church. In fact, it was a very important tradition during periods of persecution. To protect the church from being found out by enemies, which then had some very serious consequences, the church used this practice of sponsorship. If a person wanted to become a christian they would have a sponsor vouch for them. They would come to the learn about the faith and be prepared for partaking of the Eucharist over a long period of time (up to 4 years), not only to teach them about the faith but to make sure they were not sent in to expose the christians. Scrutinies as well as excorcisms would be performed to prepare those coming in and to free them from former gods and beliefs which were held in the pantheistic religions of the day. Excorcisms, mind you, were not the faddish, demonic, and sensational events which are popular today because of certain movies. Rather they were a series of prayers, confessions, and gestures, denouncing Satan and confessing Christ.

The idea of sponsorship ties in with the practice of “god parents”. They are basically god parents for adults, or rather god parents are sponsors for those born into the faith. They have similar responsibilities to insure the bringing up of the child in the faith.hmc_liturgy_det

The Liturgy of the Word/Catechumens, was ideal for this task. It allowed the initiates to hear the Sacred Scriptures, which explained the beliefs and reasons for the traditions held by the church. Over the period of time which a catechumen would participate, vast sections of the Sacred Scripture would have been covered, which in those days was very important. After all there were no Bible Book Stores where you could go purchase a bible for personal use; and even if you could, chances were you couldn’t read it. Many were illiterate and because of this, even for those in full communion, the Liturgy of the Word, along with Iconography in the church brought the Word of God to the people. It is interesting that over a three year period, if you attended every mass, daily as well as Sunday, it is estimated that you would have heard over 70% of the New and 16% of the Old. While this isn’t a complete reading of Scripture, it is substantial. However, it is important to fill in those gaps with personal reading and study of the bible as well. Other devotions like the Liturgy of the Hours would also provide additional readings from Scripture.

As the Liturgy of the Word begins, the congregation will take a seat and simply listen to the Sacred Scriptures.

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