minima maxima sunt

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

Archive for the tag “catholic church”

Obsecro Te

After the Gospel readings it was common to have a set of prayers to the Virgin Mary. I have completed the first and longest of the two prayers. This is the Obsecro Te, which translates as “I beseech thee”. Devotion and prayers to The Virgin Mary date back to the earliest years of Christianity and so it’s not surprising to find these in a book of hours. The prayers to the Virgin were sometimes personalized toward the intended owner of the book of hours. I have opted to represent the prayer as translated.

Read more…


September with fish and turtles

September ended up more on the whimsical side. Was partially inspired by a recent visit to St. Augustine, Florida. Some of the seaside local art helped me along with the theme for this month.img_0472img_0473

The Black Hours

Just when you think you’ve seen everything! That’s how I felt when first running across these beautiful manuscripts. Set on vellum dyed black, the illumination is almost visually over the top. Using both gold and silver for the text and filigree; and the vibrant blue and green colors glowing in the background almost gives me the impression that there is a cord plugged in behind the manuscript and a light being filtered through the pages.


The scene above is a depiction of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and below is the Crucifixion. Both are great examples of such manuscripts which are very rare. The Black Hours, which these pictures are taken from, was produced in Bruges in 1475 by Willem Vrelant.-Black_Hours-_-_Google_Art_Project












Black hours



The Eucharistic Prayers

thCAOT4ZN9The Eucharistic Prayers, of which there are 4 used in the Catholic Liturgy, are in my opinion, the most interesting parts of the mass. Without a doubt this is the most solemn part of the liturgy, with bells and sometimes incense, and of course the more noticeable posture of kneeling for which we catholics often get chided. However apart from the kidding or, where applicable, scorn; this is really that part of the mass where something really becomes massed.

O.k.. it was a pun but an honest one. Historically the term Mass comes from the Latin missa, which is used at the end of the service, to dismiss the congregation. Ite missa est, which roughly translates as “go you are sent”. It is the root of such words as dismissal in the English. But mass is also a word used in physics to speak to the physical properties of a substance. Gravity, matter, weight and force. In this the term mass comes from the Greek masa, and interestingly enough translates as a lump of dough or barley cake.

It is in this second meaning, which really has nothing to do with the use of the term Mass in the liturgy, that I find an interesting correlation. It is this, that during the consecration of the Eucharist in the prayers, the object is in a way massed. Not merely a representation, which we can all see in the use of bread and wine as symbols; but in truth a presentation of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ. And this is why we kneel. The real presence of Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist, is to the church what the Holy of Holies was to the Jews, and until the completion of the communion rite, the church will kneel or stand and attend to the importance and sacredness of the moment.11-16BookOfHoursDog

I have posted the Eucharistic Prayer 1 below. It is a longer prayer than some of the others but notice the flow of it. The obvious portions from the gospels and the last supper are here, but the prayer is much larger; bringing together the church today and the church of the past. Especially in this prayer you will see names of early martyrs and saints along with the apostles, Joseph and Mary. In a wonderful way, this prayer expresses the very heart of the Catholic faith, which is it’s universalism or completeness. We see the mystical body of Christ, the church, and at the center and point of focus is Jesus Christ.

Eucharist Prayer 1

P: To you, therefore, most merciful Father,
we make humble prayer and petition
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept
He makes the Sign of the Cross once over the bread and
chalice together, saying:
and bless these gifts, these offerings,
these holy and unblemished sacrifices,
which we offer you firstly
for your holy catholic Church.
Be pleased to grant her peace,
to guard, unite and govern her
throughout the whole world,
together with your servant N. our Pope
and N. our Bishop, *Here the current Pope and local Bishop are inserted in place of N
and all those who, holding to the truth,
hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. *Here the names of those the Mass is being spoken for such as recently departed members.
and all gathered here,
whose faith and devotion are known to you.
For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise
or they offer it for themselves
and all who are dear to them:
for the redemption of their souls,
in hope of health and well-being,
and paying their homage to you,
the eternal God, living and true.

In communion with those whose memory we venerate,
especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary,
Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ,
† and blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
your blessed Apostles and Martyrs,
Peter and Paul, Andrew,
(James, John,
Thomas, James, Philip,
Bartholomew, Matthew,
Simon and Jude;
Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus,
Cornelius, Cyprian,
Lawrence, Chrysogonus,
John and Paul,
Cosmas and Damian)
and all your Saints;
we ask that through their merits and prayers,
in all things we may be defended
by your protecting help.
(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

P: On the day before he was to suffer,
he took bread in his holy and venerable hands,
and with eyes raised to heaven
to you, O God, his almighty Father,
giving you thanks, he said the blessing,
broke the bread
and gave it to his disciples, saying:

He bows slightly.


He shows the consecrated host to the people, places it again on
 the paten, and genuflects in adoration.

P: In a similar way, when supper was ended

he took this precious chalice
in his holy and venerable hands,
and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing
and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:


He shows the chalice to the people, places it on the corporal,
 and genuflects in adoration.

P: The mystery of faith.

C: We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
and profess your Resurrection
until you come again.
When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup,
we proclaim your Death, O Lord,
until you come again.
Save us, Savior of the world,
for by your Cross and Resurrection
you have set us free.

P: Therefore, O Lord,
as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion,
the Resurrection from the dead,
and the glorious Ascension into heaven
of Christ, your Son, our Lord,
we, your servants and your holy people,
offer to your glorious majesty
from the gifts that you have given us,
this pure victim,
this holy victim,
this spotless victim,
the holy Bread of eternal life
and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.

Be pleased to look upon these offerings
with a serene and kindly countenance,
and to accept them,
as once you were pleased to accept
the gifts of your servant Abel the just,
the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith,
and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek,
a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim.

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God:
command that these gifts be borne
by the hands of your holy Angel
to your altar on high
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar
receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,

may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.

(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N.,
who have gone before us with the sign of faith
and rest in the sleep of peace.

Grant them, O Lord, we pray,
and all who sleep in Christ,
a place of refreshment, light and peace.

(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners,

hope in your abundant mercies,
graciously grant some share
and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs:
with John the Baptist, Stephen,
Matthias, Barnabas,
(Ignatius, Alexander,
Marcellinus, Peter,
Felicity, Perpetua
Agatha, Lucy,
Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia)
and all your Saints;
admit us, we beseech you,
into their company,
not weighing our merits,
but granting us your pardon,

through Christ our Lord.

Through whom
you continue to make all these good things, O Lord;
you sanctify them, fill them with life,
bless them, and bestow them upon us.

Through him, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
for ever and ever.

C: Amen

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.



stock-photo-stained-glass-windows-and-votive-candles-in-a-catholic-church-47286904If there is one thing that can be said about the catholic church which is true whether said by it members or it opponents, it must be the fact that catholics sure like their candles. I remember several times being presented a list of reasons why the catholic church is false, which listed dozens of inventions of the church that apparently the person handing me this information hadn’t really read or thought about. I have found that more often than not, it is the catholic who has to do the homework for such people, which meant I had to explain why all of these criticisms were wrong to begin with. The problem with this list of catholic inventions, is that its merely the result of another invention not made by the church, and that is the “Protestant invention of Sola Scriptura (16th century)”. It is hard for those who hold such a belief to grasp the real history of the church as it developed over the centuries and as such they pick out points in this developement process which they disagree with and call it an “invention”, then imply that this is proof against the church. I will usually start by pointing out that the such things as the “Doctrine of the Trinity (2nd-3rd century)” or the “Canon of Scripture (3rd-4th century)” should also be considered “inventions” since they came from the same church and in the same centuries as other inventions.

However the point of all this isn’t about apologetics, rather it is about the use of candles, which makes it on the list of catholic inventions. apparently the use of candles during worship is “an invention” of the catholic church from the year 320 AD. This, as mentioned, isn’t really true. Candles were used in Jewish worship long before this, and even if this were not the case, it should be obvious that candles in a utilitarian way would simply provide light.  But it is this criticism that demonstrates an attitude or maybe even a stereotype about the catholic and the candle. And in this there is some truth. Catholic use candles during Mass; at home; to symbolize the Holy Spirit; during the Easter vigil and at shrines. Candles present to us an idea or image of light and life. They can be a symbol of Jesus, the Light of the World; they can represent our prayers; they are even used to draw attention to objects such as the Scriptures or the Eucharist during Liturgy.

Tenebrae candle hearse

Tenebrae candle hearse

The Tenebrae is a service which is celebrated during the Lenten season and is another example of the use of candles. The word tenebrae is from Latin and translates as “darkness”.  Like the Stations of the Cross, which is also a Lenten service in the catholic church, the Tenebrae service tells the story of the Passion of Christ. The church is lit by a set of candles, which after psalms and readings from the Gospel will be extinguished one by one as the story continues. The last candle is hidden or extinguished as the Passion ends with the death of Jesus. The service grows darker and darker until that last candle is left, a single point of light which we all know will soon be removed. The candle will then be replaced to symbolize the resurrection. It is a quiet observance and all depart in silence. The imagery and presentation of this particular service is wonderful. Like so much of the catholic faith, it ties in the spiritual with the physical, to present the story of the Gospel. For those who choose to see life through a more mystical or contemplative worldview, such devotions can open up even greater ideas. It can place me at Calvary, a participant in the Passion. It also reminds me of Gods covenant with Abraham where in the darkness of night a flaming torch and smoking fire pot entered the area of sacrifice (Gen 15). Moses and the burning bush. And especially when the last candle is remaining, and the Gospel reading tells of the death of Jesus, the last flame is like a star shining in the night sky, even that star which appeared in the sky heralding His Birth.

The use of candles in worship, as well as other catholic devotions, are one of the great things about the church. It may be a criticism from some but in the end I will take the candle over the “Protestant invention of using lightbulbs during worship c1900 AD.” any day of the week.

Missa – The Great Doxology

image002Following the Kyrie in the “Order of the Mass” is the Gloria. Taking it’s cue from the praise of the angels at the Nativity who sang: “Gloria, in excelsis Deo”, which translates as “Glory to God in the Highest”, this hymn of praise is a beautiful example of the ancient trinitarian doctrine expressed through poem. In a way it could almost be considered the Creed in the form of a prayer. The Gloria is known as the Great Doxology which is contrast to another popular prayer known as the “Glory be”, which is the “Minor Doxology”.

A Doxology is typically a song or psalm which in the christian church was sung to the Trinity. The word comes from the Greek doxa – “glory” and logia – “saying”, an in early church years these hymns find their birth. Some of these were done in attempts to imitate the psalms from the Hebrew Scripture and are termed private psalms (psalmi idiotici).

To my the Gloria follows other creedal statements, it begins with a statement which addresses God, and then begins to focus on definition as attention is drawn to the Father and continues to the Son and follows with the Holy Spirit. The Gloria uses terms which we have seen already and will see again in the mass, hinting back to the Kyrie and looking forward to the Creed and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

An interesting thing about the Gloria is that it is part of the “ordinary” but during Advent and Lent is absent from the liturgy. This is to emphasize the importance of the holidays which follow both preparation seasons, Christmas and Easter. For the layman in me it works. It’s like a surprise or a visit from an old friend. At Christmas, I can sing with the angels: Gloria in excelsis Deo… and at Easter I can sing Gloria as I celebrate the resurrection of the Lamb.


Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory.
Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
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.For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. AmenCristo%20na%20Cruz

Missa – Peccavimus

untitledThe penitential rite, as mentioned in the former post, has three formulas which may be used. The first made up the content of the former post. The second two will make up this post.

The point of the penitential rite is confession, repentance, and a clearing of the conscience to prepare one for the Mass. Unlike the sacrament of confession, the rite is done as a community, and more importantly, it does not take the place of the sacrament which is done privately.

The second formula that can be used for this rite is a simple prayer which is spoken alternately by the priest and congregation:

Priest: Have mercy on us, Lord
Congregation: For we have sinned against you.
Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
Congregation: And grant us your salvation.

Like many parts of the mass, this interaction between the one presiding and those attending, is not a matter of separating clergy and laity. Rather it is an example of the body of Christ, the church, praying together. It is one of the very striking differences between the ancient church and many of the modern sects whose “worship” tends to be based on a teacher/classroom or preacher/audience format. The ancient church is more congregational in it’s worship, which is one of the nice results of worship being liturgical. This carries into many of the early protestant sects which also use the liturgical format. In the older “Tridentine” mass, which was used prior to vatican 2, this was even more evident as the priest did not face the congregation. Priest and congregation faced forward together which symbolized this unity in the body. However in the tridentine mass there was no verbal interaction or conversation. Prayers said by the congregation are silent and in communion with the priest who is presiding. It was still communal but more contemplative in nature.

The last of the formulas is also spoken by priest and congregation and when used takes the place of the Kyrie, which is the first part of the “ordinary”. This is because the last formula is the Kyrie with a little bit more.

Minister: You were sent to heal the contrite (or a similar invocation): Lord, have mercy.
Congregation: Lord, have mercy.
Minister: You came to call sinners (or a similar invocation): Christ, have mercy.
Congregation: Christ, have mercy.
Minister: You plead for us at the right hand of the Father (or a similar invocation): Lord, have mercy.
Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

More will be said about the Kyrie, which makes up the response from the congregation, in a later post. Here it is the ministers words that give us the direction of this prayer which professes the ministry of Christ. Healing the contrite, calling the sinner, and pleading to the Father for us. It reminds us of the Incarnation in that it envisions Christ, who is God, in the role of mediator. It is that great bow, as Christ is the humble servant, ministering to the church who he died for. Still calling, healing and pleading. It should also remind us that our own ministry has to follow in his footsteps.

Three different formulas with the same intent and yet with very different takes on penitence. In the next post we will look at some of the alternatives that compensate or replace the penitential rite during certain times of the year.

Missa – An introduction

Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel in Roche Harbor by Rie Muñoz

Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel in Roche Harbor by Rie Muñoz

“Ite, Missa Est”, the conclusion to the ancient gathering of Christians to celebrate the sacred mysteries and divine liturgy which today we catholics call the Mass, is actually where the term Mass is derived from. A strange twist on the phrase “famous last words”, the latin rendering basically means “Go, you are dismissed.” Over time the idea of dismissal tied into that of the mission; our departure from the gathering was to bring the light of Christ into the world. Today most in the west know it as the Catholic Mass; and instead of being dismissed we say we are going to Mass, which means we are going to be dismissed (lol). As funny as that may sound it’s a perfectly catholic thing to me, to start a series on the mass by talking about the wording at the end of the mass. Catholicism, always seems to have its ends tied to it’s beginnings. The liturgical year, the sacraments, and even the Mass all come full circle and directly in the center of it all there is always Jesus.

Today the Catholic Mass to some is a thing of horror; it is despised, ridiculed and abused by those who hate the Catholic church. To many it is simply misunderstood because of the amount of mis-information which circulates concerning this ancient christian worship. To those who are catholic, or have a similar respect for the ancient church it is a thing of profound beauty, deep in symbolism and meaning and the very center of worship for the ancient church in the west. The eastern rites of the catholic church celebrate the liturgy as well but use different terms, such as Divine Liturgy, or Holy Qurbana, and while there are differences based on culture and tradition, the Liturgy is basically the same.

A Roman Missal

A Roman Missal

Over the next year, minima maxima sunt will be focusing on the Mass. From beginning to the end, we will look at the structure, the symbols, the terms and rubrics, and will even offer my own thoughts and ideas as a participant in the liturgy and a mere layman. The posts which will follow in this series will all begin with “Missa”, to separate them other posts which I will still be adding through the year.

Theresa of Avila

One of the great Catholic Mystics was Theresa of Avila or Theresa of Jesus. Born in Spain in the year 1515, she was born into a time of great change. 28 years before her birth the New World was discovered by Christopher Columbus, two years after her birth, Martin Luther would post his 95 Theses which would begin the Reformation and 28 years after her birth, Copernicus would publish his work on the Heliocentric model of the Solar System.

With so much going on in the world it’s probably not so strange that the interior life and contemplation would take a stand. While Theresa was not the only Mystic during this time, it may be fair to say that she is the most popular. Her work The Interior Castle is considered a classic of the Spanish Renaissance as well as an essential read for those interested in the contemplative and mystical experience.

What may have been the very first consideration for re-thinking the Catholic Church in my life was the discovery of the Catholic Mystics. Their experience with Christ, went far beyond the concept of a mere personal relationship. It stood, and even expected the times of darkness, suffering and spiritual dryness; seeing these as essential to the developement of the spiritual life which sought union with God.

It is noteworthy that we have another example of a woman in the church who makes a difference. Contrary to popular opinion about the Middle Ages or religion being patriarchal, Theresa takes her place along with many great Catholic women through the ages. She is a reformer, a doctor of the church, a mystic and writer of several books including an autobiography. She was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory the XV and is the patron of bodily ills; headaches; chess; lacemakers; laceworkers; loss of parents; people in need of grace; people in religious orders; people ridiculed for their piety; Pozega, Croatia; sick people; sickness and Spain.

“One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that
is prayer. ”

St. Theresa of Avila

Post Navigation