Posted April 9, 2014
Book: The Bible and the Mass
Author: Rev. Peter Stravinskas
Newman House Press. Pine Beach. NJ. 2013. Pp. 123
An Excerpt from the Preface:
The Bible and the Mass is intended to help you understand the scriptural and historical origins of the prayers used in the Mass --- from the Introductory Rites to Concluding Rite. In this book, which is formatted for use by both individuals and groups, the various rites of the Mass are explained, along with separate essays on each of the four Eucharistic Prayers. At the end of all chapters, a week of scriptural meditations and five questions for group discussion enable you to meditate on key Scriptures pertinent to the rites just studied and then to meet with others for group discussion.
The purpose of this book, however, is not simply to understand the various prayers for the rites of the Mass, but also to help you celebrate the Mass more fully. Therefore, your study and meditation during the week should lead to greater participation in Sunday and weekday Mass. This might be best accomplished if you focus on participating in the rite currently under study when next you attend Mass.
An Excerpt from the Book:
Introduction: The Sacred Mysteries
"My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries . . ."
Thus, the celebrant opens the Penitential Rite of the Mass. But what does the Church mean here by "the sacred mysteries"?
The word "mystery" carries many connotations. The dictionary tells us a mystery can be: A secret, something hidden or unknown; a person or situation which has unexplained elements, such that curiosity and speculation are aroused; secrecy and obscurity; something not explained or understood; a religious doctrine which unaided human reason cannot fully appreciate; a secret religious rite to which only the fully initiated are admitted.
In varying degrees, the Church intends all these meanings to be apprehended as she speaks of "the sacred mysteries." This becomes even more clear when one realizes that the Greek mysterion was translated into Latin by sacramentum; mystery and sacrament are then two sides of the same coin, as what is hidden is revealed. What happens in the Mass is that God's mysterious plan, conceived from all eternity and brought to its fulfillment in His divine Son's Passion, Death, and Resurrection, is made present. Or, as Pope Leo the Great put it, "What our Redeemer did visibly has passed over into the sacraments."
Our present recollection of past even occurs through the use of special signs and symbols. For the liturgy to be able to accomplish its work to the full, those signs and symbols particular to it must be understood. All too often people complain that they get "nothing out of Mass." I am persuaded that with nearly as great a frequency they fail to comprehend the significance of the rites. Therefore, they do not know what to expect and thus apparently receive nothing.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, however, is a marvelous drama --- jointly produced by Christ and His Church. Just as the Holy Spirit inspired the sacred authors of the Scriptures to communicate the Word of God in the words of men, so too did that same Holy Spirit lead the Church to take the central redeeming acts of our blessed Savior and to surround them with signs and symbols.
In this way, the offer of salvation would be continuously renewed until He comes again in glory, bringing His faithful people into the liturgy of heaven. On that day, all the veils will be removed; signs and symbols --- the sacraments --- will cease because they will have served their purpose in leading us from the darkness into the light, indeed to the Light.
Until that moment, however, we walk by faith, not by sight. Like Moses of old, we behold the mysterium tremendium et fascinans; we are in awe, yet curious. It is a holy awe and a holy curiosity. With Moses, we take off our shoes, for we are on holy ground.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: The Sacred Mysteries
1. Coming into His Presence
2. God speaks to us: the Liturgy of the Word
3. The Prefect and acceptable sacrifice: the Liturgy of the Eucharist
4. Receiving the Lord and sent forth to serve: Communion and concluding rites
Latin in the liturgy
Our posture in worship
Sacred vestments, liturgical colors, and other liturgical objects