home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted February 4, 2014

Book: Mass 101: Liturgy and Life
Author: Emily Strand
Liguori, Liguori, Missouri. 2013. Pp. 144

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Do you wonder why incense is used at Mass, the Alleluia disappears during certain seasons, or how the construct for the Liturgy of the Word developed? Why do Catholics sing in Latin from time to time? What is intended in the words "the body of Christ" during the liturgy of the Eucharist? Why all this ritual?

In Mass 101: Liturgy and Life, Emily Strand takes Catholics through the basics of the Mass. By debriefing us on the history of the Mass, taking us step by step through our worship, and reminding us of the central mystery of our faith --- the paschal mystery --- Strand emphasizes the importance of communal worship.

In this book, Strand notes that "this sacred act --- this moment of procession, proclamation, profession, and paschal banquet we call 'Mass' --- is written on the very heart of the body of Christ. As Catholics, Mass is what we do." Let this lively, interactive, and compelling explanation lead you to a deeper appreciation of the Mass.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The responsorial psalm, as The GIRM [The General Instruction of the Roman Missal] puts it, is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and . . .has great liturgical and pastoral importance, since it fosters meditation on the Word of God. This is because it both is the Word of God (almost always taken from the Old Testament psalms) and it pints to the Word of as a proclaimed in the other Scripture readings at Mass. In addition, it is set to music that enhances the text and draws out the emotions the psalm conveys. These combined factors make the psalm one of the most dramatic and effective pieces of the Liturgy of the Word. There is strong preference for it to be sung, since the psalms of the Bible are inherently musical, and for it to be participatory, inviting the assembly to join in the antiphon of the psalm (pop music fans might think of this as the "refrain" that repeats between verses). However, even if there is no one to lead the singing of the psalm, it is still included in the Liturgy of the Word but recited by the lector and assembly instead. The back-and-forth or dialogic nature of the psalm echoes and enhances the dialogic rhythm of the Liturgy of the Word as a whole.

How does the responsorial psalm point to the other Scripture readings of the Mass? It is chosen, especially in its antiphon, with the first reading in mind. Therefore it relates to the Gospel as well. The particular way in which it relates to these other two readings varies from Sunday to Sunday, but Mass-goers who are really paying attention may notice that it seems to articulate an emotional response to the first reading. Some scholars have referred to the responsorial psalm as creating a "bridge" of meaning from the first reading to the Gospel.

One note on the musical setting for the responsorial psalm. Because the psalm is essentiall one of the readings from Scripture, the choice of musical setting should be made with fidelity to the received translation of the psalm from the Lectionary, especially its antiphon (or "refrain"). Some composers take liberties with scriptural texts when setting them to music, and this can result in a beautiful piece of music, but sometimes the meaning or emphasis of the scriptural text is altered in the process. Such a piece would not be an appropriate setting of the responsorial psalm to use during the Liturgy of the Word. (However, such a song may be a good choice for the hymn at the presentation of gifts later in the Mass.) We do not paraphrase the other readings during Mass, so why would we do so for the responsorial psalm?

The need for a musical setting that accommodates the received translation of the psalm often leads to the use of "plain-chant," or a simple, nonmetered chant tone, for the verses of the psalm. Plainchant, an ancient and beautiful way of praying sung texts in the Christian tradition, works well to accommodate the text faithfully while adorning it with music so as to bring out its emotive meaning. At the same time, plainchant settings, unlike some modern musical settings of the psalms, are rarely so grand as to outshine the other unsung readings, making the psalm seem like the high point in the Liturgy of the Word (nope, that would be the Gospel). This is why, after centuries of use in liturgy, plainchant has never gone out of style.

Table of Contents:

1. Lex orandi lex credenda

2. Why we pray this way: historical context of the Mass

3. What it’s all about: celebration and participation in the Paschal Mystery

4. On the threshold: introductory rites of Mass

5. The table is spread: the Liturgy of the Word

6. The mystery meaning of you: the Liturgy of the Eucharist

7. The concluding rite: liturgy and life

Appendix: the third edition of the Roman Missal