The Catholic Thing
HOME        ARCHIVES        IN THE NEWS        COMMENTARY        NOTABLE        DONATE
More Catholic Resources Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 29 September 2013

According to the long tradition of lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief) one of the deepest ways to learn more about the Catholic Faith is to meditate on the prayers in the Roman Missal. The prayers are the most amazing syntheses of the meaning of the various situations and people for whom we celebrate Mass. They offer the teaching of the Church in the most profound spiritual context, namely the worshipping community. The prayers include references to all the main elements of each situation offering a theological completeness that reaches beyond the deficient juridical approach to faith that is so beloved of Americans.

If, for example, we look at the prayers for the Mass for the Laity, we first have a quotation from Matthew’s Gospel. This serves as the Entrance Antiphon for the Mass. It contains Jesus’ words about the woman who adds yeast to wheat flour and leavens the whole mass of flour in the process. (Matthew 13:33) So already we have a rich symbolic picture (in the sense of a concrete image created by God in our history) of what the presence of lay Catholics in the world actually does. Knowing is the easy part. The doing is hard, as we all know.

Then in the Collect prayer, the priest prays to God who “sent the power of the Gospel like leaven into the world.” The notion of leavening as the correct term for what lay people do in the world is beginning to develop as well as the notion of “power.” Lay people are not passive. They are like leaven in the world. The dictionary says the leaven is the “element that produces an altering or transforming influence.”

Moreover they are “called to live in amid the world and its affairs.” Those interactions, those relationships are transforming influences “constantly build[ing] up your Kingdom.” It takes love. It takes selflessness. So before we hear the proclamation of the Word, the whole spiritual dynamic of lay life has been laid out for us. We are prepared for the Word of God.

Now we turn to the Prayer over the Offerings. The priest prepares the gifts and prays: “grant that through the power of this oblation,” which is this offering of bread and wine, “that your servants. . .may imbue the world with the spirit of Christ and be the leaven for its sanctification.” This is how this world is going to be made holy. The Incarnation continues in each laywoman and man.

The dictionary tells us that the word holy means, “dedicated or devoted to the service of God.” Of course, this only comes about through God’s power. But we become his instruments inserting truth, shifting conversations to better subjects, healing relationships by acting with love, rewriting government rules so that they respect humanity, and so on, so that all of these situations speak of a holy world, one devoted to the service of God.

The Communion Antiphon is taken from the Gospel of Saint John and goes like this: “By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” By this Holy Communion, by this celebration of the Eucharist and by this leavening work of the Laity the Divine Father is glorified.

Finally, once we have received Holy Communion, at the Prayer after Communion, the priest prays: “As we draw on the fullness of your grace” – God does not do things by halves, he gives us the fullness of his grace in the Eucharist. Then, “we pray. . .that your faithful. . .engaged in the things of this world may be strengthened. . .to be tireless witnesses.” Just as God gives by no half measures, neither does he expect anything less from us. We will work to, “make your Church present and active amid the affairs of this age.” There is so much here but let us move on to other passages.

For instance we find that Christian spouses (one male and one female) “may show forth an ever more perfect image of the union of Christ with his Church.” (On the Anniversary of Marriage)

On Independence Day, the priest prays that God “spoke to us a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers and sisters.” (Preface) Do we have a long way to go? Then on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (June 24), the priest prays “that your family may walk in the way of salvation and, attentive to what Saint John the Precursor urged, may come safely to the one he foretold.”(Collect) This cuts through a lot of presumption, and is the reason why we still celebrate the feast.

The riches of the Roman Missal are endless. Dip into it anywhere. You’ll be surprised at all you will find.


Fr. Bevil Bramwell
is retired, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. He has published
Laity: Beautiful, Good and True and The World of the Sacraments.
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (10)Add Comment
0
...
written by Jack,CT, September 29, 2013
Thanks Father for a reminder of what
it is all about!
0
...
written by Jacob, September 29, 2013
I'm so glad I go to Latin Mass. The liturgy is so much more beautiful. People who love to argue about nonsense seem to go to NO, people who love the Mass seem to go to the "Old Mass".
0
...
written by Jim M., September 29, 2013
"...deficient juridical approach to faith that is so beloved of Americans."

Perhaps you can explain what you mean - give some examples? - so that my fellow Americans and I might cure our deficiencies.
0
...
written by DeGaulle, September 29, 2013
@ Jacob:

" I'm so glad I go to Latin Mass. The liturgy is so much more beautiful. People who love to argue about nonsense seem to go to NO, people who love the Mass seem to go to the "Old Mass"."

Ah, Jacob, that is a very uncharitable, and I would assert, wholly inaccurate generalisation. I have always attended the Novus Ordo, I am in Ireland and would have to travel a very long distance for anything else. It is still a valid Mass, in which, as I understand it,and please correct me if I'm mistaken, Calvary transcends time and space to be present miraculously for those who attend. Such enormous Facts should be primary to questions of aesthetics and even liturgical content, no matter how important. You are privileged to be able to attend an 'Old Mass'. Appreciate its beauty, but please have a little more consideration for those of us who have little choice but to attend more mundane Celebrations. God bless.
0
...
written by Bangwell Putt, September 29, 2013
My worn and tattered 1956 St.Joseph's Missal, with its architectural diagram of the Mass, its "Prayers Before Mass," its Latin and English prayers of the Mass printed side-by-side, and other blessings has been my long-beloved companion.

This piece motivates me to purchase The Roman Missal, not as a replacement; rather as an accompaniment.

Thank you, Father Bramwell, for this Sunday morning message.
0
...
written by Fr. Bramwell, September 29, 2013
Thank you for the comments. Just some thoughts.
Jacob - what does a comment on the Latin Mass have to do with meditating on the prayers in the Roman Missal? What a judgement about who loves the Mass! But a nice verification of my comments on the judgmental approach that is so deficient because it removes the Mass from the fact of Catholic Communion.

Jim - thank you for the question. My answer is along the lines that Pope Francis meant when he said in his interview that truths have contexts. I study the history of thought a lot because I find the American culture so confusing. A lot of the verbalizing in US Catholicism has to do with principles like "abortion is wrong" etc. While true this is usually not accompanied by actual loving of the person who is being presented with this principle. Just as one who ignores this principle is being unloving as well. The love is the context in this case. Leaving that out leaves one merely as judge and hence the "juridical" posture that I refer to.

A side comment: There is a strain in Lutheranism where scripture is simply handled as a set of juridical principles instead of as a complete description of being that certainly includes principles but includes other things as well.
Catholicism also uses the other senses of scripture such as the literal, the anagogical and the allegorical senses for the complete meaning of being. You might like "moral sense" instead of "juridical sense". The way that I am using it indicates a stripping away of the other senses leaving one to becoming moralizing. Back to my point: I suspect that being Catholic in a Protestant culture has led to approaching Catholic truths in a juridical way.

This is too narrow a way to handle such beautiful things. It is not handling being correctly - it is impersonal and counter personal. Does this make sense?
0
...
written by Jim M., September 29, 2013
Fr. Bramwell,

Thank you so much for your follow-up comments. I see your point - it is love, real practiced love that is called for and not just going through the motions, I disagree that the problem is uniquely American, though.

One last comment regarding your abortion analogy: when one comes to understand that abortion is the horror that it is and that millions of innocents are killed each year, it becomes exceedingly difficult to love the proponent of such horror. It must be done, but not without some supernatural grace.

Best regards,

Jim
0
...
written by Fr. Bramwell, September 30, 2013
Jim - thank you. I think that if the intrinsically evil acts were presented by loving people who showed genuine love to the people to whom they were speaking, then intrinsically evil acts would look less like opinions and less like political options. It would constitute a different kind of speech in our very crass and sterile world of speech.
0
...
written by Fr. Bramwell, September 30, 2013
Actually Jim - another thought - can you imagine the effect if we not only said abortion is evil but also said that the Church will take care of any unwanted children. This would save many many children AND change the stature and position of the Church in the culture. Now we are getting to what Pope Francis is telling us.
0
...
written by Jim M., September 30, 2013
Fr. Bramwell,

Thank you for your further reflections. They will know that we're Christians by our love, by our love... Christian love changed the world once, it can do it again.

To be sure abortion politics in America is about power, not babies. Blessed Mother Theresa in 1994 said (paraphrase)' "don't abort your baby give them to me." Not sure anyone took her up on the offer. Of course the Church in America today couldn't find families for the babies anyway unless it agreed to adopt to homosexual "spouses." But I hear what you're saying. Caritas vincit omnia!

I start my Saturdays with your reflections and think about them through the week. Many thanks!

Best regards,

Jim

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


busy
 

Other Articles By This Author

CONTACT US FOR ADVERTISERS ABOUT US