Part 3 Structure and Elements

Chapter e31 The Gathering Rites

Preliminary Questions


National "Mystery of Faith" Study

Naming the Rite:  Gathering


Structure and Elements

Ten Finger History

New Issues in Period Ten

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

What is the first thing that happens at Mass?  What is the "Mass of the Catechumens?"  Why do so many people come late? What is the best way for Mass to start? Do you like a quiet time before Mass? Does your parish say the rosary before Mass?

What are the elements of the Gathering Rite?  Compare the gathering rite in the Missal of Vatican II with that in the Missal of Trent.  What does the way we name these rites imply about our understanding of them? 

What does it mean for the Gathering Rites when the essential parts of the Mass are said to be Offertory, Consecration, Communion?

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General Instruction of the Roman Missal, second edition.  USCCB Liturgy Document Series #2,  1982.  See especially numbers 24 to 32.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, second edition.  USCCB Liturgy Document Series #2,  2002.  See especially numbers 46 to 54.

Introduction to the Order of MassUSCCB Pastoral Liturgy Series #1,  2003.  See especially numbers 66 to 77.

Johannes Emminghaus, The Eucharist: Essence, Form, Celebration, Collegeville:  Liturgical Press, 1997, $19.95, 0-8146-1036-6.  Read especially Part Two, Chapter One.  The Celebration Begins, pp 104-134.

Opening Prayers:  Collects in Contemporary Language (Scripture related prayers for Sundays and Holy Days, Years A, B & C).  ICEL.  Canterbury Press, 1997.

Leo Hay. "Invited to Celebrate," Chapter 1 of Eucharist: A Thanksgiving Celebration. Volume 3-A of Message of the Sacraments. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press (A Michael Glazier Book), 1989, pp 1-23.

Lawrence Johnson. The Mystery of Faith: A Study of the Structural Elements of the Order of Mass. Washington: Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, 1981, Chapters 1-10, pp i-23.

Jim Dallen. Gathering for Eucharist, A Theology of Sunday Assembly. Nashville: Pastoral Arts Association of North America, 1983.

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National Study: The Mystery of Faith

In 1978, after ten years of experience with the "New Mass," the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy was receiving many requests for adaptations for the USA. Rather than ask Rome for several little things over course of the years to come, the bishops decided to go with "one big asking." But what to ask for? The bishops felt that it was necessary to know what the Faithful are experiencing in the pews. This was the origin of the "Mystery of Faith" study.

The BCL did not have the resources necessary for the study and so they enlisted the help of the FDLC. A study text was written by Mr. Lawrence Johnson: The Mystery of Faith: A Study Of The Structural Elements Of The Order Of Mass. The books and workbook pages were distributed by the FDLC in 1980-1981.  From September 1981 to June 1982 several hundred parishes across the United States met weekly and used the book for discussion. They then sent the workbook pages to diocesan director of the study.  The diocesan directors sent a summary page to the FDLC national office in Washington DC where they were read and tabulated by the FDLC Executive Secretary.

I was serving as the Executive Secretary of the FDLC before coming to teach at Saint Meinrad.  From September 1981 through the summer of 1982 I coordinated the nationwide study, and then tabulated the results and wrote the report for the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions and submitted it to the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. [See Thomas Richstatter, "Changes in the Mass 1983-1993" Modern Liturgy 10:8 (November 1983) pp 4-5.] 

In September 1982 a report on the study submitted to the BCL by the FDLC Executive Secretary. This report was edited and printed by the FDLC in 1985: The Order of Mass Study: A Report.

The study proved to be not only an agent for change but a means of catechesis. Time and time again when reading the responses from across the country I heard people saying: "Why wasn't I told of this before?" "Why didn't anyone explain to me the history of the liturgy and the meaning of our celebrations?" I also heard basic satisfaction with the new liturgy expressed by Catholics across the country. At the same time, the unevenness of the reform became apparent. Not every parish has implemented the reform to the same degree. However, given the mobility of our society and the state of our system of communications, the word gradually spread. As people began to experience good liturgy in one parish, they carried the desire and expectation for good liturgy to other parishes. During the past thirty years the diocesan liturgical commissions have often been the motivating force in parish liturgical renewal; in the future, as the base of liturgical education broadens, I believe that we will see more and more grass roots leadership.

The important changes in the Mass from 1983 to 2050 will not be the revisions of liturgical texts or structure of the celebration. The important changes are in the understanding of the Eucharist which has changed and is still changing as a result of our years of praying the new liturgy. Our experience of Sunday Mass has caused new images in our religious imagination; and the way we image something has the most powerful influence on the way we understand and explain it.

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Call it "Gathering"

Categories for understanding the Shape of the Eucharist

I can't see "under your Eucharist iceberg" to learn what categories you use to understand the Eucharist, but I can explain what has happened "below the surface" (i.e. unconsciously) in the way I have come to think about what happens at Mass. My "categories" for understanding the celebration of the Eucharist have evolved, more or less, as follows: 1 moment, 3 moments, 2 parts, 4 parts. Again I am not able to see your "file system" but it probably is one of the following: 1) the moment of consecration; 2) offertory, consecration and communion; 3) Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist, with Introductory Rites and Concluding Rites; 4) Gathering, Storytelling, Meal Sharing, and Commissioning

Moment of consecration   As a child I learned that the Mass consisted of "the words of consecration with prayers before and after." The moment when the priest changes ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the moment. This is what Mass is all about; everything else was secondary. The Mass is "the words of consecration with prayers before and after."

I didn't need to learn this definition from a book, I didn't even need to be old enough to read. This explanation (top of the iceberg) fit perfectly with my experience.

Among my earliest childhood memories is that of going to Mass every day. -- Before you get the idea that I am bragging about my exceptional devotion to the Eucharist, I had better explain that it was my mother who was devoted to the Eucharist and who went to Mass every day. She took me along ; she took me along.) We went to Mass to pray. Mother had her prayer book, which was filled with holy cards containing her favorite prayers. Sometimes we said the rosary out loud with the other daily Mass attendees. But all of these prayers stopped at the moment of consecration. The server rang a little bell, mom put down her prayer book, if it was a "High Mass" the choir stopped singing, and we all looked up to the altar as the priest raised the host that had now become the Body of Christ. Then we returned to our praying or singing or whatever we had been doing before the consecration. (I treasure these memories and I want to speak of them not only with nostalgia but also with great reverence. That style of praying the Mass has formed countless generations of holy women and men.)

My current pastoral experience (e.g. talking with Catholics and/or observing them at Sunday Eucharist) leads me to believe that I find that for some Catholics this explanation is still operative. If not consciously, at least it plays a role in the large part of the "Eucharist iceberg" which is hidden below the surface. In other words, consecration is the key moment; everything else is secondary.

In grade school I heard stories of saintly European kings in the Middle Ages who could arrange to have a dozen or so priests synchronize their private Masses at the altars along the walls of the royal chapel so that the royal court could process from one priest's consecration at one altar to the next consecration at the next altar, and in the course of less than thirty minutes they could hear a dozen or more Masses.

Offertory, Consecration, Communion

I also learned that on those days when I was obliged under pain of mortal sin to hear Mass, simply being there for the consecration was not enough. I had to be there for the three "principal parts of the Mass." Even today when I travel from parish to parish talking about the Eucharist, when I ask an audience "What are the principle parts of the Mass?" Catholics my age will automatically respond "The principal parts of the Mass are offertory, consecration, and communion."

This was important to know. Once one learned that missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation is a mortal sin, the a good, precise minded Catholic would want to know is "How much of the Mass can I miss without really missing 'The Mass'?" If I arrived a only a few moments after the priest had started, surely that would not be a mortal sin. In other words, what is merely "coming late" or "leaving early"? This is the context in which offertory, consecration, and communion supplies the answer. If you were present at least for the offertory, consecration and the (priest's) communion, it "counted."

Note what happens "under the iceberg" with this way of understanding the Mass. I never heard anyone say that the first part of the Mass wasn't important. We were never taught that the readings from Scripture at Eucharist were insignificant. But the understanding that the "principal parts of the Mass" are offertory, consecration, and communion implies (under the iceberg) that the first part of the Mass wasn't "principal." One could come late and miss the readings from scripture every Sunday for one's whole life and it would be only a venial sin. Note what this implies regarding the importance of Sacred Scripture -- both at Mass and in lives of Catholics in general!

The part before "offertory, consecration, and communion" -- the Gathering and the Story Telling --  was called the "Foremass"  [those things that happen before Mass really starts] or the "Mass of the Catechumens" [a term which had long lost its significance and only regained some meaning with the 1972 introduction of the RCIA and the dismissal rite]. 

Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) reemphasized the importance of the Liturgy of the Word and spoke of the Mass as having two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist with introductory rites and concluding rites. This is the division or outline you will find I most current liturgical documents, Catholic Catechisms, and explanations of the Mass.

Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony. (Constitution on the Liturgy, 24)

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.  (Constitution on the Liturgy, 51)

Gathering, storytelling, meal sharing, and commissioning

I propose that we think of the Eucharistic celebration as having four movements: gathering, storytelling, meal sharing, and commissioning. Perhaps I have simply "made this up" but over the past fifteen or twenty years I have found that this four-fold description is satisfying and effective for many Catholics.

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Meal Structure

As the meal is the sacramental sign of the sacrifice, in order to understand the Eucharist it is important to know something about meals. Meals involve much more than merely eating food. Let's consider what happens at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

First of all, the extended family gathers at the appointed time and place. We greet our relatives and friends and spend some time in conversation, sharing our stories. We catch up on the lives of those relatives we haven't seen in a while and we listen as Uncle Otto once again tells his favorite stories about our parents when they were young.

Eventually, it is time to share the meal. We move to the dining room, and the food is brought from the kitchen and placed on the table. Amid the wonderful smells and the anticipation of the taste of the traditional foods, the head of the family invites us to pray and to give thanks to God for this meal and for all of God's blessings. Then the food is passed and the wine poured, and we eat and drink. After another period of conversation, we return home, happy and overfed, already anticipating next year's Thanksgiving dinner.

When I use this example to explain the Eucharist, I point out that the Thanksgiving meal has four parts or movements: We 1) gather; 2) tell our stories; 3) share our meal and 4) return home. The Eucharist has a similar fourfold structure: 1) gathering, 2) storytelling, 3) meal sharing and 4) commissioning.


Once a teacher told me "Father, speaking of the Mass as having a four fold structure 1) gathering, 2) storytelling, 3) meal sharing and 4) commissioning -- that's wonderful; it's inspired. And I thought to myself, of course it's inspired, I stole it from the Gospel of St. Luke.

I like to think that this is the same fourfold structure that St. Luke had in mind when he described the Eucharist with the two disciples from Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). As they walk along, the stranger gathers with them. They tell their story and recall the Scriptures. They invite the stranger in and, in sharing their meal, they "recognize him in the breaking of the bread." Filled with joy and strength from the experience of the risen Lord, they dash back to Jerusalem to tell the other apostles the Good News. Again we see: gathering, storytelling, meal sharing and commissioning.

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Baptism / Identity / Presence  It is crucial that one understands "Gathering" in its theological context of Baptism / Identity / Presence.  Baptism makes us Body of Christ; we assemble to express our identity and tell the story of who we know ourselves to be and then eat together to express that identity.  As we gather, we see who we really are, and we tell the story who makes us who we are and we become what we eat so we can fulfill Christ's mission.  Eucharist:  Gathering, Storytelling, Meal sharing, Commissioning -- it all ties into IDENTITY.  In gathering we discover, express, and appropriate our self-identity as community and Body of Christ.

Without out this theological grounding, "gathering" can be seen merely as a physical act of coming together as we might for a concert or a ball game.   This can lead to what Cardinal Arinze (address to the ISL, 2006) calls horizontalism.  "Many abuses in matters liturgical are based, not on bad will but on ignorance, because they 'involve a rejection of those elements whose deeper meaning is not understood and whose antiquity is not recognized' (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 9). Thus some abuses are due to an undue place given to spontaneity, or creativity, or to a wrong idea of freedom, or to the error of horizontalism which places man at the center of a liturgical celebration instead of vertically focusing on Christ and his mysteries."  (Arinze, 2)  "Liturgical institutes should arm people to reject banalization, desacralization and secularization in matters liturgical.  Horizontalism which makes people tend to celebrate themselves instead of the mysteries of Christ does damage to Catholic faith and worship and deserves to be avoided.  (Arinze, 7)

The assembly and the presence of Christ. "To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in its liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of his minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,' but especially under the Eucharistic elements. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for he promised: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Mt 18:20). (CSL 7)

At the time of the Second Vatican Council, the abiding presence of Christ in the Eucharist was the hallmark of Catholicism (as evidenced in the prominence of the tabernacle as the focal point of "our" churches and its absence in the churches of "others"). After the Council, Catholics grew in awareness of the presence of Christ in his Word, as evidenced in Catholics' growing interest in the Scriptures, Bible study, and the quality of homilies. Today there is a growing awareness of  the presence of Christ in the assembly: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20).  [What I have referred to as "getting Easter Sunday out of the attic."]

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Structure and Elements

For a general explanation of "structure and elements" see Chapter d42 The Structure and Elements of a Liturgical Rite

For a printable, one page summary of the structure and elements of the Eucharist see Chapter e20 Structure and Elements of the Eucharist

Function of the Gathering Rites.  "The parts preceding the liturgy of the word, namely, the entrance song, greeting, penitential rite, Kyrie, Gloria, and opening prayer or collect, have the character of a beginning, introduction, and preparation.   The purpose of these rites is that the faithful coming together take on the form of a community and prepare themselves to listen to God's word and celebrate the Eucharist properly. [General Instruction on the {1969} Roman Missal, 24.  emphasis added.]   For the role of "General Principles" in obedience to liturgical law, see Chapter d51 Introduction to Liturgical Law

The path  leading to the door.

The door   One Door.  Transition point.   Liminal (threshold) experiences

Baptismal Pool   Baptism is the door to the Church.  As one enters through the (one) door -- the first thing one sees is the baptismal poor.  We come to Eucharist through Baptism.  Eucharist is the repeatable part of Baptism.  The first time we celebrate Eucharist we name it BaptismConfirmationEucharist.  Each time we enter a church and put our hand into the holy water font we renew the sign of our baptism.  At each Eucharist we die with Christ and rise to new life with him.   [Review Class Notes from "Four Treasures in the Attic, Part one: Baptism."]

Gathering Procession  Who comes in?

Gathering Song   Gathers mind, voice, rhythm, mood, etc. Function:  to draw the assembly into one Body and prepare them to hear the Word and share the Meal.  One mind, one voice. Purpose:  unity.  Use a text which makes seeing the procession possible (e.g. modeled after the classic introit:  memorized antiphon and choir text).  Genre:  parade music.  Seasonal hymn during the Seasons times of the Liturgical Year.

"Often at the beginning of Sunday Eucharist we are invited to sing a hymn. But for most of us today, music is not something we "do" but something we "listen to." Singing is something done by professionals -- whether a pop star or an operatic diva. If you find yourself thinking that way when you are asked to sing the gathering hymn, don't think "hymn" or "music"but think first of "gathering."

"When invited to sing the gathering song, we are invited to join our minds and our hearts with all those present by saying and praying the same words at the same time with the same melody, rhythm and pitch. It is a gathering activity, gathering our individual voices into the one voice of Christ praising the Father in the Holy Spirit. And even if a beautiful singing voice is not one of your gifts, it is still important to pick up the hymnal, to form the words and sentiments in your heart--and with your lips, even though charity to others might suggest a certain restraint when it comes to volume. (But even this problem dissolves once the entire parish takes gathering seriously and everyone begins to sing.)

Incense  Smell, not smoke.  Purification.  Honor.  Goes up.   Additional information on incense can be found at Chapter d43 Individual Elements

Veneration of the Altar  Greet Christ, the altar.   In the American Culture we kiss people, not things.

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Greeting by the Presider  (Primary Element) 1969 compromise on which "Greeting" to suggest:  a) a simple "hello",  b) the Sign of the Cross, or c) The Lord be with you?  They compromised and kept all three.   Following the Mystery of Faith Study, the following three-part structure approved by the USCCB for the second edition of the USA Sacramentary 1991 consisted of part A, one element of part B and then part C.




1.  Water Rite
2.  I Confess
3.  Lord, we have sinned
4.  Litany Lord, have mercy
5.  Gloria
6.  Other Sacramental or Ritual Gathering [e.g. Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing, Marriage, Ordination, Funeral]


Gathering Prayer
(on Sunday, 3 cycles based on readings of the day)

After having approved by the USCCB (and many other National Conferences of Bishops) they were sent to Rome for confirmation.   Before their confirmation, Rome issued the Third Edition of the Roman Missal and we are now (2004) waiting for the ICEL to be approved by the USCCB and confirmed by Rome.

The three year cycle of Opening Prayers will not be used the English Edition of the Third Edition of the Roman;  Missal.  They were "original prayers" and such texts are currently not in favor in Rome (which prefers the unity of the Roman Rite).  The prayers have been printed in Opening Prayers:  Collects in Contemporary Language (Scripture related prayers for Sundays and Holy Days, Years A, B & C).  ICEL.  Canterbury Press, 1997.

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The Lord be with you -- See the comment on the USCCB web site reads: "The expression et cum spiritu tuo is only addressed to an ordained minister...." 

Call to Worship

Water Rite  Every Eucharist begins with baptism. "Baptism is the way Eucharist starts. Eucharist is the repeatable part of baptism."  Eucharist is how our baptismal promises are sustained.  Formerly baptism was something that happened once, long ago; now baptism is something that is operative in our every waking decision. This primacy of Baptism is seen in the architectural placement of the tomb-womb.  The Asperges is not of Roman origin and entered the Roman Rite at a relatively late date.

Penitential Rite  The Eucharist is the ordinary sacrament of reconciliation. The penitential rite is not time for "Reconciliation: Rite III" because it contradicts the basic symbol of eating together and the epiclesis which names the meaning of the meal.

Silence  During the gathering rites at Sunday Eucharist we are invited to pray for a few moments in silence. This is not just a pause. It is an important element of gathering. We come together to worship God and need to shift gears from our ordinary world of efficiency and production, earning a living and caring for our families. We enter into the world of symbol and sacrament, of play and worship. This shift can only be done in silence, and silence can only be created by everyone being silent together.

Glory to God   A hymn, to be sung. Too joyful for Lent. During advent we put it away and save it so that it is fresh for Christmas. The Gloria was introduced into Roman Rite in the sixth century.

Lord Have Mercy  The emphasis is on the word LORD, not mercy. It is not the time for an examination of conscience. Lord, the Christ. Not an invocation of the trinity. Taken from the end of the litany during procession to stational church. Calling upon the name that is above all names, the name in whom we gather.

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Opening Prayer   (Primary Element) Presidential Prayer. [Note: In the Roman Rite only the ordained presider addresses God in name of the whole assembly. This is how the assembly is "ordered" and is the root meaning of "ordination." The ordained is the one authorized to speak in the name of the community.]

"As the first prayer of the Eucharistic celebration, the opening prayer serves to conclude the entrance rite and to introduce the whole Mass. In this double capacity as conclusion to the entrance rite and transition to the liturgy of the word and of the Eucharist, the opening prayer brings to a close the part of the Mass whose purpose is to unify the worshipers, to prepare them to hear God's word, and to celebrate the Lord's Supper (see General Instruction of the Romans Missal, no. 24). As one of the presidential prayers of The Roman Missal, it is proclaimed by the celebrant and offered in the name of the community (see GIRM, no. 10). Its inner logic is one of petition based upon the initiative and fidelity of God." (ICEL, Comprehensive Revisions Program, Presidential Prayers of The Roman Missal, October 1982, p. 15.)

"The prayers of
The Roman Missal have been translated in a style which, for the most part, retains the succinct and abstract character of the original Latin. The translations do not ordinarily employ the development or expansion mentioned in no. 34 of the Instruction on Translation of Liturgical Texts (Consilium, 254 January 1969). In case of the opening prayer on Sundays and some feasts, however, an alternative text is printed for use at the discretion of the priest.

The alternative opening prayers are not direct or faithful translations of the corresponding Latin text. They follow its theme or are inspired by it, but they are generally more concrete and expansive. The addition of such texts was prompted by the practice in other liturgical books of offering alternatives and by the following statement in the instruction on translation: 'Texts translated from another language are clearly not sufficient for the celebration of fully renewed liturgy. The creation of new texts will be necessary. But translation of texts transmitter through the tradition of the Church is the best school and discipline for the creation of new texts so that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already in existence "' (no. 43) (ICEL,
Comprehensive Revisions Program, Presidential Prayers of The Roman Missal, October 1982, p. 41.)

The name of the prayer.  The Latin editio typica calls this prayer Collecta, the "collect" because it collects or gathers the prayers of the individuals into one common prayer.  Prayer of the Assembly. Opening Prayer. Prayer of Gathering.

Structure (shape) of the prayer.  The prayer is a BRK.  For more information on this prayer shape see Chapter d18 Glossary of Liturgical Terms

Shape of the prayer. 1) Name the divinity. 2) who...[thankfully remember]. 3) grant that ... to... in order that... 4) Per Dominum.... [Note: All liturgical prayer is the voice of Christ to God in the Holy Spirit.]

Commentary.  Naming God:  What are your names for God? Almighty Eternal God? Translated as "Father" for closeness...?   The petition:  in this world or the next?  Do the prayers fly too quickly into eschatology? Through Christ.   The nature of Liturgical Prayer is that it is the prayer of Christ (Body / Church) to God.  We only ask for things we are sure that Christ wants to pray for. 

Posture.  The traditional posture for all during presidential prayers at the liturgy is standing.

Example:  Gathering Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent.

Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
hanc tuis fidelibus voluntatem,
ut, Christo tuo venienti justis operibus occurrentes,
ejus dexterae sociati, regnum mereantur possidere caeleste.
Per Dominum.

All-powerful God,
increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven,
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit...

[I suggest that you take several prayers through this grid to see their structure and elements.]

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Ten Finger History

For an explanation of this historical grid memory aid see Chapter d21 Overview of the History of the Liturgy

1. Apostolic [0-399]

11.  Synagogue precedents. Simple origins: "Hello" and then reading from the Scriptures (i.e. the Torah, the letters of Paul, various stories of Jesus).  People sing a hymn or psalm.
12.  At the last supper they gathered together in the upper Room.  They read from the scriptures (as perhaps at a Seder Meal).  They eat and drink as Jesus gives new meaning to the meal (do this in memory of
me).  And then they go to the garden.
13.  The Apostolic Community simply gathered and after saying hello they read from the scriptures.  People sing a hymn or a song. 

2. Patristic [400-799]

21.  Once the Church become public and can celebrate public Rites the Eucharist in Rome often began with a procession to the church where the overseer/bishop/pastor would preside.  Processions to the church.
22.Psalm sung by schola; people sing a memorized psalm verse. (Everyone no longer has the Psalter memorized.)

3. Early Medieval [800-1199] 

31.  Origins of Gregorian Chant. People sing the common (Kyrie, Gloria, {Creed}, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). Schola sings the proper (Introit Antiphon {& Psalm}, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory Antiphon., Communion Antiphon).
32.  Organ introduced.

4. Medieval [1200-1299] 

41.  Solemn High Mass developed.
42.  Schola sings all. Part-singing introduced.
43.  People watch and adore.
44.  At "private Masses" there are no people to be gathered

5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]

51.  Elevation of the host is introduced.
52.  Bells are rung to worn of the approach of this moment and to "call in" people from the Cathedral Square and the bar across the street.

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6. Reformation [1500-1699] 

61.  Reformers work to restore congregational participation.
62.  Luther (musician, pastor, scripture scholar) sets the biblical songs to musical settings in the vernacular to encourage the participation of the gathered assembly: psalms in vernacular as metric hymns, e.g. "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

7. After Trent [1700-1899] 

71.  Choir sings Kyrie as priest and minister say "Prayers at the Foot of the Altar."
72.  People watch liturgy and pray devotionally.

8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]

81.  Minimal procession.
82.  Prayers at the Foot of the Altar.
83.  Proclamations of unworthiness.
84.  Responses belong to the minister, not the people.
85.  Introit lost for the most part.
86.  Choir sings Kyrie throughout. "Asperges" at the Sunday High Mass as "Solemn Rite of Contrition" [rather than

9.  Vatican II [1960-1975] 

91.  Restoration of Entrance Procession.
92.  Hymn restored to people.
93.  Minister's (i.e. Server's) parts become People's parts.
94.  Compromise on which "Greeting" to use (hello / Sign of the Cross, or / Lord be with you).
95.  Restoration of possible water rite with
reference to Baptism.
96.  Three options for Penitential Rite (I Confess / Lord, we have sinned / Litany: Lord, have mercy.)
97.  Two options for Opening Prayer on Sundays.

10. After Vatican II [1975-2050] 

101.  "Seams" become apparent (i.e. how the compromises were stitched together).   ICEL  1991 Proposed three part structure: proposes a new Gathering Rite composed of three elements.  1) Greeting of the presider followed by  2) one of six options -- Water (Baptism) Rite; I Confess; Lord, we have sinned; Litany Lord, have mercy; Gloria; Other Sacramental or Ritual Gathering [e.g. Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing, Marriage, Ordination, Funeral]) and concluding with the 3) Opening Prayer (Presider). Prayer based on the readings of the day (On Sundays, the cycles of prayers match cycles of lectionary.)  2003 these proposals are apparently "dead in the water" and we await the ICEL (with Clara Vox) translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.
102.  Gathering Rite in proportion to need (amount of "gathering" needed).  
103.  Composition of musical "unity" for gathering rite.

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Contemporary Issues

One way to tell what is going on under the iceberg at any given historical period is to examine the type of questions the theologians are asking.  For example Anscar Vonier, OSB in his A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist asks such questions as:  How does Jesus die at the Eucharist?  What is the sign of the immolation? What is the relation between Jesus dying at Mass and Jesus dying on Calvary?  What would happen if one(!) of the apostles "said Mass" on Good Friday evening while the sole of Jesus was still in Limbo?  These are not the questions I find discussed at meetings of Liturgical Scholars today.

Once we return to the understanding of Eucharist as a communal action celebrated by the baptized gathered together as the Body of Christ a new set of questions arise. 

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Hospitality   Note that all we have been saying about the ministry of hospitality and welcoming only becomes important in the context of gathering.  How many times does Vonier speak of this ministry? 

The realization that Eucharist is something that we do together as a community has led many parishes to place greeters or ministers of hospitality at the doors of the church to welcome us as we arrive for Sunday Mass. But hospitality is everybody's ministry.  Each one of us must make an effort to be a welcoming Church. Perhaps all we need do is smile or move to the middle of the pew so that those who come after us can easily find a place. Perhaps we might lower a kneeler so that the person in the pew ahead of us can kneel more comfortably. Perhaps we can share our hymnbook. These are all little things, but it is important that we say with our body that we are happy that others are there to worship with us so that together we can form Church!

The following article on the ministry of hospitality has been sold to America Magazine who now owns the copyright.  I have put the article here simply to have it on a server other than my own computer in case of a computer crash.  The article is given here so I can quote from it in the Eucharist course.  It should not be reproduced without the permission of America Magazine.

Hospitality -- Everybody's Ministry

It can be lonely living by myself in a small town.  But I can always go to Wal-Mart and know that I will be met at the door by a smiling employee who will greet me with "'Welcome to Wal-Mart," and give me a shopping cart and a flier with today's specials.  If only I could be so lucky at church!  How many times have I gone to Sunday Mass and opened the church door to find myself in a dark vestibule greeted only by lost gloves, mismatched galoshes, and a stack of collection baskets.   

Thanks be to God, this is no longer the case in most Catholic parishes.  Today we are greeted at the door by ministers of hospitality who welcome us into the Eucharistic assembly. But it was not too many years ago when, if you found yourself greeted at the church door by a minister of hospitality, you knew you were in a Protestant church. 

The "'Minister of Hospitality" (or "'Greeter") is a relatively new ministry for Catholics.  The pre-Vatican II editions of the Roman Missal contain no mention of "'lay greeters."  The words "'hospitality" and "'greeter" are not found in the Constitution on the Liturgy.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1969) lists among the liturgical ministers "'those who, in some places, meet the faithful at the church entrance, lead them to appropriate places, and direct processions." (68b) No name is given to this ministry nor is it described in any further detail.  In the current edition of the General Instruction (2002) this ministry is named at the very end of the list of liturgical ministries (105d), following "'those who take up the collection in church." (105c)

 The Introduction to the Order of Mass published by the United States Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy (2003) as a pastoral resource to aid in the implementation of the General Instruction, states:  "'St. Paul instructed the assembled community to "'welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God." (Rom 15:7)  It will normally be appropriate for those commonly referred to as "'ushers" to exercise their role by welcoming people at the door, providing them with all necessary books and aids, and helping them find their places.  The people are coming as invited guests of the Lord himself, to share in his supper as sisters and brothers.  They will appreciate this more readily if they are made welcome by representatives of the community and acknowledged informally by their neighbors." (23)

Those entrusted with the task of preparing folks to exercise the various ministries at Sunday Eucharist might argue that "'greeters" and "'ushers" are distinct ministries.  Or perhaps those who have traditionally served as ushers -- taking up the collection and counting the money -- need additional formation to serve as ministers of hospitality.

 How does one prepare for this ministry?   Can hospitality be learned?   Does one take a course for "'greeters" at Wal-Mart?   Obviously, there are certain facts and skills that can be easily learned:  when to arrive; what to do if someone becomes ill; where the bulletins are kept; etc.

It is more difficult to develop a "'sense of ministry."  All the various liturgical ministers must work together for a common goal.  One minister does not seat people while another minister is proclaiming the Scriptures.  Assisting with the Communion procession is different from simply directing traffic.

And more difficult yet is teaching the deeper issues:  Why are we doing this in the first place?  What purpose does welcoming serve.  Why do we feel we need this ministry now when we got by for so many years without it?

Perhaps one reason that Catholics didn't feel the need to welcome people coming to Sunday Mass was the fact we had been taught we "'had to go."  Inviting Catholics to Sunday Mass was simply unnecessary -- like the US Government "'inviting" you to pay income tax; you either do it or else!  For some, obligation may still be the primary motivation for attending Mass.  After publishing an article on "'Why I Go to Mass" I received a letter informing me that "'...the reasons given in the article are alright, I guess; but you didn't mention the main reason we go to Mass.  We'll rot in hell if we don't!"

Today we have to do more than threaten; we have to invite and welcome.   The US Bishops, in their Message to Young Adults state:  "'We acknowledge the pain many of you speak of in feeling unwelcome and alone -- strangers in the house of God. For any failure to extend hospitality, we apologize and promise greater efforts to welcome you into church life. We hope that anyone who enters a catholic church for mass, or at any other time, will feel comfortable and welcome." (Sons and Daughters of the Light, 1999)

Welcoming and hospitality become important whenever we need to do something together -- and Mass was something we did "'alone."  It is only recently that we have come to understand the Eucharist as a "'communal" act.  During my high school and college years I went to Mass "'to pray."  I said my prayers and the priest said his.  I was "'talking to God" about my life and my concerns; the priest was "'saying Mass." I prayed quietly in English; the priest prayed in Latin.  If there were other people in church at the same time -- five or five hundred -- they didn't concern me; they said their prayers and I said mine.

I believe that this is still the experience of many Catholics.  The Mass is not yet perceived to be something that we do together.  A few years ago, during the question period following a presentation I gave on the "'new" liturgy, a gentleman asked me: "'Father, why do I have to turn and shake hands and give that "'kiss of peace" before Holy Communion?  It's a terrible distraction.  I don't know those people.  And the ones I know, I don't even like."

It has been forty years since the Second Vatican Council wrote:  "'Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church ... liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church."  (Constitution on the Liturgy 26)  This was a revolutionary insight.  It changes everything.  Mass is not a private devotion.  We, as Church, are doing something together.  And the priest is not doing "'his thing" up front, far away; he is presiding, coordinating, and leading the community.

Changing people's understanding of Mass from a private prayer to a communal act is made more difficult by the fact that as Americans we tend to think of "'religion" something private and individual. Charles Lippy, in his study of popular religiosity in the United States, concludes: "'Being religious, American style, is to share in that dynamic, but highly personal and ultimately very private enterprise of endowing one's own life with meaning." (Being Religious American Style, Praeger, 1994)   Sunday Mass, for many Catholics, continues to be a "'highly personal and ultimately very private enterprise."   This makes hospitality and welcoming both more difficult -- and all the more necessary.

What can we do to show that the Eucharist is a communal activity?  Greeting people at the door is a start.  It alerts us to the fact that we are going to do something with others.  "'Welcome" implies "'I am happy that you have come."  The first impression a visitor receives is terribly important.  But hospitality is everybody's ministry.  We practice hospitality in choosing where we sit. Do we take the aisle seat and block access to the rest of the pew or chairs?  Are those who come after us forced to crawl over us to find a place?  What does it say to late comers when the only open places are way up front?   And how do we acknowledge the presence of those who come in and sit next to us?  Hospitality is not restricted to the ministers at the church door.

I think it is helpful if we name the first part of the Mass "'gathering rites" rather than "'introductory rites" or "'entrance rites" because "'gathering" names the purpose of these actions and prayers:  "'to ensure that the faithful who come together as one establish communion." (GIRM 46)   We exercise the ministry of hospitality when we pick up the service book and sing the gathering hymn.  If we are actually doing something together, we have to look like it. 

We practice hospitality when we open our minds and hearts to the proclamation of the scriptures. When we listen to the response to the psalm and repeat it back as best we can, even if the melody is new, we are honing our listening skills and training our ears to hear the Word of God. And this Word received in the Holy Spirit broadens our understanding of whom we must welcome into our parish assembly: "'The Gospel requires that particular care be taken to welcome into the Church's assembly those often discarded by society -- the socially and economically marginalized, the elderly, the sick, those with disabilities, and those with special needs." (Built of Living Stones, 42)  The General Intercessions expand the horizons of our prayer.  Understanding the Eucharist as "'sharing a meal together" rather than "'receiving Holy Communion" is at the heart of this communal understanding of the Mass.

Those parishes where community is a reality must take special care to welcome visitors.  A stranger can enter most parishes and feel perfectly at home.  When you enter a parish with a real feeling of community you feel out of place unless you are welcomed.   I have lived in parishes where we had to be continually reminded to welcome visitors or they would get the impression that we were some sort of "'clique," the sense of community was so evident.

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Who can gather?   This issue does not arise at the time of Trent.  Anyone could walk into the Church and watch what the priest is doing and then leave.  Theologians discussed whether or not a person who was a heretic, a pagan, or a sinner would receive graces from such an action.  But it made no "practical" difference because this sinner hearing Mass looked no different from the saint hearing Mass.  Now that the Eucharist is something we actively do together, the questions arises, "With whom can we perform this action?" 

If we are gathering to celebrate the Lord's Supper why would we gather with those who are not invited to eat?  There was a time when excommunication meant "not able to share communion" and this was the worst possible thing that could happen to a person.  Today we have canonical excommunication (a severe, ecclesial penalty) and liturgical excommunication (which means one cannot share the Sacred Meal with the rest of the community).  For example, children who were baptized as infants in the Roman Church and have not yet reached the "age of reason", or Catholics in permanent, loving, relationships, which are not recognized by the Catholic church as marriage, or holy Christians who love and adore the Eucharist but are not fully incorporated into the Catholic Church or those Catholics who are "in the state of mortal sin" and who have not celebrated the sacrament of Reconciliation even though this is in no way "morally impossible" to do. 

Cultural difficulties   "Why are Americans are so prone to distrust intellectuals. I believe the reason has to do with their Puritan Past" "What is most trust worthy is our individual religious experience." (Robert Oden, President of Kenyon College. From a lecture God and Mankind: Comparative Religions.)  Early in our American history 87% of all the "non-native" Americans were Puritans.  (Professor of History, Dr. Larry Landini described Puritanism as "the lingering suspicion that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time.") This has a profound and lingering influence on our Constitution and our conception of government, and our interpretation of Catholicism.  For example Puritan individualism makes it difficult to conceive a liturgy as a personal, communal activity.  If the Eucharist is an individual activity there is no need for "Gathering Rites."

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With Whom do we Gather?  This question would be of little importance to Thomas Aquinas or to Vonier.  However, each of us in our own experience, if we have come to realize the importance of gathering, knows that this is an issue.  It makes a difference with whom we gather.  I am sure that you have a different experience when you celebrate Eucharist with friends and colleagues than when you celebrate with a group of strangers (e.g. when you are on vacation or in a foreign city).

I find little written on this topic but it is my experience as a priest I perform a different theological role when I call together the community for which I am overseer/pastor/bishop than when I am substituting for the pastor when he is absent or when I am in a "foreign parish" preaching a mission etc. 

Does this "lived experience" indicate a theological reality?  If so, it is a theological issue that is unexplored. 

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Who calls the assembly to gather?   For Thomas Aquinas and Vonier the only issue here would be, "Is the man validly ordained a priest?"  Recalling the days of my youth I do not remember that it made any difference which of the four priests stationed at Saint Anthony Parish in Wichita KS "said Mass" on any given day because what the priest was doing had little to do with what I was doing.  I went to Mass to pray; at the appointed time the priest came out, observed the rubrics, consecrated the elements, and left.  It was not important which priest said Mass any more that than it is important to me which of the city employees reads my water meter in the front yard.  As long as they do is correctly I am happy with it. 

This is no longer the case today.  Frequently we hear (perhaps you yourself have said) that Father X's Mass is so much more meaningful than Father Y's. 

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The role of the one who gathers   The presider gathers the people into the Body of Christ.   Age quod agis  [Do what you are doing].  Welcoming, greeting, hospitality, enabling, empowering.  In order to "age quod agis" you have to know what it is you are about.   As the Eucharist begins, what are you (as presider) trying to actually do?   [This is why I think naming this first movement "gathering" is so important.  The very name tells us what we are principally about.]

Naming the one who gathers   see Celebrant 

Priestless communities   What if the overseer/pastor of the parish is not an ordained presbyter?  Today in the United States we have several thousand parishes where the pastor is a deacon, a religious, or a lay person.  This is the person who knows the assembly, who is responsible for their Christian life and mission, and yet does not preside at the Sunday assembly.  What liturgical role should this person exercise?  [If you see the importance of this question it might be a good indication that your unconscious understanding of Eucharist is beginning to include the theology of gathering.] 

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Facilitating gathering   Can the gathering be "too nice" that is, so professional and artistic that many cannot participate in it?  This is also a new question that was not asked formerly.  We gather in order to actively participate in the liturgical ritual.  In order for this to happen it much be a ritual which permits and indeed encourages participation.

Rather than answer this question -- because I am sure that you already have rather definite opinions on the matter -- I want to answer the question, "Can a Eucharistic celebration be too good?" By "good" I mean too artistic, too professional, too "nice." To answer this rather complex yet very important question I want to ask you to let me tell a story which in my experience has helped me answer this question -- a question which is all too infrequently asked.

In the summer of 1965 I was in my final years of preparation for ordination to the priesthood and that summer I continued my studies for a degree in music at the University of Cincinnati. While attending summer school I lived with the Friars at St. George Parish which was within walking distance of the music school. From the age of 14 I had always lived with men (boys) my own age -- my fellow seminarians. This was the first summer I did not live in a seminary context. The four other Franciscans living in the house were friendly and hospitable, but they were all old (they seemed old to me then even though they were all younger than I am now). But the key problem was they were interested and busy about parish ministry and had little interest in 17th Century counterpoint. Consequently life at the parish was very lonely and I would often sit on the back steps of the house and simply feel sad. As I was sitting there feeling sorry, sad, and lonely I noticed that there were three or four kids who played basketball in the parish parking lot. They did not seem sad and lonely. Actually they looked like they were having a good time. So, being an intelligent person, I decided that I could do that and I went to the university library and checked out a book on "How to Play Basketball" (I had spent my younger days practicing the piano and other musical instruments and athletic endeavors like basketball were not part of my childhood experience!) So I read the book and practiced until I could do a free throw and a lay up. Then I introduced myself to the kids and that began my basketball career. Rather than sitting on the steps feeling sad, I was having a good time, getting exercise, and not worrying about homework. While the kids were better players than I, I was a tad taller and bigger and it somehow balanced out.

There were times when bigger and older kids came to play ball in the parking lot and they would let us play too. We did not get the ball as often and many of our shots got blocked but we still had a good time. Then there were days when the "professionals" men on the UC basketball team would stop by and shot baskets or play informally in the parish parking lot. They were really good and they were really big. Those days the rest of us stood and watched the professionals play.

This was a different kind of "participation." It is a lot of fun to watch a good game, but it is different from doing it yourself. For one thing the activity of playing the game produces the endorphin which counteract depression.

I do not know of any physical or biological - chemical relation between active participation of the Eucharist and "watching" the Eucharist. But I know from experience that there is an important difference. I know that people can really enjoy attending Mass with professional music etc. Even as many people really enjoy watching an exciting game of basketball on television. But it is not the same thing as doing it yourself. Even if the results are not as good or as "professional." This is why the bishops at the Second Vatican Council were so insistent on "active participation."

There is nothing wrong with watching a basketball game -- it can be great fun. There is nothing wrong with listening to a symphony orchestra -- it can be a very moving and participatory experience. But playing is different from watching or listening.

There are times when it is appropriate to listen to the words of the priest, there are times when it is appropriate to absorb the beauty of the solo cantor's song, there are times to watch the ritual dance of the ministers; but this is not the norm. "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy."

One way of seeing "under the iceberg" is to examine the words you use. How do you talk: do you hear Mass, go to Mass, attend Mass, celebrate Mass? Your words can be an indication of what you unconsciously feel and believe.

Mass is something we do; and it is something we do together. To do something together we must first gather together. That is why I think it is important to think of this first movement of the Eucharist not merely as "introductory" rites but as the ritual activity of gathering. And when you see how important the act of gathering is, you will want to be there on time, indeed, ahead of time. Perhaps one reason why some people "come late" to Mass is that they don't think anything important happens during the "introductory" rites.

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The space in which we gather   Formerly when Mass was "the moment of consecration with prayers before and after" the tabernacle played a different role in the architecture of the faith.  The host was consecrated and placed in the tabernacle for adoration.  Every altar had a tabernacle.  One knelt and adored in the presence of the blessed sacrament. 

Once "Gathering" becomes a structural element of the eucharist, new issues arise:  talking in church, welcoming one another, friendly greetings, eating in church.  These are elements of gathering that compete with the older view of the Eucharist.  I refer once again to the diagram on the dynamics of change.  For some people even though they may understand gathering, it is very painful for them to see people talking in church -- which for them (under the iceberg) means "talking in the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle."  To change group behavior takes many years -- perhaps even until Jesus comes again.  In order to "stifle this welcoming chatter" before Mass begins some parishes have begun to say the rosary during this time.  This devotional practice (under the iceberg) brings back memories of the way Mass use to be and simultaneously (top of the iceberg) puts an end to the "desecration" of conversation.  But what if parishioners feel that greeting one another as they gather for the eucharist is not "desecration" but a wholesome part of the gathering rite?   How can a parish resolve this dilemma? 

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The economics of gathering   Throughout the Acts of the Apostles we read that the early community held all things in common.  "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."   (Ac 2:44-45)

Elizabeth A. Johnson in her book Truly Our Sister:  A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints (The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 2003.  ISBN 0-8264-1473-7) speaks of the "economics of gathering" in her exegesis of Matthew 2:1-12, The Visit of the Magi. 

After Jesus' death and resurrection, the primary locale for this movement throughout the first century was the house church.  Members of different social classes, races, and genders gathered in houses across the Greco-Roman world to remember, ritually celebrate, and proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ and to test its implications f the way they lived.  In this context Matthew employs the "house" as a continuous metaphor for the church.  What goes on i the house in various passages of his gospel evokes the ideal for his community, at the center of whose lie lay the house church.  The magi with their gifts enter the Bethlehem house and find Christ.  As a result, relationships are realigned.  In terms of class and social status, "aristocrats acknowledge a child, and resources are shared when the rich give to an ordinary Judean family, one which probably represented the majority of Jewish families impoverished by Herodian, Roman, and temple taxation.  So too, implies Matthew, should economic resources to sustain life be share in the house church.  (pg. 242)

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How much gathering is needed?  We have seen that obedience to liturgical law requires attention to the "General Principles"  one of which is the "Principle of Proportionality"  e.g. the gathering rite must take into account the amount of gathering that is necessary in this assembly at this time.

If the function of the gathering rites is "to gather the community into the Body of Christ so that together we may tell our story and share our meal and go forth to continue the mission of Christ," then it is obvious that different communities will need different degrees of gathering.  When I was pastor in Neuilly and Americans of various backgrounds from all over the country gathered together for their American-English Mass on Sundays at Marymount School, a larger amount of gathering was necessary to form these vary diverse individuals and families into the body of Christ then for example when I celebrate the Eucharist with the Poor Clares in Greenville, South Carolina.  These women who live together day in and day out are perpetually "gathered" and are at any moment ready to share the inspired story and celebrate the sacred meal. 

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How frequently do we gather?  In the Christian Scriptures we find a striking association between "the Lord's supper" and "the Lord's day"  (both in meaning and grammatical word forms).   It is on the Lord's day that we gather for the Lord's supper, Eucharist.  In the course of time, as the association between "gathering" and "eucharist" is lost (and Eucharist is something the priest does), so also is lost the association between Eucharist and Sunday.  As purgatory is invented, more lay brothers are ordained to say more Masses to release the souls from purgatory through the recitation of the "daily Mass for the dead."  The laity can assist at multiple Masses daily; kings can pay for "synchronized Masses" and move from altar to altar, from elevation to elevation, and thus hear (see) a large number of Masses in a short period of time.  As the laity begin to receive Holy Communion -- most people never received and consequently a law had to be made that they receive at least once a year -- some begin to receive at daily (non-Sunday) Mass.  Some began to receive multiple times a day and consequently a law had to be made that they could only receive once a day (except priests, who had to receive each time they offered Mass).  [Note:  at the time of Francis and Clare, Thomas, Anthony, Bonaventure, etc.  saints received 4 times a year -- that is why it is noteworthy that Clare, in her Rule, has the nuns receive 7 times a year!]

Once Vatican II tries to re-balance Thursday and Friday (meal and sacrifice) it seems normal that everyone who assembled for the sacred meal would eat and drink.  The prompted the legislation on "Communion more than once a day" (restricted in the 1983 Code to only two times a day.)

Is Eucharist on the Lord's Day, and weekday Mass the same thing?  Is one constitutive of the Church and the other a devotional practice?   Or are we so accustomed to "daily Mass" that the question is not asked?

But another development also takes place in the Roman Church.  In large parishes only part of the assembly assemblies for eucharist at one time, and others assemble at another time, e.g. there are multiple Eucharists in the same parish on the same Sunday and the people decide which assembly to attend.  Consequently Margret can belong to Saint John's parish and attend the 8:00 a.m. Eucharist for 50 years and never share Holy Communion with Betty who always attends the 10:30 a.m. Eucharist.   We have become so accustomed to this we do not even see any problem here.  Note that there are non-Roman Churches who consider this an aberration.  When a parish is so large that they can no longer all gather around one table at one time, it is time to begin a second community in another place.   The two times I have been pastor the parish celebrated only one Eucharist each Sunday morning and the entire community participated.  Everybody knew everybody.  This makes a difference in how Eucharist is experienced.

Discussion Question:  If the entire community is to gather, do you see why the Eastern Church has such problems with the "heretical Roman Churches" gathering only one-third or one-fourth of the community and then repeating this gathering in the same space, on the same day, an hour or two later.

Physical Access to the Gathering Space    If we are serious about gathering, we must make it possible for everyone in the community to gather.  This brings about new questions about the accessibility of the space for persons with mental and/or physical disabilities. 

Formerly, for example, no one approached the altar except the ordained priest.  The priest was "another Christ" and so he had to "look like Christ" who had no sin, and consequently had no disabilities -- men with mental or physical disabilities were bared by canon law from being ordained.  (I am not saying that there is a relation between "sin" and "disability" -- I am merely looking under the iceberg of the former lawgivers.)  Consequently, the altar could be at the top of lots of steps.   In your parish, is it physically possible for all the members of the parish to approach the lectern to read?  to approach the altar to assist with Communion?  or even to enter the gathering space? 

It is an interesting "project" to compare 1) the date when your parish church was constructed and 2) the average life expectancy at that time and 3) the number of steps people need to go up in order to enter the church. 

For more on this topic see Chapter 57 Access to the sacraments for persons with disabilities.

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Reverence   From my article in America Magazine who now owns the copyright.

I have found some Catholics who think this whole "'welcoming" business is destroying our traditional sense of reverence and replacing it with some folksy feel good experience.  I believe this is a false conclusion.  If you wish to invite a guest to your house you must have space, you have to "'make room."  To invite others into our lives, our heart, and our worship, we must make room for them.  If the opposite of reverence is arrogance (see Paul Woodruff Reverence:  Renewing a Forgotten Virtue), we must clear out all the superfluous self-importance, pride, and ambition that fills up our "'guest spaces" in order to make room for the other to enter in.  This is the really difficult part of hospitality. 

"Arrogance and all that goes with it is what needs to be "'sacrificed" at the Eucharist.  When we are weighed down with pride and self-importance it is difficult to mount the cross with Jesus who "'humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross. (Philip. 2:8)  Emptying ourselves of arrogance is the key to experiencing reverence.  Hospitality is not the enemy of reverence and transcendence.  At a recent meeting of the North American Academy of Liturgy, the study group in which I participate visited a parish Harlem for Sunday Eucharist.  After Mass a group of parishioners meet with us to discuss our experience.  One of our group asked the parishioners "'When do you have your deepest experience of prayer?  Where in the liturgy do you experience God?"  Without hesitation, several of the parishioners replied:  "'In the welcoming community."

"The ministry of hospitality that we exercise at the Eucharist is not simply a "'sales device."  It must be the liturgical enactment of the hospitality that permeates our daily living.  Hospitality is not an "'add on"; for the Christian, it is the bottom line:  "'Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.'"(Matthew 25:34-35)

The phrase "community without transcendence" is borrowed from Richard R. Gaillardetz's fine essay of a decade ago, "North American Culture and the Liturgical Life of the Church: The Separation of the Quests for Transcendence and Community," Worship 68 (1994) 403-16.

Traditional Catholic interpretation insists that, from the moment of its institution, the Eucharist is both sacrament and sacrifice -- which means, of course, that Jesus' final meal with his friends was already sacrificial prior to his arrest, trial and condemnation and crucifixion of Good Friday.

In sum, the heart and core of sacrifice lies in self-surrender.  This self-surrender, this union with God, is the heart of sacrifice.  The eucharist is also -- and just as truly -- the church's sacrifice, our sacrifice , a point made by both SC 48 and St. Augustine: "In the sacrament of the altar, well known to the faithful, it is made clear that the church itself is offered in what it offers" (De civitate Dei 10.6); "The sacrifice is the symbol of what we are" (Sermon 227).  The sacrificial language of our eucharistic prayers is thus radically self-implicative and can be verified only in ethics, in concrete lives of mercy and justice.  The language of sacrifice is a language of dispossession, of "handing oneself over to," of surrendering self on behalf of others.  As Louis-Marie Chauvet comments, "The sacramental body of Christ begs to become his ecclesial body... to become historically and eschatologically the body of him whom they are offering sacramentally, the members of the assembly are committed to live out their own oblation of themselves in self-giving to others as Christ did."  (Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament, trans. P. Madigan and M. Beaumont. Collegeville:  The Liturgical Press,  A Pueblo Book, 1995.  p 277.)

Reverence, observes Woodruff, is "the virtue that keeps human beings from trying to act like gods."  Before all else, reverence is our means of being or becoming -- right-sized, creaturely.  That is probably why the ancient Greeks believed the opposite of reverence is not raucousness or slovenliness, but hubris -- a shameless tyrannical disregard of the dignity and rights of other persons that is often silent but deadly.  (See Woodruff's Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)

"The house of empty rituals" write Paul Woodruff, "is not a home.  It is not a home because it is a house that has lost reverence.  When ceremony becomes rigid when it declines into routine, it has lost its power to express reverence."  (Peter Steinfel.  A People Adrift:  The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003)

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The Community Gathers

Eucharist Jesus With Us #3, May 2005. Q0505

The following is a draft of a published article ©2005 by St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 w. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.  1-800-488-0488.  The article may not be reproduced or sold without written permission from the publisher.

The Community Gathers
Why do I go to Mass? The answer I give to this question reveals an important change in the way I understand the Eucharist.

One of my earliest childhood memories is that of going to Mass every day. (Actually, it was my mother who went to Mass every day; and she took me along.) We went to Mass to pray. Mother had her prayer book which was filled with holy cards containing her favorite prayers. Sometimes we said the rosary out loud with the other daily Mass attendees. But all of these prayers stopped at the moment of consecration. Mom put down her prayer book, and we looked up to the altar as the priest raised the host which had now become the Body of Christ.

I treasure these memories and I want to speak of them not only with nostalgia but with great reverence. That style of praying the Mass has formed countless generations of holy women and men. But if you ask me today, "'Why do you go to Mass?" I will answer, "'I go to Mass, first of all, to come together with other Christians."

This answer may seem strange, or forced, or just made up to go with the title of this article. (And I must admit it even sounds strange to me when I hear myself say it because this is still new for me too.) But the first thing we Catholics do when we "'go to Mass" or "'celebrate the Eucharist" is we gather!

Gathering rites
All of the ritual elements which we experience at the beginning of Mass--the sign of the cross, holy water, song, greeting, silence, prayer--all of these have one common purpose: to gather us together into the one Body of Christ so that together we are prepared to hear the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist. The holy water and the sign of the cross remind us of our common Baptism.

The cross was signed on our foreheads when we were baptized into the Body of Christ. The naming of "'Father, Son and Holy Spirit" speaks of the Trinitarian life of grace we share as a baptized community. The gathering song joins our voices, our thoughts and our words into the one voice of Christ. The prayer which concludes these gathering rites joins all of our individual prayers, petitions and praise into the one prayer of the Church. The Latin text of the Roman Missal names this prayer "'Collecta" because it "'collects" or "'gathers" all of our prayers together into one.

We come together
The verbs "'to gather together," "'to come together," "'to assemble" are frequently used in the Bible to describe what we Christians do on the Lord's Day. In perhaps the earliest written text we have regarding the Eucharist, St. Paul speaks of how the Corinthians are to "'come together" to celebrate the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 7:5; 11:17-18, 20, 33, 14:26, etc.).

On the Lord's Day, the community gathered for the Lord's Supper. St. Luke writes: "'On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread..." (Acts 20:7). St. Justin (ca 155 CE), explaining what Christians do on Sunday, wrote: "'On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place."

Gathering did not play a prominent role in my experience of the Mass during the years before the Second Vatican Council. The Mass was very personal but it was also somewhat private and individual. I went to Mass to pray--but by "'to pray" I meant that I went to Mass to say my prayers while the priest at the altar said his prayers. The moment of consecration was the only time when the priest and the people were actually "'together." (Perhaps this was not the case for all Catholics, but it certainly was my experience--and the experience of many sisters, laity and priests with whom I have discussed these issues during retreats and workshops.)

Today, my experience of the Eucharist is somewhat different; it is communal and social rather than private and individual, although it is no less personal.

For us Americans, the distinction between private and personal may be difficult. In our culture--which stresses independence and individuality--we tend to identify personal experiences with private experiences. But this does not necessarily imply that all communal experiences are impersonal. The Eucharist is both communal and personal. It is something we do together, communally; and together, we each personally encounter God's loving grace.

To make the Church visible
By the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist we are initiated into the Body of Christ and we become "'Church." But it is when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist that we make "'Church" visible in a special way.

For example: a jigsaw puzzle, even while it is in the box, contains a picture. But you cannot tell what that picture is until you assemble the puzzle. When you take the puzzle out of the box and fit the pieces together, the picture then becomes visible.

This is what we do at Eucharist. We gather, we assemble and we make visible "'who we are as Church." At the beginning of the very first document promulgated by the Second Vatican Council we read that the Eucharist "'is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 2). The Eucharist is "'the visible expression of the Church" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1329).

New responsibilities
I must admit that while I believe all that I have written here, and while I have been studying and teaching the documents and theology of the Second Vatican Council for the past 40 years, I am still not always comfortable with these "'new" ideas. There is something in me that still would prefer that when I go to Mass on Sunday, I find a secluded spot in a pew where I can put my head in my hands, block out the sounds and the faces around me and pray silently to my God about my concerns and my needs. Perhaps it is my personality or my Catholic upbringing, but gathering is not always comfortable for me.

Presence of Christ
But even if it is difficult at times to welcome others, to join in the singing and to create a silent space for communal worship, there is an even greater difficulty that comes with gathering. We believe that when we gather, we make visible the Church, the Body of Christ. Consequently we believe that the community itself, the assembly of these people here, in this church, is the first "'sign and sacrament" of the presence of Christ at the Eucharist. Jesus is truly present in the gathered community. Jesus promised "'where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20, italics added). Yet when I look around me, I sometimes find it difficult to see the presence of Christ. It is often easier for me to see Christ in the consecrated bread and wine than to see his presence in some of the people around me.

This is the first challenge, the first scandal that the Eucharist presents to us. In order to celebrate the Eucharist well, I must recognize this body, I must acknowledge the Body of Christ in my fellow parishioners. For unless I am willing to gather with these people--saints and sinners, rich and poor, all seeking to follow Jesus as they try to discover God's way for them--I eat and drink judgment against myself (see 1 Cor 11:29).  And what if some in the assembly have this same problem with me? What if I come to Mass and attempt to gather with people whom I have hurt or insulted or cheated? "'If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Mt 5:23-24). Gathering gives us a lot to think about!

Why do we go to Mass? I hope that from now on when you answer that question you will say, "'I go, first of all, to gather together with other Christians." And what do we do once we have gathered? We remember. But that is the subject of the next article in this series.

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To Think About

1.  Why is the naming of this rite important? How would you name this rite? Why?

2.  What are the structure and elements of the Gathering Rites? Which elements are primary and which are secondary?

3.  What is the liturgical and theological function of the Gathering Rites?

4.  Who cannot be gathered into table fellowship? Is there a bottom line of exclusion? What are the theological reasons for this exclusion in our tradition. How has the meaning of "excommunication" evolved?

5.  What is the function of the water symbol when used in the Gathering Rites?

6.  Describe the traditional structure of the Opening Prayer in the Roman Rite.

7.  Outline the Mass in such a way that it's structure would be understood by a catechumen.

8.  In the light of what you know about the function of the Gathering Rites, what do you find negative, and what do you find positive in the custom some parishes have of saying the Rosary together before Mass starts?

9.  When does the Mass begin? In the perspective of Gathering Rites the Mass begins when the first two or three Christians gather in Christ's name. When the priest presiding starts with the worlds: "Let us begin in the name of the Father..." he can give the impression that the Mass is his possession and nothing important happens till he speaks.

10.  Good liturgy is not merely the result of careful attention to the liturgical elements, the music, the color of the vestments, the preparation of the priest. The liturgy is the result of God's grace. Grace is a free gift. When you celebrate with a faith filled community, hungry for this grace and eager to enter into a relationship with God, you will find the liturgy will be "good" even if many of the ritual elements leave something to be desired.

11.  Who is it that we allow to gather for Eucharist? Whom do we exclude? Whom do we gather and share our story with, and then dismiss before the meal sharing? Only the non-baptized?

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