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What's It all About?



Letters for Young Catholics

Reveal Hidden MeaningsSECOND EDITION

By Robert W. Bibb

Letters for Young Catholics

Reveal Hidden MeaningsSECOND EDITION

2013 Robert W. Bibb

Published with Ecclesiastical Approval


The Mass, since the beginning of the Church, has always been at the center of Christian worship. Jesus left only a vague and open ended instruction for His Apostles when He told them to "Do this in memory of Me." From these words of Jesus, the Jewish background of His original followers, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Mass gradually came to be the way we now see it. Every little part of the Mass has meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, the Mass is not self explanatory, and a great many people who attend Mass every Sunday are not aware of the meaning behind what we do at Mass.

The importance of the Mass cannot be overstated, and the meaning of the various parts of the Mass need to be explained. This series of letters has been written in order to help young Catholics to understand, appreciate, and value the Mass.

Robert W. Bibb

2013 AD


The Mass

Letter #1

Dear Reader,

This will be the first of many short instructional letters about our most important way of worshiping God, the Mass. It's importance becomes obvious once you realize exactly what the Mass is.

In the first book of the New Testament, in chapter 1 verse 23, St Matthew starts his testimony about Jesus with this quote from the prophet Isaiah:

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

Likewise, St. Matthew concludes his Gospel, this being the last sentence:

"And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."Matt. 28: 14

It is unmistakable then, that St Matthew wanted us to know Jesus was still with us at that time and will always be with us.

In past times, years were counted from the beginning of the reign of the king, emperor, Caesar, or whatever the title of the ruling authority was. The years of his reign ended when he died and the years would start over when his successor started his reign. Christians started counting time from the birth of Jesus, Who was King from birth and has an everlasting reign. For a long time people would say, "in the year of Our Lord," before giving the number of the year. Then they shortened it by tacking AD after the year, which is the Latin abbreviation for "in the year of Our Lord." Now, it is just understood that year means the number of years since the birth of Jesus, or "in the year of Our Lord."

If Jesus is King, reigns forever, and will always be with us, where is He? The all important answer to that question is that He is truly present and with us in the Mass and Holy Communion. Christians of every generation have known this. Christians in the early days of the Church used to say, "Without Christians there is no Mass. Without the Mass there are no Christians." That's how inseparable Christians and the Mass were, for where the Mass is, there is Jesus. As St. Matthew taught, Jesus is always with us.

Dear Reader, I just wanted to explain why the Mass is important, before going into the significance of each little part.

Robert W. Bibb


The Mass

Letter #2

Dear Reader,

In the first letter I wrote about why the Mass is important to Christian people. In this letter I will try to get into why and how the Mass came to be the way it is.

Jesus told His followers to faithfully do what He had done while in their midst. In addition to preaching the Gospel the good news and baptizing new followers, this also included celebrating His real presence with them in that very special way we call Holy Communion.The celebration of the Mass is one of several specific public rituals referred to by the Church as "liturgy." The Mass is the chief liturgy of the Church. I went to the Catholic Encyclopedia and found the meaning of the word "liturgy" and here is what it said:

"Liturgy (leitourgia) is a Greek composite word meaning originally a public duty."

In other words, when we come to Mass, we are not there to be entertained, or to hear a great speech, or to enjoy the music. We are each there for the purpose of doing our "public duty" to worship God by carefully following the command of Jesus when He said to His disciples, "Do this in remembrance of Me."Through all these centuries, from the time of the Apostles till now, the Church Jesus established has carefully maintained the integrity of the celebration of the presence of Jesus with us that we call the Mass. Here is some of what the Catholic Encyclopedia had to say about the evolution of the Mass from the beginning to the present time:

"For some time the Eucharistic Service was in many details fluid and variable. It was not all written down and read from fixed forms, but in part composed by the officiating bishop. As for ceremonies, at first they were not elaborated as now. All ceremonial evolves gradually out of certain obvious actions done at first with no idea of ritual, but simply because they had to be done for convenience. The bread and wine were brought to the altar when they were wanted, the lessons were read from a place where they could best be heard, hands were washed because they were soiled. Out of these obvious actions ceremony developed"

In the early days of the Church there were only a few thousand Christians. Now, there are well over a billion and the number grows daily all around the world. The various ceremonies in the Mass help us to be more united in worship and the practice of our Faith.

As you know, Jesus and all of His apostles were Jewish. When the Church began, all followers of Jesus were Jewish. However, before long more Gentiles (non-Jews) were coming into the Church than Jews. Since the Church did not require the Gentiles to keep the Jewish customs, there was resentment against the Christians amongst the non-Christian Jews. Gradually the Christians began to be expelled from the Jewish synagogues. By 70 AD, the year the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the separation of Christians and Jews was complete.

Even though the early Christians were separated from Jewish worship and prayer life, they still had a high regard for the way the synagogue service was done, the "format" if you will. The love the early Christians had for the synagogue "format" is the reason for some of the things we have at Mass today, such as readings from the Old and New Testaments, and the singing and sometimes chanting of Psalms and other prayers.

I hope this isn't too much for one letter. I'll try to keep it shorter in the future.

Robert W. Bibb

2013 AD


The Mass

Letter #3

Dear Reader,

This is the third letter in this series and we are ready to start the Mass. I am going to mention, but not describe in detail things you already know. According to what was taught at RCIA, the Mass begins when the people start to arrive at the gathering place.

So, let's say that you are in the "narthex," the entrance area of the church. You step through the door of the "nave," into the main worship space of the church. Nave is the term used to indicate that portion of a church reserved for worshippers, and includes the central and side aisles. The name is derived from the Latin navis, a ship, possibly with some reference to the "ship of St. Peter" or the Ark of Noah. Near the door you will usually find Holy Water. As a reminder and reaffirmation of your baptism the common practice is to dip the finger tips of your right hand into the Holy Water and make the sign of the cross. As you walk to the seat of your choice there are several things you may notice. In the most central and prominent place is the altar. It may look like a table. From the earliest times in history an altar is the place where gifts or sacrifices are offered to God. Near the altar you will see a chair. If there is more than one chair near the altar, one will be larger or more decorated than the others. This is the bishop's chair. Every parish actually belongs to the bishop, but obviously the bishop can't be everywhere so the presiding priest is the bishop's representative.

Another thing you will see near the altar is the Ambo or Lectern. This is the place from which the word of God is proclaimed during Mass. Ambo is a word of Greek origin, supposed to signify a mountain or elevation. the implication is that the word of God is being proclaimed to all the world from the mountain top. Any other announcements should be made from another location. The area set apart for the altar, ambo, and presider's chair is called the sanctuary.

Finally, and very importantly, is the sanctuary lamp. This is a candle or oil lamp used for the express purpose of indicating the presence of Jesus our Savior residing in the tabernacle under the appearance of altar bread. Tabernacle is a Hebrew word from the Old Testament that means a tent, a portable residence.

Because Jesus, our King, is in residence there in the tabernacle, He should be recognized and honored. Customarily this is done when you arrive at the pew you intend to sit in, by respectfully genuflecting toward the tabernacle. To genuflect before the King is to give Him honor and a sign of submission to His authority and kingship. This is done by bending the right knee to the floor. In the United States we would never genuflect before one of our elected or appointed officials because they are our fellow citizens, our equals. For that reason paying proper honor and respect to a king is somewhat foreign to us. However, Jesus is not our fellow citizen and we are not H