There exists a human need to ritualize and worship. Think
about one or more events we celebrate in our daily lives:
How do we celebrate?
Why do we celebrate?
What are the symbols of what is being celebrated?
What do they represent?
The Mass, Sacraments, and many prayers incorporate ritual
to deepen and enrich our worship.
3. A Faith Enriched by Ritual
Ritual is the familiar order of actions and words that
makes it possible for many people to function as one to
achieve the goal for which they have gathered. It allows
people to spend time and energy on the purpose of
coming together rather than on each single part of the
assembly. It prevents the chaos that would occur if
everyone in church “did their own thing.” It provides
familiarity with what is going on.
Christ’s commands directs and guides the ritual
of the Mass
“As Christ the Lord was about to celebrate with
the disciples the paschal supper in which he
instituted the sacrifice of his body and blood,
he commanded that a large, furnished upper
room be prepared. (Luke 22:12)”
Tradition is a belief, or practice passed down within a society that is maintained in the
present with its origins in the past.
What family traditions do you have?
How do you incorporate them in your daily life?
Why are these traditions important to you?
What traditions do you hope to pass on?
The Church is guided by Holy Tradition through both oral and written tradition passed
down by the apostles to their successors. It also has many ecclesial traditions derived from
local churches over time.
“These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great
Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified
or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium.” (Catechism of the
Catholic Church Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 2, Line 83)
5. A Faith Informed by Tradition
Tradition unifies the Church and it’s people throughout all of Christian
Through tradition, Community (Church), Liturgy & Worship, Sacrament, and
Prayer are all related.
6. Because of Tradition, the Sunday mass has The early believers in Jesus were still
basically changed very little since those early committed to their Jewish faith and
years when the followers of Jesus gathered traditions. At first they gathered on the
together.. Any differences are the result of Sabbath morning (Saturday) for an assembly
borrowing from different cultures as the modeled on the Jewish synagogue practice,
centuries went by. which consisted of scripture readings and
Through history, religious groups have used prayer.
cyclic religious traditions and rituals to celebrate On Saturday evening they would gather in
their faith and to form the foundation of their one of their homes, a “house-church”, for a
religious convictions. meal, (1Cor 11:17-22) probably the full
The celebration of Sunday is the most ancient Jewish Sabbath meal. A ritual of blessings
of our Christian traditions. It goes back to the and the Eucharistic cup and bread
very earliest of times of Christianity. Those who highlighted this meal. In this way Christians
believed Jesus was Christ and Lord gathered on kept alive the memory and presence of
the first day of the week, Sunday, because on Christ as He had requested.(Lk 22:1-9,1Cor
that day Jesus was raised from the dead. 11:23-26)
A Brief History of the Tradition of the Mass
7. The day of worship, like all days at that time, Like all religious traditions, Sunday worship and
was reckoned from sunset to sunset. rest is a cyclic tradition, repeating on a regular
Therefore Saturday (or Sabbath) night was basis; in this case, weekly. Other religious
already the first day of the week. The next traditions are monthly or seasonal. This cyclic or
morning continued the first day of the week, repetitive nature of religious traditions reinforces
what we now call Sunday. This was an what is important to believers of all faiths. They
ordinary weekday on which people went gradually introduce believers to deeper and deeper
about their business and daily chores. experiences of faith.
In the early second century, this Eucharistic The early Christians were so enthusiastic about
ritual was moved to a time before dawn on their faith that they wanted to gather weekly to
Sunday, the first day of the week. This change talk about it and to celebrate it. They believed that
may have been caused by the persecutions Jesus was among us.
initiated by Emperor Trajan, who forbade About the year 96, however, about 65 years after
suspicious gatherings in the evening. A time Jesus, there is a hint in scripture that this original
before dawn was necessary because Sunday motivation was weakening: “We should not absent
was still an ordinary workday. ourselves from the assembly, as some do, but
encourage one another; and this all the more
because you see the Day draws near.” (Hb 10:25)
A Brief History of the Tradition of the Mass
8. Later, at the beginning of the fourth century in Sunday became a day of rest only when
Spain, even in the midst of a final persecution Christianity became legally free under
of Christians, the Council of Elvira declared Emperor Constantine in 313. In 321 he
that persons were to be Excommunicated for a ordered a weekly holiday on the “venerable
short time if they lived in an area where the day of the Sun.”
Eucharist was being celebrated and yet
neglected to attend for three Sundays in a row.
By the thirteenth century it had become
common law of the church that all Catholics,
seven years of age and older, must attend Mass
on Sunday unless excused for serious reason.
The Code of Cannon Law (Canon 1247)
reads: “On Sundays and other holy days of
obligation the faithful are bound to participate
in the Mass.” The word “participate” implies
that the attendance be active.
A Brief History of the Tradition of the Mass
9. The four-fold mission of Christ has become the
mission of the Church. These four aspects of
Christ’s mission are related to the liturgy:
Prayer – praise and thanksgiving
Proclamation- announcing the kingdom of
Service - in her Liturgy, the Church serves God
Liturgy means “the work of the people.”
Communion - Liturgy both manifests and
The public worship of God – liturgy - is the work
creates a community of people
of the people. The assembly of baptized believers
does liturgy. Liturgy is public prayer, communal
worship. It is not private prayer done by a collection of individuals at the same time and place,
nor is it a performance by a few special ministers. Everyone is to participate.
Liturgy is the “source and summit” of Christian life.
Liturgy is intimately connected with life; it is an icon – a pattern – for living.
Composed as it is of symbols, metaphors and rituals it is more real than most
other things that fill our life. Liturgy is not only an intellectual experience, but an
emotional, physical, spiritual happening. We are to celebrate our liturgies!
A Faith Centered on Liturgy
10. The mass revolves around two main
Liturgy of Eucharist – This, too evolved
rituals: the Liturgy of the Word and from Jewish practices, from a special blessing of the
the Liturgy of the Eucharist. bread and cup of wine at the Jewish Sabbath meal.
The Christian Eucharist also echoes the annual
Liturgy of the Word – the ritual of Seder Meal during Passover, the Last Supper that
scripture, prayers and chant was borrowed from Jesus ate with his apostles. As these believers
the Jewish Sabbath synagogue services. Christian remembered Jesus in the breaking of bread and
scripture has been the heart of the Liturgy of the sharing the cup, they experienced his continued
Word at Mass. These Scriptures give new life to presence among them.
the believer.. Through this Word, proclaimed and The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word
preached, Jesus is really present. eucharistia, meaning “thanksgiving.” This ritual
emphasizes a thanksgiving faithful to the words
Three readings from scripture are read during of Jesus: “Do this in memory of me”. (Lk
Sunday Mass: 22:19), and remembrance of the sacrificial gift of
The first is from the Hebrew scriptures Jesus Christ on the cross.
The second is from a letter to the early With the Eucharistic Prayer, there are four
churches. options, along with special ones for children’s
The third is from one of the gospels. liturgies and for other special occasions. When
The cycle of these three readings is repeated the words of Jesus from the Last Supper ring out
every three years. again, the bread and wine become the Lord Jesus
The first and third readings are usually connected. Christ. In every Mass we sing or call out our
The second reading does not have a direct acceptance and affirmation of this great mystery
connection with the first and third. Instead, it is a taking place with the great Amen. Then we share
part of a continuous reading of letters and is the sacrificial meal of Communion – the many
connected with the second reading from the becoming the one body of Christ.
previous and following Sundays. What does the word “Amen” mean to you?