The Mass

The Catholic Mass is all Bible and all Jesus. It is rooted in the worship services of the very first Christians and the Apostles.

The full text of the Mass is here. Over 90 Biblical references for the Mass are here. We believe the Mass is quite simply the most Biblical way to worship God. The Mass also has an amazing altar call; we actually meet Him in the Flesh when we go to the front for Holy Communion.

"In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory."

- Sacrosanctum Concilium, par. 8 (Second Vatican Council)


Fr. Jeff, Companions of the Cross

Where did the Mass come from?

Some Evangelicals make fun of the Catholic Mass and call it the "smells and bells." But if we look at early Christians we see quite a similar ceremony. They were men of their time and culture. They were heirs to the style of worship which Christianity inherited, naturally and organically, from its Jewish origins.

Let's go back two hundred years before Christ to the time of the Essenes (there were two other major sects at that time - the Pharisees and Sadducees). Essenes lived in various cities but congregated in communal life dedicated to asceticism, voluntary poverty, daily immersion, and abstinence from worldly pleasures, including celibacy.The bread and wine were the centre of their gatherings, and prefigure the Mass. Here's a photo I (Hugh) took while in Qumran, Israel where the Essenes transcribed the Dead Sea scrolls:

Qumran - Israel

Photo reads:

"They shall eat in common and bless in common and deliberate in common.. and when the table has been prepared for eating and the new wine for drinking the priest shall be the first to stretch out his hand to bless the first provie of the bread (or new wine)." Community Rule V. 2-5

Moving forward in time, Justin Martyr (100 - 165 AD) wrote a number of apologetic works. His "First Apology" was addressed to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius as an explanation of Christian practices. Chapter 66, in particular, discusses the practice of the Eucharist and clearly lays out the early Church teaching that it is the Body and Blood of Christ.

"And this food is called among us is called Eucharistia [the Eucharist]... so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh..."

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Chapter 66. Of the Eucharist

And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour , having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

In Chapter 67, he provides information on the weekly Sunday meetings of the congregation, consisting of readings from the Jewish prophets and "the memoirs of the apostles", prayers, and a meal. This is the layout of the Catholic Mass.

"And on the day called Sunday , all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen..."

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Chapter 67. Weekly worship of the Christians

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy ; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter , made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday) ; and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

In the first two centuries the Mass contained the two part formula we still use today. It began with teachings and readings from Scripture followed by the breaking of bread, and wine. The Word of God in writing was followed by the word of God made flesh. The Bible describes a gathering where they had teachings and readings 'til midnight followed by the breaking of bread. (Acts 20:7-12).

Of course, the early Christians did not call it "the Mass." Mass is a medieval English coinage derived from the Latin rite's words of dismissal: lte, missa est ("Go, it is ended"). The first generations of believers called their worship by many other names, each evocative and some even poetic. In the beginning, it was most commonly referred to as "the breaking of the bread." This, however, was immediately supplemented by "the sacrifice," and related terms such as "the offering" and "the oblation"; for the Mass was understood to be the Church's participation in the once­ for-all sacrifice of the new covenant. Some called the new rite "the liturgy," from the Greek leitourgia, meaning "public service." The Latins, from an early date, used the term "sacrament", while Greeks favored "the mysteries." Some terms were merely descriptive, such as "the table of the Lord", "the Lord's supper", "the chalice" and "the altar".

The Mass of the Early Christians, by Mike Aquilina

What about the ceremony, golden chalices, incense and stuff Catholics use?

Here is a written inventory of articles used by Christians in Certa from 303 AD, before the "legalization" of Christianity by Constantine. Apart from the Scriptures that were always used, the inventory is as follows:

  • 2 golden chalices
  • 6 silver chalices
  • 6 silver dishes
  • a silver bowl
  • 7 silver lamps
  • 2 torches
  • 7 short bronze candlesticks with their lamps
  • 11 bronze lamps with their chains (i.e., used for incense)
  • 82 women's tunics
  • 38 veils
  • 16 men's tunics
  • 13 pairs of men's slippers
  • 47 pairs of women's slippers
  • 18 pairs of men's wooden shoes

(Gregory Dix, the Shape of the Liturgy, Pg. 24, Thanks to Mark Bonocore for this research)

Quite a ceremony! Noah made a burnt offering and the "odour pleased the Lord." (Gen 8:21) The Lord did not come to abolish the law of Moses but rather to fulfill it. (Mat 5:17). The Law had a ton of ceremony and vestments in it. Jesus taught in temples all the time. He didn't go in there just to pull out the faithful. He loved the temple and He called it "my Father's house" (Lk 2:49, Jn 2:16). He's into ceremony. Even in Heaven there is ceremony. "The twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense." (Rev 5:8). "Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the Prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne" (Rev 8:3). These are some of the reasons why Catholics are into ceremony. In fact, large parts of the Book of Revelation give us a description of the Mass.

Incense: We find incense at the temple in Lk 1:10 and the Magi brought frankincense to Jesus' birth. There is lots of incense at the Mass in Heaven. (Rev 5:8, 8:3, 8:4)

Visual art is art for the eyes
 Music is art for the ears
 Perfume and incense are art for the nose
 All art forms can be used in service to God!

We love a good high mass with beautiful music and incense.

Bells: Bells on the top of steeples are cool; they are simply a reminder that it is time for Mass. Some fundamentalists claim they are of pagan origin. But pagans also sang hymns and we wouldn't rule those out. Zachariah spoke of "bells" on horses being inscribed with the words: Holiness unto the Lord: (Zech 14:20) Even the Lord directed that bells be attached to the hem of the high priest's garment! (Exod. 28:33)

Mostly, the opposition to bells is that they are "Catholic" bells ringing in the neighbourhood. But many protestant churches have bells too. In recent years bells have fallen out of fashion because they "bother" neighbours who would rather sleep on Sunday mornings than go to church. It bums me out that churches don't ring bells in the neighborhood m

uch anymore, but people blast their horns through the neighbourhood when we win a hockey game.

Priestly Vestments: We see priestly vestments in Scripture (Ex 40:13-14, Lev 8:7-9, Rev 3:5, 3:18, 4:4, 7:13, 14, 22:14) We also see priestly vestments in history, as shown above from the pre-Constantine Mass documented in 303 AD. Uniforms identify professions such as police, military and nurses. Evangelicals also use "appropriate" attire. On TV they wear suits, and in Churches they wear kakis and golf shirts :-)

The account below shows the attire worn by priests just a couple of centuries after Christ (see highlighted words):

"Cyprian was brought to the plain of Sextus. There he removed his cloak and kneeling down he humbled himself in prayer to God. He disrobed and gave his dalmatic to the deacons. Clad only in his linen tunic he awaited his executioner..."

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From the proconsular Acts of the martyrdom of St Cyprian, 258AD

On the morning of 14 September a huge crowd gathered at Villa Sexti as the proconsul Galerius Maximus had ordered. The proconsul commanded that Bishop Cyprian be brought to trial before him as he sat in judgement in the court called Sauciolum. When the bishop appeared the proconsul asked him: ‘Are you Thascius Cyprian?’
  The bishop replied: ‘I am.’
  ‘And have you acted as leader in a community of impious men?’
  ‘I have.’
  ‘The sacred emperors have ordered you to sacrifice.’
  ‘I will not sacrifice.’
  ‘Consider your position.’
  ‘Do what is required of you. I have no need to deliberate; the issues are clear.’
  Galerius consulted briefly with his advisers and reluctantly pronounced sentence in the following words: ‘You have lived in an irreligious manner for a long time now and have gathered about you a large congregation of criminals and unbelievers. You have shown yourself hostile to the gods of Rome and the rites by which they are worshipped. The pious and sacred emperors Valerian and his son, Gallienus, and the right noble Caesar, Valerian, have been unable to recall you to the practice of the official religion. Furthermore you are the instigator of abominations, a veritable standard-bearer for criminals and as such you have been brought before me. Your death will be an example to those whom you have gathered into your criminal conspiracy. Your blood will uphold the law.’ He then pronounced the following sentence from his wax tablet: ‘It is our decision that Thascius Cyprian be put to death by the sword.’ Bishop Cyprian simply said, ‘Thanks be to God.’
  When sentence had been passed the assembled brethren cried out: ‘Let us be beheaded with him!’, and followed him in a huge and tumultuous crowd. Cyprian was brought to the plain of Sextus. There he removed his cloak and kneeling down he humbled himself in prayer to God. He disrobed and gave his dalmatic to the deacons. Clad only in his linen tunic he awaited his executioner.
  When the executioner arrived Cyprian told his followers to give him twenty-five gold pieces. His brethren spread before him linen cloths and towels. The blessed Cyprian blindfolded his eyes with his own hands. The presbyter Julian and the subdeacon Julian tied the ends of the handkerchief since he was unable to do so himself. So died blessed Cyprian.
  His body was exposed nearby to satisfy the curiosity of the pagans. During the night the body was removed by the light of wax candles and torches, and with prayer and great pomp it was brought for burial to a piece of open ground belonging to the procurator Macrobius Candidianus near the reservoirs on the Mappalian Way. A few days later the proconsul Galerius Maximus died.
  The blessed Cyprian suffered martyrdom on 14 September, under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, but in the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honour and glory for ever. Amen.


Mass: Fr. Mark Goring, Companions of the Cross, Ottawa, Canada

Where's the Bible in a Catholic Mass

Mass has two major parts : 1) Liturgy of the Word, and 2) Liturgy of the Eucharist

1) Liturgy of the Word: Three Bible readings. OT, Psalm, NT, and a Gospel reading. Then a Homily which comments on those readings. If we go to Mass every day (which we try to do), we get a lot of Bible.

"The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles."

- Dei Verbum, par. 21 (Second Vatican Council)

2) Liturgy of the Eucharist: Scripture, prayer, praise and worship - and then we come to the heart and summit of the celebration: the Lord Himself appears and we come forward to meet Him and accept Him. Talk about a "Personal Relationship" with Jesus.

"If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: "Do this in remembrance of me." We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.

We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:

- thanksgiving and praise to the Father;
- the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
- the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit."

- Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1356-1358

Other parts of the Mass include the Penitential Rite where we repent before the Lord and ask his forgiveness and mercy. (Rev. 2:5,16,21; 3:3; 16:11) The Gloria (on Sundays) which is praise to glorify God. (from Luke 2:14). Alleluia Acclamation (praise to God); prayers of intercessions - standing in the gap (Rev. 5:8, 6:9-11, 8:3-4), and the Lord 's Prayer (Matthew 6:9) are other important elements. See also the section on the Eucharist. There are over 90 Bible references that point to the Mass. The Book of Revelation is full of Scripture used in the liturgy.

"The Church has a memory, and it's called the liturgy. The liturgy is the memory of the Church."
- Scott Hahn

Aren't Evangelical contemporary music concerts and services full of ceremony too?

Many Evangelicals say there is too much pomp and ceremony in a Catholic Mass. I played a lot of Christian music festivals in the Evangelical world. I find that the Contemporary Christian music industry (which is 90% Evangelical) is full of "ceremony." There are lots of lighting effects, costumes, dry ice smoke, sparkling things, and decorative art at these places of worship. I can't help but think these are similar to the incense, priestly vestments, and art we find in Catholic churches.

I've played music for many Evangelical worship services. Each of these services has its own pattern (e.g., four fast songs, five slow choruses, a sermon and an altar call). It is not a prearranged "ceremony" but it is more or less the same each week. God is a God of order and pattern and that is OK. There appears to be something instinctive in the human spirit that draws us toward ceremony in honour of God.

Why Can't Evangelicals and Protestants take Catholic Communion (Eucharist)?

Occasionally, an Evangelical might be at a Catholic Mass, perhaps a marriage or funeral. Some feel the Catholic Church is prideful or snobby for to not allowing non-Catholics to join Communion. However, we do let some non-Catholics celebrate communion with us. Eastern Orthodox Christians are welcome. So it's not about having an "exclusive club." It is not about snobbiness; it is actually the opposite, humility. We would love everybody to be in a position to receive the Eucharist. (Jn 6:56) Saint Paul says:

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." (1 Cor 11:27-29)

We think it is quite serious to consume the Eucharist without believing ("discerning") that it is the Body of Jesus. It is a kind of desecration. We don't want to see people hurt themselves that way. We don't want to be held accountable before God for not paying attention to what he had ordered us to do in Scripture. It would banalize the center of our faith. We cannot pretend that there is unity by compromising what we believe is the Body of our Lord, the source and summit of our faith. We pray for the day when all Christians will be in full unity. An article on why the Church refuses communion to some Christians can be found here.

I attended Catholic Church for seven years before I decided to become Catholic, and I didn't take the Eucharist during that time. So I understand what it feels like to watch everybody go up for Communion while staying in my pew and praying. But it didn't keep me away from the Catholic Church.

Why is Mass so boring?

We got an email that said Mass is:

...Boring. Incredibly boring. It's likeness is nest to the word boring in the dictionary. If I was a Catholic I wouldn't go to church... (original spelling)

I used to think that Church was boring. I had a complete turnaround after discovering Jesus in the Eucharist. When I partake of the Eucharist now I feel him moving through my entire body.

Diane and I have had, independently, many experiences with the Holy Spirit. But by far our most powerful experiences with the Holy Spirit and Jesus have been right after taking the Eucharist: Jesus - body, blood, soul and divinity. We look forward to going to Church for this very reason, almost everyday if possible. I'm sorry that some "cultural" Catholics don't understand the mystery and the power in the Eucharist and that is why they leave the church. But that doesn't make me question the validity of Eucharist. It only proves what Jesus himself said would happen. (Jn 6:56). Many disciples said it was a hard teaching to follow and so they left him. And they are still leaving him.

A good example of this is when I stopped eating sugar everything tasted like cardboard. But after several months, I bit into an apple and I could actually taste it. It was delicious. I had never tasted an apple before because my senses were so bombarded with sugar for many years. After I quit sugar, I could taste everything again. My senses came alive. It is similar to that in Mass.

We in North America have very short attention spans. We are used to being entertained. We want cool music, and we want flashy teaching from the front of the altar. We want lots of hand waving and neat analogies. Quiet reverence is not valued anymore because we have big-screen TVs at home, which bombard our senses with excitement. So we are bored whenever there is something quiet going on. When I stopped bombarding my senses with television and movie theatres and other forms of entertainment, which society shoves down our throats, I was able to see the true beauty in the Mass. In this simple offering, which Jesus asked us to do 2000 years ago I have come alive. An article on the Eucharist is here. 

Isn't the Catholic Mass always the same from day to day, month to month, year to year?

Well actually it's not always the same. There are seasons of the liturgical year. They are Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, and Advent. Each season has different theme colours, music, readings, and prayers, etc. There are also special days that have their own "look and feel." Every day has different Bible readings.

Sure there is a predictability to all of this. Catholics believe that there is strength in this familiar format just as Evangelicals feel there is strength in the repetition of a praise and worship chorus. It is actually a wonderful thing.

Perhaps there are not many external surprises in a Catholic Mass. But there are tons of internal surprises. We have experiences in Mass that are powerful openings for the Holy Spirit in my life. No two Masses are the same. Internally there is different stuff going on for us at each one - therefore each one is different.

I've played music for many Evangelical worship services. Each of these services has its own pattern (e.g., four fast songs, five slow choruses, a sermon and an altar call). It is not a prearranged "ceremony" but it is more or less the same each week. My favourite Evangelical praise and worship songs have a pattern - (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, optional bridge, chorus, open ended praises, finish). God is a God of order and pattern and that is OK. Check out this video by some Evangelicals:

Is the Mass a re-sacrifice of Jesus?

No its not. He died once for our sins and his presence remains forever. We offer up the fruits of the sacrifice. In Catholic terms we say it is a "Sacramental Expression of the Pascal Mystery." (Paschal means "having to do with the Passover").

When Evangelicals say "I am washed in the blood of Jesus" (which we love) they are not re-sacrificing Jesus who died 2000 years ago. No, they are experiencing the perpetual nature of his sacrifice for our sins. This is similar to the Eucharist, although we would suggest it is much more powerful, because in the Eucharist he is truly physically present, rather than just spiritually present. People who don't get the Eucharist are missing out on this fantastic gift. See also the section on the Eucharist

The Book of Revelation as a model for the Mass

The Book of Revelation is amazing. As well as containing many prophetic statements, it contains a very accurate vision of the Mass as it's taking place in Heaven. The Catholic Mass is an echo on earth, of this beautiful ceremony.

Mass Stuff Revelation Passage Example Text
The Altar Rev 6:9, 8:3, 5; 9:13, 11:1, 14:18, 16:17 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.
Vested priests Rev 3:5, 3:18, 4:4, 7:13, 14, 22:14 "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?"... Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Candles Rev 4:5 Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing.
Incense and
Prayers of the Saints
Rev 5:8, 8:3, 8:4 ...and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Rev 5:8)
Blood of the Lamb Rev 7:15 ...they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Holy, Holy, Holy Rev 4:8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.
Penitential Rite (repentance) Rev. 2:5, 16, 21; 3:3; 16:11 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.
Silent prayer after Communion Rev 8:1 ...there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Invoking angels Rev 5:11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
Gloria Rev 1:6, 4:9, 11, 5:12,13, 7:12, 11:13, 14:7, 15:4 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!"
Sign of the Cross Rev 7:3-4, 11:1, 14:1, 22:4 Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God. (Rev 7:3) ... 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.(14:1)
Hallelujah Rev 19:1, 3, 4, 6 "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God ... The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!"... . "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Liturgical readings Rev 5:1 the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing ...
Lamb of God Rev 5:12

 "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" ...

Eucharist (Manna) Rev 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. (Note: An entire article on the Eucharist is here)
Mary Rev 12:1-17 A woman ... crown of twelve stars on her head... pregnant ... gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations ... And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne...Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (note: a full exploration of Mary in Scripture is here)
Relics of Saints under the Altar Rev 6:9 I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

This is the main purpose of Revelation, to describe the most important ceremony of Christian worship, the Mass. There are also other Scriptural references in the Mass from other books of the Bible, over 90 in all.

Why doesn't the priest serve both bread and wine

We got an email from an Evangelical that said:

Why do Catholics not receive the wine during Holy Communion?

Many Catholic churches serve bread AND wine, in fact most do, but some do not serve the wine (to the congregation) at all Masses. At every Mass in every Catholic Church in the world the Priest eats the bread AND drinks the wine.

Both the Bread and the wine are fully and completely the sacrifice of Christ. So if I take only the bread I get the entire body of Christ or if I get the wine only, I get the entire body of Christ. They are both complete and total in their manifestation of Christ's sacrifice; nothing is missing from the sacrifice of Jesus in either one.
The basic practical reason why some churches don't serve wine is because some people are afraid of sharing germs and also sometimes there are not enough assistants to serve both. But the bottom line is that the bread is the full deal. It’s the full sacrifice and there is nothing morally or theologically wrong with only having the bread in the congregation, as long as the priest has both.

Why these fancy churches?

Sometimes Evangelicals look at beautiful Catholic Churches and ask "why can't Catholics worship in a humble building." They point out that in the first years of Christianity the places of assembly were peoples' homes. This is true. But Catholics don't think this was God's plan for "Church". It was a result of persecution.

The martyrs died so that Christians could get out of their homes and have their worship services in public.

The martyrs longed for the day when Christians could hold their services in public where they could be a better witness and provide a public venue that was welcoming to strangers. So it confuses me as to why people in today's society would like to go back to the days when Christians were oppressed, and forced to gather in homes. Constantine's legalization of Christianity ended the public and state oppression of Christianity that forced people to gather in homes.

People who grew up in communist Russia during the Cold War know what it is like to have the Church forced out of the public square and into their homes. The Russian Christians celebrated the day they could return to public churches after communism fell. Let us not get nostalgic and romantic about Christian oppression. This is currently happening in China, and in many Muslim countries. ( "Oh Lord let your Church flourish in the oppressed regions of this world.")

When Jesus saw money changers in the temple. He didn't say "hey guys, it's only a building, we can worship anywhere, let's go down the street to the community centre." No, He chased them out. (Lk 19:45) Scripture says "His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house has consumed me.'"(Jn 2:17) He had a passion for the Temple. He called it "my Father's House". (Lk 2:49, 16:27, Jn 2:16).

Church buildings began to emerge in the latter half of the second century during lulls in persecution. They became widespread after the Enactment of Milan (Edict of Milan) in 313 AD when it finally became possible for the Church to emerge completely from the underground.

The big beautiful traditional churches that receive the most complaints were not built with big bucks. They were built with the sweat of the brow of volunteers who worked until 11 PM every night after a full day of working their regular day jobs. They would do this for years until their community Parish was built. To have that kind of tireless faith and dedication! That is the real wealth of the Catholic Church - the people.

Paradoxically, many new Evangelical churches are huge. They are like stadiums.

Guatemala Evangelical Church

I recently was playing concerts in Guatemala City. The Evangelical organization "Fraterinidad Christian de Guatemala" is building a new church that holds 7,000 people in its amphitheater. It has a hundred meeting rooms, two stages, a 1000 car parking lot, sleeping complex and dozens of other amenities. It is bigger than any Catholic Church in the Country. These Evangelicals are discovering what Catholics learned 1800 years ago. God loves a beautiful house of worship dedicated to him.

So here's the Mass from top to bottom
as explained on the World Youth Day web site
For the full text of the Mass go here

For Biblical references for each part go here

The Mass can be roughly divided into four sections which can be summed up in one word each:

  1. Come - We come together in Mass as one Body, gathering before our Lord
  2. Listen - Listening to the Bible readings, the Word of our Lord and Homily
  3. Do - Praying and participating in the Eucharist, becoming One with Him
  4. Go - The sendoff where we bring this message to all the world


Entrance Procession: Priest, deacon, altar servers and lectors enter the church or designated place for celebration of the liturgy.

Entrance Hymn/Song or Gathering Hymn: The song/music which takes place during the entrance procession.

Veneration of the Altar: The reverencing of the altar with a kiss by the bishop or priest who presides at the service followed by the other bishops, priests and deacons, and the optional use of incense.

Greeting: The celebrant greets all present at the liturgy, announcing the presence of the Lord to the assembled community.

Penitential Rite: A general admission of sinfulness by the entire assembly, accompanied by requests for God's mercy and forgiveness.

Gloria: Ancient hymn of praise to glorify God. It is used on all Sundays (outside of Advent and Lent) and solemn celebrations. The text originates from the Christmas narrative in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:14).

Opening Prayer: This prayer by the celebrant expresses the general theme of the celebration.


Liturgy of the Word: The Liturgy of the Word consists of Scripture readings that are proclaimed and reflected upon. Usually, there are three readings: an Old Testament selection, a New Testament selection (from the books other than the Gospels), and the Gospel reading. A responsorial psalm occurs between the Old and New Testament readings.

Responsorial Psalm:  Between the first and second readings, a psalm is spoken or sung by the entire assembly. The response is repeated after each verse. If sung, a cantor or choir sings the verses of the psalm.

Alleluia Acclamation: This acclamation of praise to God follows the second reading and prepares the assembly for the Gospel.

Homily: The homily (sermon) is a reflection by the celebrant or other minister on the Scripture readings and the application of the texts in the daily lives of the assembled community.


Profession of Faith: The assembly together recalls and proclaims the fundamental teachings of the Roman Catholic faith. The Profession of Faith, also referred to as the Creed, is used on all Sundays and Holy Days. The Profession of Faith may be either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed.

General Intercessions: Prayers of intercession for the Church, civil authorities, those with various needs and for the needs and salvation of the world. The celebrant invites all to pray, another minister proclaims the prayers of petition and the assembly responds by asking God to hear and to grant their requests.

Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the section of the celebration when the gifts of bread and wine are prepared and the Eucharistic Prayer is proclaimed by the celebrant, and the Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist, Communion) is distributed to the assembly.

Preparation of the Gifts: The bread and wine to be used in the celebration are brought to the celebrant, usually by representatives of the faithful.

Offertory Hymn/Song: Music used during the presentation of gifts to the celebrant and as the altar is prepared for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Washing of Hands: This is an expression of the desire for inward purification. The celebrant washes his hands in symbolic cleansing to prepare himself just as the gifts have been prepared as an offering to the Lord.

Prayer Over the Gifts: The prayer by the celebrant asking that the gifts to be offered be made holy and acceptable in the eyes of the Lord.

Preface Dialogue: The introductory dialogue between the celebrant and assembly in which all are invited to join in prayer and thanksgiving to God called the Sanctus or Holy, Holy, Holy. The community responds to the preface and continues the general theme of praise and thanks.

Eucharistic Prayer: The prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. It is the center and high point of the celebration. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the Church believes that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Included in the Eucharistic Prayer are the:

Consecration: The prayer and blessing during which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Memorial Acclamation: The Priest declares the mystery of faith and the congregation responds.

Intercessions: A series of prayers for the Church, the world, the Pope, the clergy and the laity, and the dead.

Final Doxology: A final prayer of praise of God.

Amen: Also called the Great Amen. It is the acclamation by the people expressing their agreement with all that has been said and done in the Eucharistic prayer.

The Lord 's Prayer (Our Father): The prayer of petition for our needs and forgiveness of our sins.

Doxology: The response of the people acclaiming the sovereignty of God.

Sign of Peace: Before sharing the Body of Christ the members of the assembly are invited to express their love and peace with one another, usually through shaking hands or a kiss.

Breaking of the Bread: The celebrant carries out the gestures of Christ at the Last Supper when he broke the bread to give to his disciples. The action signifies that in communion the many are made one in the one Bread of Life which is Christ.

Lamb of God (Agnus Dei): An invocation during the breaking of the bread in which the assembly petitions God for mercy and peace.

Holy Communion: After saying a preparatory prayer, the celebrant (or other designated ministers) gives communion (the consecrated bread and wine which has been changed to the Body and Blood of Jesus) to himself and the other ministers at the altar, and then communion is distributed to the congregation.

Communion Song: The music that is sung as the consecrated bread and wine - the Body and Blood of Christ - is distributed to the faithful.

Prayer After Communion: The final prayer by the celebrant in which he petitions that the Sacrament be beneficial for all.


Concluding Rite: The brief rite which consists of the celebrant's greeting to all present, final blessing and dismissal; followed by a concluding song and the concluding procession.

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