by Michael Podrebarac
Did you ever wonder who wrote the words of the Mass?
Think about it. When Jesus ascended to the Father in heaven, he dropped neither a Bible nor a missal and said, “Now do this!”
It took the church decades to receive the New Testament Gospels and epistles, the fruits of apostolic witness. The sacred liturgy likewise developed during this time, its essence, of course, remaining the same: “This is my body . . . this is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”
So where do we get the words that make up the liturgy?
The good news is — the Good News! In large part, the words that make up the Mass come from sacred Scripture, the word of God, God’s words put into human words, given by God through the patriarchs, prophets, evangelists and apostles serving as his inspired messengers. The Mass is a truly biblical prayer!
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from Vatican II reminds us of this when it teaches: “In the celebration of the liturgy, sacred Scripture is extremely important. From it come the lessons that are read and explained in the homily and the psalms that are sung. It is from the Scriptures that the prayers, collects, and hymns draw their inspiration and their force, and that actions and signs derive their meaning” (CSL 24).
Beyond the lessons, the inspired prayers and the derived meanings, sacred Scripture also makes up a good portion of the ritual language of the Mass. Consider but a few examples:
As the priest greets the people at Mass: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” These are the same words St. Paul used to greet the Corinthians in his second letter to them (2 Cor 13: 13).
In the Glory to God: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.” Look up the salutation of the angels to the shepherd the night Christ was born (Lk 2:14).
In the hymn at the end of the preface: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” This nicely ties together the Old Testament (Is 6: 3) and the New (Mk 11: 9-10).
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” This is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray when they asked him to teach them (Mt 6: 9-13 and Lk 11: 1-4).
“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.” St. John the Baptist acclaimed Jesus as such before his disciples (Jn 1: 29).
Right before we receive holy Communion: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” These words borrow from the words used by the centurion to our Lord when he desired to enter the house and heal the centurion’s servant (Mt 8: 8).
Think about this: The word of God is used for our words in the liturgy instituted for us by the Word-Made-Flesh in which we hear his word and eat his flesh!
“Thanks be to God!” (2 Cor 9: 15).