“Why We Do What We Do”
Today we commemorate the Ascension of the Lord. As Jesus leaves the apostles, they are left feeling abandoned when an angel asks them, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” In the Gospel, Jesus reminds them and us that He will always be with us. Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost and the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise of the Holy Spirit. Over Two Thousand years later, we continue to follow the Great Commission, “to go forth and make disciples of the world.”
The cornerstone of our faith is the Mass. Through the Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist, we receive Christ both physically and spiritually as a community of believers, as well as individuals. The common ritual of our Roman Catholic service is one of its strengths and what is attractive to many Christians. At any time of day, in almost anywhere in the world, a Mass is being celebrated by Catholics. The location and language may be different, but the Order of the Mass is the same.
This is made possible by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (known as GIRM). It is found at every Mass in our pastorate in the large red book called the “Holy Missal,” which includes the prayers and instructions for every Mass. The Lectionary is the book that includes the readings and responsorial psalm for the day, whereas the Book of the Gospels has only the Gospels to be proclaimed at a particular Sunday Mass.
These rules prohibit many things from being included immediately before, during and after Mass. Consequently, many things like organization and committee representatives making announcements, being part of a procession or having a ceremony before, during or after a Mass is not allowed for in the General Instructions.
However, some Pastors do not always apply these rules, others, like Fr. John, strictly adhere to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. This difference is why certain practices which may have occurred in the past are no longer happening at our pastorate.
Likewise, the use of the church often changes with each Pastor. The Narthex is the gathering area outside the main worship space. It is the location to welcome the congregation before Mass and disseminate information as they exit. Sometimes parishes will extend its function and allow organizations to hand out flyers, sell fundraising items and/or recruit parishioners.
The Nave is the church’s main worship space, where the congregation is seated. Its purpose is to accommodate parishioners as they prepare and then participate in a liturgical service. If a church does not have a hall or other social location, it may be used on certain occasions for such a function.
The Sanctuary is that area around the Ambo and the Altar. The term finds its origin in the word ‘sanctus’ meaning ‘holy’ in Latin. The Sanctuary is the holiest part of a church because it is there that during Mass, the bread and wine is transformed into the real presence of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is reserved for only liturgical services and only liturgical items shall be placed there. Even its decorations, such as flowers, cloths and other environmental objects should always enhance and accent the altar, ambo tabernacle and baptismal location, including the Easter candle.
Maybe understanding the ‘why’ we do what we do will allow us to focus on the ‘why’ we are at Mass in the first place; to praise and worship our lord, Jesus Christ as a community of believers through His Word and Eucharist.
Post Note: Congratulations to Fr. John Martinez upon being named Pastor of the Pastorate of Prince of Peace and St. Francis de Sales.
Patrick J. Perkins
Liturgy Committee Chairperson
St. Francis de Sales
They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to “fellowship”, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42.