For the past few weeks, we have been sharing excerpts from Paul Turner on The Parts of the Mass in our parish e-newsletter. If you missed any and want to catch up, just keep reading! We will update this page each week with a new excerpt.

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The Begotten

The word begotten refers to the role the father has played in producing a child. Sometimes the words in the Mass refer to Jesus as the only-begotten Son of the Father. It sounds redundant—if you are a son, you have been begotten. But the issue here is to point out just who the Father is.

Christianity has survived many heresies throughout its history. One of them pertained to the Father of Jesus. This heresy, known as adoptionism, believed that Jesus was born of two human parents, the same way every human being is born. But because he was so unusual in his faith and abilities, God adopted him to become his own Son. This is not what mainstream Christianity believes. We believe that the Father of Jesus is divine, not human. We also believe that no one else has God as a Father in exactly the same way. Consequently, we speak of Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God.

We have used the word in the Nicene Creed for quite a few years, but the revised English translation of the Mass has added it to the Gloria as well. It has always been in there in Latin, but the first translators perhaps thought that the word was unnecessary. However, it is a critical part of the history of Christianity, and it has always appeared in the text of the Gloria, a hymn that is over a thousand years old. It reappears now in the Gloria, and in some other prayers throughout the Missal. Although begotten is a word we do not often use, it pertains to a belief upon which we stand: God is the Father of Jesus, and he is the only Son of God.

Great Amen

“Amen” means “So be it.” It means “I believe.” It means “The truth has been spoken.” And it’s a little like clicking the “Send” button after you’ve written an email. It gives your prayer the wings it uses to fly toward God in heaven.

We conclude many prayers at Mass with an Amen. The Glory to God, the Collect, the Creed, the Prayer over the Offerings, the Doxology after the Lord’s Prayer, and the Prayer after Communion all end with the word “Amen.” When you receive the Body and Blood of the Lord at Communion, you answer “Amen.”

But amid all these Amens, one is traditionally called “great,” the one that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer.

The Great Amen is great because of what it says Amen to. Throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, we have been praying in thanksgiving for the wonder-
ful things God does for us, and we have been praying in petition for the living and the dead. Most importantly, we have been praying that the Holy Spirit would change the bread and wine on the altar into the Body and Blood of Christ. This prayer, the most powerful prayer in human history, concludes with an Amen that can only be called “great.”

Because of the significance of this Amen, it is one of the acclamations that we are encouraged to sing at Mass (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 40). Usually, the priest will sing the preceding words, which refer to Christ: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

To those words, all we can say and all we must say is “Amen.”

Collection

The weekly collection humbly expresses the community’s faith. The silent routine accompanies the spirit of selflessness that unites believers. Whether your gift is large or small, the collection expresses what we have in common, a desire to share.

In the Mass, the collection occurs at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Its placement is significant. It is not an admission fee to get into the building. It is part of the heart of the Mass. Every Mass celebrates the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. That sacrifice unfolds before our eyes as the gifts we bring, the bread and wine, are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and offered to God. This sacrificial action begins when we carry bread and wine to the altar during the Preparation of the Gifts. With them, we bring our gifts for the poor. This procession moves through the community because these gifts come from us and represent us.

They represent our offering to God and our communion with God. Just as the Body and Blood of Christ bring heavenly nourishment to our community, so the collection brings material aid.

That material aid is no small matter. Your church depends on your gift. Parishes receive money like beggars, not like clerks. People give not to receive a product; they give to make a gift. The charity that underlies the collection results from faith. We believe that what we have comes from God, and we know it was given for the enjoyment of all. A habit of giving comes from a heart that has learned the satisfactions of generosity. A habit of giving offers us peace that we are doing our part to make the world a better, more generous place. The Scriptures recommend a tithe—giving ten percent of what we earn to charities. By giving from what we receive, we share God’s love with the world.

And With Your Spirit

Several times during the Mass, the priest or deacon greets the people with “The Lord be with you” or a similar phrase. In English, congregations have responded, “And also with you,” but a closer translation of the Latin is, “And with your spirit.” (Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo.) Most congregations speaking other languages have always answered with the equivalent of “And with your spirit.”

The response is based on a phrase from the New Testament. St. Paul concludes four epistles with the desire that the grace of Jesus Christ will be with the spirit of the letters’ recipients: Galatians 6:18, Philippians 4:23, 2 Timothy 4:22, and Philemon 25. Paul prays that Christ will inhabit their innermost being—their spirit.

At Mass, the words “The Lord be with you” express a wish, but the wish is already happening. The Lord is present with those who gather in his name. When the people respond, they say essentially the same thing. They wish that the Lord will be with the spirit—the innermost being—of the priest or deacon. Indeed, the Lord is present because of the sacredness of the minister and of the liturgical action underway.

In the Catholic liturgy, the greeting “The Lord be with you” is made only by a priest or deacon. Therefore, the response to the spirit of the minister may carry another meaning; it may also refer to the Holy Spirit who came upon the minister in his ordination. But at a simpler level, squarely on the basis of scriptural evidence, the response carries a message equivalent to the greeting. Both the minister and the people are wishing that the Lord will be with the other, and the Lord is present to them because of the purpose of their gathering.

Bulletin Inserts for the Liturgical Life of the Parish: The Mass © 2020
Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications. All rights reserved. Written by Paul Turner.