The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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A-Z of the Mass: Conclusion

Tuesday, October 05, 2010
For theologians such as Pope Benedict XVI the mystery of the Eucharist is intimately bound up with the mystery of our union with Christ. Participation in the Mass, then, should have a positive impact on an individual's subjective response to grace. The whole point of worship is to be raised up in Christ and transformed toward His level. Yet somehow our everyday experiences of liturgy can seem far removed from such elevated claims. We do not often feel like we have shared in the eternal and infinite love of the Trinity. We rarely get a 'kick' out of going to Mass.

In God Still Matters, Herbert McCabe OP points out that to call a Mass dull is not necessarily a criticism. He contrasts the immediate pleasure of drinking good Irish whiskey with the more sustained satisfaction of living in a comfortable and tastefully furnished room. For McCabe, good liturgy is more like this second kind of satisfaction. Sunday Mass rarely takes one's breath away, but if one is deprived of decent liturgy for a sustained period of time one begins to notice an important gap in one's emotional and spiritual life.

This summer we have tried through our A-Z of the Mass to draw attention to some of the dimensions and symbols of the Mass that perhaps go unnoticed. We have tried to offer some fresh perspectives on our 'well furnished room' in the hope that it might aid a deeper participation in the Eucharistic mystery. This mystery is 'the source and summit of Christian life' (Lumen gentium §11). Paying close attention to what we do and say on a Sunday morning is not navel gazing. Our communion with Christ is what vivifies and sustains our mission to the world. As Presbyterorum ordinis, Vatican II's decree on the ministry and life of priests, puts it:

The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are orientated towards it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch (PO §5).

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A-Z of the Mass: Z - The Eschaton

Sunday, October 03, 2010
In the Book of Revelation, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega, is symbolic of the end of the universe, understood as the consummation of history and the second, definitive coming of Christ. So, as we come to the end of the (admittedly, Latin) alphabet, it can remind us to consider the ways in which the Mass relates to the end of time, the eschaton.
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A-Z of the Mass: Year, Liturgical

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Just as the world has the natural cycle of the seasons throughout the year, so the Church also celebrates with quiet, deliberate rhythm the seasons of the liturgical year. Unlike the endless cycle of pagans, the Church's year regards time as linear. It has a beginning and will have an end. Whilst we may represent the calendar as a circle, it is better to think of it as a spiral. The passing hours allow us time to meditate on sacred things as we await the return of the Lord. Throughout the year our minds are raised to the sacred mysteries through the tones of the Church's liturgy, the seasonal changes and the decor of our sacred places
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A-Z of the Mass: Exit

Monday, September 27, 2010
Following the Prayer after Communion and the blessing, we come to the dismissal, which is given by the deacon or, in his absence, by the priest. The familiar Latin dismissal Ite Missa Est to which the people respond Deo Gratias, ‘thanks be to God’, is an ancient formula. The exact translation is often disputed because of the significance the word missa came to have as the technical name of the Eucharistic Liturgy in the Roman Rite. If, however, we interpret missa as dismissal, we end with something akin to ‘Go, it is the dismissal’. When Mass is celebrated in the vernacular there are a number of options available but what is perhaps more interesting is what the dismissal has come to signify, what it really means to those present.
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A - Z of the Mass: Wine and Wafer

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
In understanding the Eucharist, it is important to appreciate the difference between signs and symbols. When we see a road sign giving directions to a particular place, the fact that the sign might be green, metallic and rectangular doesn't tell us anything about the place it points to. A symbol also signifies something, but in contrast to a pure sign, the form of the symbol is crucial. The wine and wafer used in the celebration of the Eucharist are deeply symbolic and so it is very worthwhile to meditate on why Christ comes to us under these appearances.
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A - Z of the Mass: Vestments

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Clothing is important. It covers our nakedness, keeps us warm and protects us from the elements. But clothing also indicates the role of a person, his or her dignity and status in a community; clothing has a practical as well as a symbolic function. Both these aspects are found in the Christian tradition. St Augustine said that clothing alleviates the shame and nakedness of fallen humanity and St Paul likens baptism and the conferral of baptismal grace and our Christian dignity to being clothed in Christ (see Galatians 3:27). St John in the Apocalypse speaks of those who have conquered sin and death as clothed in white robes (see Apoc 3:5, 7:9).
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A-Z of the Mass: Unity

Tuesday, September 14, 2010
'Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it' (1 Cor 12:27).

On the road to Damascus the Risen Christ declared to Saul that in persecuting the Church he was persecuting his Lord (Acts 9:4-5). Paul's later writings, particularly his first letter to the Corinthians, show Paul developing and exploring the implications of this revelation. The Church is one body, its different members bound together through and in Christ. This unity is achieved through faith and the sacraments. These two 'supernatural agencies' move forward hand in hand for the sacraments at once signify the grace which is the inheritance of faith, and cause and contain that same faith. Sacraments are perfect signs of God's action which bring about the very things that they signify.

The Eucharist is the perfect sacrament of the Lord's passion in as much as it contains the very Christ who himself suffered. When we consume this Christ, when we sacramentally receive his body and blood, we are signifying our unity with Christ and each other, and actually bringing about this same unity by binding ourselves to the sacrifice of the cross. The Church, according to St. Augustine, is one because it has one sacrifice. This one sacrifice is the sacrifice of Christ handed over bodily to the Church. Lumen Gentium described this gift as the 'source and summit of the Christian life'. Whilst Eucharistic communion is not the whole of our communion with God, and does not do all the work of our spiritual life, it is a definite communion with the Christ who shed his blood for us, and a foretaste of the communion we will share with him in heaven.

The Eucharist is, then, the sacrament of unity. Unfortunately the schisms and reformations that have torn the body of Christ over the centuries have cloaked this fundamental character of the sacrament. The painful reality is that despite the ecumenical work of recent decades, when we come to the altar the various Christian denominations must go their separate ways. Whilst the sacrifice of the cross belongs to the whole world, its sacramental re-presentation cannot be separated from the Church, the mystical body of Christ, that offers this sacrifice. It is indeed a tragedy that not all Christians are in communion with one another, but the solution is to redouble our efforts to found our faith on truth, to found our faith on Christ. To paper over cracks superficially and pretend there is no problem is easier in the short term, but ultimately it will be counterproductive.
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A-Z of the Mass: Transubstantiation

Monday, September 13, 2010
In its decree on the Eucharist, the Council of Trent says that the change (conversio) of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, a change that has always been accepted by the faith of the Church, is 'appropiately and properly called transubstantiation'. This change is brought about by the words of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit. To the question 'what is it?' of the consecrated bread or the consecrated wine, St John Chrysostom and St Ambrose, for example, who are both quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, will already have replied 'it is the Body of Christ, it is the Blood of Christ'. For John Chrysostom, the words of Christ spoken by the priest 'transform the things offered' and Ambrose says that 'by the blessing, nature itself is changed'.
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A-Z of the Mass: Stipend

Friday, September 10, 2010
One frequent caricature painted by those hostile to the Church is to suggest that the whole 'operation' is a money-making scheme by the clergy. They will often hold up the example of Mass stipends. A Mass stipendsis an offering given to a priest by an individual or a group so that he may say Mass for the donor's intention. Today this offering is usually money. It is an ancient practice going back to the early Church when people would give the priest bread and wine, some of which was used during the Eucharist. What remained was used for the support of the clergy and the poor.
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A-Z of the Mass: Rubrics

Thursday, September 09, 2010
minutiae Read more
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