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The Liturgy of the Word (3)

Posted by Father Joe on September 2, 2006

The following notes are largely derived from a thorough reading of Rev. Josef A. Jungmann, S.J.’s classic work, The Mass of the Roman Rite.

The Profession of Faith

Rev. Jungmann notes that Timotheus, the Patriarch of Constantinople (511-517 AD), “tainted with Monophysitism,” tried to shame his orthodox predecessors by commanding its recitation at every Mass (Jungmann, p. 297). This soon became the rule in the East. In Spain it emerged when King Reccared and the Visigoths renounced Arianism (589 AD). In this instance, it was viewed as a preparation for the faithful reception of Holy Communion. Somewhat in retaliation against the Adoptionist heresy in Spain, the French began to implement the Creed two centuries later. Charlemagne received permission from Pope Leo III to have it sung after the Gospel, with the possible deletion of the controversial Filioque clause. [Note: This debate centered around the addition in the West, not immediately received, that the Holy Spirit is generated from the Father and “the Son”. This is still a matter of some friction between East and West. Eastern hardliners would question its theology; more moderate critics recognize the core issue of authority.]

When the emperor Henry II came to Rome in 1014 he was surprised that at Rome the Credo was lacking in the Mass. The Roman clerics explained to him that the Roman Church had never been disturbed by error and therefore had no reason to profess the Credo so often. However the pope, Benedict VIII, gave in to the emperor’s opportunings. Still an instruction must have issued from Rome, restricting the Credo to Sundays and to those feasts of which mention is made in the symbo1. (Jungmann, p. 298).

General Intercessions

Following the Creed, there is the Prayer of the Faithful (intercessions) which petitions the Father in Christ’s name to answer certain general needs. These include matters like the preservation and growth of the universal Church, the just and equitable workings of nations, the consolation of the suffering and sick, and the salvation of the deceased. In the revised Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, there has been the restoration of the rite of dismissal for catechumens at this point in the liturgy. However, it has been made optional. One should not underestimate the power of the Eucharistic activity (even apart from communion) to feed non-Catholics and inquirers spiritually and to bring them to conversion. Another problem that I see is that the separation from the second half of the liturgy is randomly required. On one hand, those preparing for membership in our faith are asked to leave. Other non-Catholics or fallen away Christians are invited to pray with us. How can it be both ways? At one time, long ago, there was a diaconal cry of dismissal in certain Italian churches:

  • If anyone is a catechumen, let him leave!
  • If anyone is a heretic, let, him leave!
  • If anyone is a Jew, let him leave!
  • If anyone is a pagan, let him leave!
  • If anyone is an Arian, let him leave!
  • Let anyone who has no business here leave!

     (Jungmann, p. 304)

If anyone was left in doubt, the last command took care of that, too. Well, at least they were consistent.

Returning to the subject of the general prayer of the Church, Saint Justin makes note of it after the bishop’s homily, “…w all stand up and recite prayers” (Jungmann, p. 304). In third and fourth century Egypt, it is similarly remarked upon. It is noted as after the readings. Hippolytus, Cyprian, and later, Augustine, make reference to it. With the same structure as today restored, there was first the invitation to prayer (by the priest presider), then the recited petition (perhaps by the deacon), and the people’s response, “Lord have mercy” or some similar invocation. Afterwards, the celebrant said another prayer. By the end of the fourth century, all but the response and closing prayer were taken over by the deacon. The final prayer (Secret?) was all that remained of this structure until the Missal of Paul VI. It has been argued that the intercessions in the Roman Canon were part of the reason why they were lost in this location. Another would have been the Kyrie-litany that began to develop at the beginning of the liturgy. However, because of context, they represent a different kind of prayer.


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