Treasures From Our Tradition

  Preview Weekly Bulletin for May 28th, 2017


If you could somehow transport a third-century Christian into your twenty-first-century Sunday Mass, once the initial shock wore off he or she would be more or less at home with the structure of the first part of the liturgy, the Word. The second part might be more difficult to comprehend. The stumbling block would be the book. We have a book, a missal that is set down on the altar with a very precisely prescribed set of words for the priest to say and the people to sing at the Eucharistic Prayer. In the early days of the church, there were no set “formulas” for this prayer. The ancients would have raised eyebrows at our “bookishness” since they preferred to let the prayers roll forth from a gifted leader of prayer. There was a basic shape to the prayer of thanksgiving, and almost general agreement that the words of Christ at the Last Supper ought to be included.

By the second century, Justin Martyr wrote that the presider “gives thanks at some length . . . and when he has finished the prayers and the thanksgiving, all the people present give their assent by saying ‘Amen.” In the world before books, people could memorize long passages of prose and poetry, and so it is easy to see how particular phrases or expressions passed from church to church.

—Rev. James Field, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.