What is Ascension Thursday?

The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, also called Ascension Day, commemorates the Christian belief of the bodily Ascension of Jesus in heaven. The observance of this feast is of great antiquity. This is usually celebrated on the 40th day of Easter. Eusebius, Bishop and Theologian c. 265-339 seems to hint at the celebration of it in the 4th century. At the beginning of the 5th century, St. Augustine says that it is of Apostolic origin, and he speaks of it in a way that shows it was the universal observance of the Church long before his time.

Masses:
St. Theresa Church at 8:30am and 7:00pm
St. Andrew Church 12:05pm

What is the Exsultet? The Proclamation of Easter

Written by MPB parishioner Daniel Smith-Blue Hills Catholic Collaborative

Part 1: Let them Exult

The tradition of the Easter Candle goes back to the roots of Christianity. The Jewish custom of lighting a lamp at the end of the Sabbath carried over into an early form of what we call the Easter Vigil’s “Service of Light,” originally part of the Sunday liturgy. As an annual solemn celebration of the Resurrection became more widespread, the Service of Light associated with that celebration was treated with special solemnity. As early as the 4th century we find references to the custom of singing a hymn in praise and thanksgiving for the special candle used for this Service – a hymn which evolved to become the Easter Proclamation we call the “Exsultet,” after its first word in Latin.

Part 2: This Is the Night

The Easter Vigil, or Vigil in the Holy Night, is a “night-watch” waiting for the Resurrection. As we wait we reflect on our salvation history, particularly through the multiple readings. But in a special way the Exsultet with its poetry draws our attention to this history and the Easter symbols associated with it: the Passover memorial and feast, made perfect by the sacrifice of the “one true Lamb;” the crossing of the Red Sea into freedom, recalled by the Baptismal liturgy and our renewal of promises; the pillar of fire defending the Israelites in the darkness, symbolized by the great candle; and of course, the moment of the Resurrection itself, that makes it a “truly blessed night.”

Part 3 – An Evening Sacrifice of Praise

The ancient Easter Vigil lasted throughout the night, ending with a Mass at dawn. As the centuries passed it kept moving earlier in the day; by the High Middle Ages it was celebrated Holy Saturday morning. Holding the Vigil in broad daylight so early separated it from Easter Day – and made certain parts of the Exsultet, asking God to “dispel the darkness of this night,” awkward to say the least. In the 1950s, Pope Pius XII made a reform of the Easter Vigil, restructuring it to reflect original custom and with an eye toward increased participation. As part of that reform, he required it to begin after sunset with all church lights extinguished, so that the Service of Light begins in darkness.

Part 4 – By Sharing of Its Light

Light is one of the best symbols of the mystery of God, how He exists in relationship both with Himself as a Trinity and with us as the Mystical Body. The Nicene Creed we proclaim at Sunday Mass hails Jesus as “God from God, light from light” to show that the Son is distinct from but consubstantial with the Father, just as one fire can light another that is separate but alike. Likewise, the Exsultet calls the Easter Candle “a fire into many flames divided.” We all hold candles lit from the one Easter Candle, which loses nothing “by sharing of its light;” just so, we are all the Body of Christ united to our Head, Who through us is the Light of the world.

Part 5 – Drawn Out by Mother Bees

The Easter Candle is properly made, of course, from beeswax – a point that is brought up at least twice in the Exsultet. The candle itself is described as “the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,” and the flame of the candle is said to be “fed by melting wax drawn out by mother bees.” Bees are social creatures, skillful workers, always active – they are meant to be a model for us Christians to build up the Church as they built up this great candle we offer to God. Like the bees, each of us has a job to do, each of us has a part to contribute to this great work. 

Part 6 – The One Morning Star Who Never Sets 

In its conclusion, the Exsultet prays that the Easter Candle may “mingle with the lights of heaven” and “be found still burning by the Morning Star.” While ancient peoples used this term to refer to Venus when it appeared on the horizon before dawn, “Morning Star” – in Latin, lucifer – has two different meanings in Christianity. It is one of the titles of Jesus in Revelation 22, but is also a title of the fallen Babylon (and later, Satan) in Isaiah 14. By going on to call it the Morning Star “Who never sets” (or even more literally from the Latin, “Who knows not how to fall”), the Exsultet firmly identifies Christ, defeater of death and the devil, as the Bringer of morning light – the One Whose rising ends our night-watch. 

 

The Paschal Fast

“Let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday, and whenever possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, as a way of coming to the new joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection with uplifting and welcoming heart.” –Ceremonial of Bishops, #295
Did you ever get so wrapped up in an upcoming important event in your life that you were too excited to eat? Or do you remember a time when, anticipating a special meal, you purposely delayed eating so that you could more deeply savor what was to come? Or a time when you were so engrossed in what you were doing that you simply forgot to stop for food? It is such a fast that we are called during the Sacred Triduum. This fast, observed from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday throughout the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, is not a Lenten fast of repentance but one of excitement and anticipation, a fast of reverence and preparation for the most important event of our liturgical year. It is a fast which marks these three days as holy, set apart, a time when even our eating and drinking is different. By this fast, we remove distractions from our lives and prepare as a family to refocus our lives on the Lord, culminating in our renewal of Baptismal promises at the Vigil. Having fasted together, we feast together, first at the table of the Eucharist and later as a family at Easter dinner.
 

Veiling of statues and images

While it may appear counterintuitive to veil statues and images during the final weeks of Lent, the Catholic Church recommends this practice to heighten our senses and build within us a longing for Easter Sunday. It is a tradition that should not only be carried out in our local parish, but can also be a fruitful activity for the “domestic church” to practice.

The rubrics can guide us. In the Roman Missal we find the instruction, “In the Dioceses of the United States, the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from 5th Sunday of Lent may be observed. Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.”

Families are also encouraged to imitate this practice and veil prominent religious images in their homes. It helps us to participate in the liturgical season, especially if we are prevented from going to Mass during the week. 

Lent 2022 – click here for the Lent 2022 Newsletter

Ordinary Time 2022

Christmas Time and Easter Time highlight the central mysteries of the Paschal Mystery, namely, the incarnation, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 

Sunday, January 16th begins the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time in the liturgical year 2022. The Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time, on the other hand, take us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ.

Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ. Ordinary Time will conclude on Sunday, February 27th. Then on March 2nd, ASH WEDNESDAY begins the 2022 Season of Lent.

The MASS 

Let’s examine the parts of the MASS, step-by-step.

The Mass is the central act of worship in the life of a Catholic. Going to Mass is about spending time with God, receiving His graces, and worshipping as a community of believers. We are not spectators, as one is at a sporting event. In fact, At Mass, The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pt 2:9; see 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

The name “Mass” comes from the final blessing said by the priest in Latin, “Ite Missa es” meaning “to send out” as Jesus Christ sent his disciples out to the world to take His teaching to them.

Catholics know what is going to happen next. One of the basic, distinctive marks of our way of praying is RITUAL: We do things over and over. When the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” without hesitation, the congregation responds, “And with your spirit.” The priest says, “Let us pray,” and the congregation is standing, or stands up.

Our daily lives have their rituals too: There are set ways of greeting people, eating, responding, etc. And when we are accustomed to a certain way of doing things we seldom ask why we do it? In the Eucharist, too, we have many ritual actions which we perform without asking, why?

WHAT IS THE MASS or LITURGY?

A good way to describe the Mass is to say that it is Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday made present today in ritual. It is not merely a meal which reminds us of the Last Supper, or a Passion Play which helps recall Good Friday, or an Easter Morning Mass which celebrates the Lord’s Resurrection.

The basic “shape” of the ritual of the Mass  can be described as a meal. This is not to say it is “just another meal” or that we are ignoring the Mass as sacrifice. Not at all. The point is, the shape of the Mass, even when viewed as sacrifice, is that of a meal.

When family and or friends gather for a meal, they sit and talk. Eventually they move to the table, say grace, pass the food and eat and drink, finally take their leave and go home. On our walk through the Mass we will follow the same map: we will see ritual acts of Gathering, StoryTelling, Meal Sharing, and Commissioning.

THE MASS: Part One- The Gather Rites 

Coming together, assembling, is the heart of our Sunday worship. The reason behind each of the ritual actions of the first part of Mass can be found in this word: Gathering. The purpose of these Rites is to bring us together into the one body, ready to listen and break bread together. Our “gathering” actually begins in our homes. Simply waking up and readying ourselves and family members to head to church is your domestic gathering. Arriving in the parking lot, seeing friends and neighbors as we walk into church, is also gathering, or the continuing of gathering. 

Mass Assistants. For the entire time of the pandemic, all three of our churches had parishioners checking in people and/or signing in people. Greeting parishioners. Just like family and friends coming to your house for a meal or a party, you would greet and welcome them at the door of your home.

Use of Water. One of the first things a Catholic does when entering a church, is dipping their finger into the holy water font and make the sign of the cross. This ritual is a reminder of our Baptism: We were baptized with water and signed with the cross. At every Mass we renew our promises to die to sin. Because of the protocols of the pandemic, Holy Water fonts were removed from the doors of the churches. The pastoral staff is still discussing a new way to present Holy Water to the churches.

Genuflection. In Medieval Europe, it was a custom to go down on one knee (to genuflect) before a King or person of rank. This secular mark of honor gradually entered the Church and people began to genuflect to honor the altar and the presence of Christ in the tabernacle before entering the pew. Today, many people express their reverence with an even older custom and bow to the altar before taking their place. Our genuflecting entering and leaving the church building is to the Tabernacle, the presence of Christ. During Mass, when crossing in front of the altar, one should bow  to the altar.

Posture & Song. After the Announcement of Welcome & Identity of the Mass we are celebrating (13th Sunday in Ordinary Time), the Mass continues with everyone standing up and singing the Entrance Song. Standing is the traditional posture of Christians at prayer: It expresses our attentiveness to the word of God and our readiness to carry it out. Singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the Liturgy. What better way to gather than to unite our thoughts and our voices in common word, rhythm and melody. [Parts of Music: Melody, Harmony, different instruments]

Greeting. The priest leads us with the sign of the cross, again remind us of Baptism, and will greet us saying, “The Lord be with you.” It means many things. Example: “good day” or “hello” and “good-bye.” It is both a wish (may the Lord be with you) and a profound statement of faith (as you assemble for worship, the Lord is with you). It is an ancient biblical greeting: Boaz returned from Bethlehem (we read in the Book of Ruth 2:4) and said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” The ritual response to this greeting is always the formula, “and with your spirit,” by which we return the hello, the good wishes, the statement of faith. 

Penitential Act, Gloria. All the other Ritual acts of this part of the Mass are intended to gather us together into a worshipping assembly. Sometimes we are asked to pause and recall our common need for salvation (Penitential Act). The hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest” is sung or recited. The “Gloria” has been a part of the Mass since about the sixth century. To highlight the liturgical time of Christmas and Easter, along with Holy Days of Obligation, we sing the Gloria.

Collect. This was known as the “Opening Prayer” prior to the revision of the Roman Missal. At the close of the Gathering Rites, the priest will ask us to join our minds in prayer: “Let us pray.” After a moment of silence, he will “collect” all of our prayers into one prayer to which we all respond, “Amen,” a Hebrew word for “So be it.”

THE MASS: Part Two- Story Telling

Liturgy of the Word. When we gather at a friend’s home for a meal, we always begin with conversation, telling our stories. At Mass, after the Rites of Gathering, we sit down and listen as Readings from Scripture [The Word of God] are proclaimed. They are stories of God’s people through time.

Readings. On Sundays there are three readings from the Bible. 

The First Reading will be from Hebrew  Scriptures. (except during the Time of Easter) We recall the origins of our covenant. It will relate to the Gospel selection and will give background and an insight into the meaning of what Jesus will do in the Gospel. 

Then we will sing a Psalm- a song from God’s own inspired hymnal, the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible. 

The Second Reading will usually be from one of the letters of Saint Paul or another apostolic writing.

The Third Reading is from one of the Gospel Writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. 

Some visitors to the Catholic Mass are surprised to find us reading from the Bible! We have not generally been famous for our Bible readings, and yet the Mass has always been basically and fundamentally biblical. Even some Catholics might be surprised to learn how much of the Mass is taken from the Bible. Not only the three Readings and Psalm, not only the obviously Biblical prayers such as the Holy, Holy, Holy and Lord’s Prayer, but most of the words and phrases of the prayers of the Mass are taken from the Bible. 

Standing for the Gospel. Because of the unique presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel, it has long been the custom to stand in attentive reverence to hear these words. We believe that Christ “is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are proclaimed.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7). The priest or deacon will again greet us with “the Lord be with you.” He then introduces the Gospel reading while making a small cross on his forehead, lips, and heart with his thumb. We as the assembly performs this same ritual action. The Gospel reading concludes with the ritual formula, “The Gospel of the Lord,” and we respond, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus, proclaiming our faith in the presence of Christ in the word. We sit for the homily.

Homily. It means more than just a sermon or talk about how we are to live or what we are to believe. The homily is to build a bridge from the scripture to our every day life. The homily is an act of worship rooted in the texts of the Mass and especially in the Readings from Scripture which have just been proclaimed. Just as a large piece of bread is broken to feed individual persons, the Word of God must be broken open so it can be received and digested by the assembly.

Creed. Now we stand and together recite the Creed. The Creed is more than a list of things which we believe. It is a statement of our faith in the word we have heard proclaimed in Scripture and the homily. A profession of the faith that leads us to give our lives for one another as Christ gave his life for us. 

Universal Prayer. The Liturgy of the Word- our “story telling” comes to an end with the intercessions. The intercessions help us become who God is calling us to be. We are the Body of Christ by Baptism. Now, as we prepare to approach the table of the Eucharist, we look into the readings, like a mirror, and ask: Is that who we are? Does the Body of Christ present in this assembly resemble that Body of Christ pictured in the Scripture Readings? And so we make some adjustments: we pray that our assembly really comes to look like the Body of Christ, a body at peace, with shelter for the homeless, healing for the sick, food for the hungry.

We pray for the Church, nations and their leaders, people in special needs, our parish- the petitions usually include there four categories. The Deacon or lector announce the petitions, and we usually given an opportunity to pray for the intentions in our hearts, making some common response, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

THE MASS: Part Three- Meal Sharing 

After the Readings, we move to the table. As at a meal in the home of a friend, we 1) set the table, 2) say grace and, 3) share the food that we eat and drink. At Mass these ritual actions are called 1) the Preparation of the Gifts, 2) the Eucharistic Prayer, 3) the Communion Rite.

Preparation of the Gifts. The early Christians each brought some bread and wine from their homes to church to be used for the Mass and to be given to the clergy and the poor. Today a similar offering for the parish and the poor is made with our monetary contributions. Our fiscal contributions today are given via online, mail in, dropped off, or placed in the basket at the front entrance doors of our churches. The pandemic resulted in changes, which has proven for the better. The deacon or priest prepares the bread and wine at the altar, and washes his hands as the Jews did at meals in Jesus’ day. Finally, he invites us to pray that the sacrifice be acceptable to God.

The Eucharistic Prayer. The prayer which follows brings us to the very center of the Mass and heart of our faith. While the words of the prayer may vary from Sunday to Sunday, the prayer always has this structure: 1) We call upon God to remember all the wonderful saving deeds of our history. 2) We recall the central event in our history: Jesus Christ, and in particular the memorial he left us on the night before he died. We recall his passion, death, and resurrection. 3) After gratefully calling to mind all the wonderful saving acts God has done for us in the past, we petition God to continue those deeds of Christ in the present: We pray that we may become one body, one spirit in Christ.

Invitation. The prayer begins with a dialogue between the leader and the assembly. First, the priest greets us with, “The Lord be with you.” He then asks if we are ready and willing to approach the table and to renew our baptismal commitment, offering ourselves to God, “Lift up your hearts.” And we respond that we are prepared to do so: “We lift them up to the Lord.” We are invited to give thanks to the Lord our God. And we respond, “It is right and just.” To “give thanks” translates the traditional Greek verb which now names the whole action: Eucharist. 

Preface and Acclamation. The priest enters into the Preface, a prayer which prepares us to come before the face of God. We are brought into God’s presence and speak of how wonderful God has been to us. As the wonders of God are told, the assembly cannot hold back their joy and sing aloud: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of hosts.” “Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

Institution Narrative – Consecration. The priest continues our prayer, giving praise and thanks, and calling upon the Holy Spirit to change our gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. He then recalls the events of the last Supper- the institution of the Eucharist At this moment in the prayer, we proclaim the mystery of faith. The priest continues recalling the deeds of Christ.

Prayer for Unity and Intercessions. The grateful memory of God’s salvation leads us to make a bold petition, our main petition at every Eucharist: We pray for unity. “Humbly we pray . . . that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ . . . we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit” (Eucharistic Prayer II), To this petition we add prayers for the Bishop of Rome, our Archbishop, clergy, and all the faithful. We pray for the living and the dead, the intercession of Saints . . . that we may one day arrive at that table in heaven of which this table is only a hint and a taste. We look forward to that glorious day and raise our voices with those of all the saints who have gone before us as the priest raises the consecrated bread and wine- offers a toast: the doxology. Our “Amen” to this prayer acclaims our assent and participation in the entire Eucharistic Prayer.

The Communion Rite: Our Father and The Sign of Peace. 

We prepare to eat and drink at the Lord’s Table with those words taught us by Jesus: “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Keenly aware that communion (the word means “union with”) is the sign and source of our reconciliation and union with God and with one another; we make a gesture of union and forgiveness with those around us and offer them a sign of peace.

Invitation to Communion. The priest then shows us the Body of Christ and invites us to come to the table: “Behold the Lamb of God, Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” The members of the assembly now approach the altar in procession.

Communion.  As God fed our ancestors in the desert on their pilgrimage, so God gives us food for our journey. We approach the minister who gives us the Eucharistic bread with the words, “The Body of Christ,” and we respond, “Amen.” We sing a Eucharistic based song to show our joy of heart, communitarian procession, 

Then we pray silently in our hearts, thanking and praising God and asking for all that this sacrament promises. The priests unites our silent prayers in the Prayer After Communion, to which we respond, Amen. Important verbal announcements are proclaimed.

Announcements. Finally we prepare to go back to that world in which we will live for the coming week. The burdens we have laid down at the door of the church for this Eucharist, we know we must now bear again—but now strengthened by this Eucharist and this community. There may be announcements at this time which remind us of important activities coming up in the parish. The priest again says, “The Lord be with you”—the ritual phrase serves now as a farewell.

Blessing and Dismissal. We bow our heads to receive a blessing. As the priest names the Trinity— Father, Son and Holy Spirit—we make the Sign of the Cross. The priest or deacon then dismisses the assembly: “Go in peace.” And we give our liturgical “yes” by saying, “Thanks be to God.”

Living the Eucharist in the world. We leave the assembly and the church building—but we carry something with us. What happens in our lives during the week gives deeper meaning to the ritual actions we have celebrated at Mass, whether it’s family, work with poor or just plain work. It is only in relation to our daily lives that the full meaning of the ritual actions of the Mass becomes clear to us.