“Sounds Familiar…” By Brian Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Flickr User Charles Clegg

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

If you’ve ever been an altar server or have even paid close attention to all of the things the priest uses during Mass, you’re probably familiar with the big red Roman Missal.  (The book, not the rocket).  Maybe you haven’t thought much before about what is printed in that book.  Sort of looks like a big old Bible.  But the Roman Missal is actually the book that contains all of the prayers of the Mass.  It’s no coincidence that Fr. Tom, Msgr. Herman, and that visiting priest from Tanzania all used pretty similar sounding prayers last weekend; they’re not ad-libbed, but are printed in the Missal for all of the Catholic Churches around the world to use.

So where do all those prayers come from?  Well if you thought the Roman Missal WAS a Bible, you’re not totally off base, in that many of the prayers do come right from Scripture.  In this Sunday’s readings, we actually have two lines that have made their way into the Mass.

The first is from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  He says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  If you picture the priest saying that at the beginning of Mass, you know that we’d all respond with “And with your Spirit.” 

The next familiar sounding phrase from this week’s readings comes from John the Baptist in the Gospel.  John says to his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  You’ll recognize this as part of the line the priest says as he holds up the Eucharist, right before we say, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, which also comes from Scripture from another place (the Centurion speaking to Jesus).  

We’re back to Ordinary Time now, and there’s not a special focus like on God becoming Man (like we have in Advent and then Christmas), or on Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection (like we have during Lent and the Easter season), so Ordinary Time is a great time to pick something to focus on during Mass and try to come to a deeper understanding of.  A great challenge for you in the coming weeks could be to pay close attention during Mass and try to pick out all of the phrases you recognize that come from the Bible.  And then when you hear the readings from week to week, see if you notice any other phrases that have made their way into the prayers of the Mass.

I know for me, thinking about the rich history of the prayers of the Mass, especially the fact that much of it comes from Scripture and even from the mouth of Jesus himself, like the words of the consecration, it shows us we’re entering into something a lot bigger than we are.  Even if I’m super distracted on a given Sunday, or the sound system is on the fritz, or the priest has a terrible cold and sounds like he lost his voice screaming at a football game, I remind myself that the Mass is way bigger and more significant than any of those things from week to week.  It’s both timeless in the figurative sense, and also in the literal sense, in that eternal realities outside of time are made present to us.  So come to Mass, experience this, and then like the other kind of missile, be shot forth into the world at the end, to bring Christ to everyone you meet.

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