Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pax Sinica Article: Mass (Part I)

Praying the greatest prayer

February 2 is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. At the presentation, Christ was offered to the Father. The prophets Simeon and Anna were prayerful people who listened to God attentively, and they encountered the Lord Jesus in the temple.

When we attend Mass, we should listen to word of God attentively and offer ourselves with Christ to the Father. Over the next two weeks, I will walk you through the greatest prayer of the Catholic Church, the Mass.

Introductory rites

The Mass begins with the entrance antiphon, or opening hymn. The opening hymn sets the proper mood for sacred worship. As one community, we express our joy to worship God through a hymn. During the opening hymn, we should tell God in our heart that we are thankful and happy for the opportunity to worship Him.

Then, the priest goes up to the altar and kisses it. The kiss recalls the table of the Last Supper and the cross on Calvary. Christ is the victim in each case. The kiss is also a sign of reverence for the saints whose relics are hidden in the altar. The altar, with the relics, reminds us of the tomb of Christ where the mystery of the resurrection took place.

In some churches, incense is used. It is a sign of prayer rising up to heaven, of recognition of the presence of the divine, and of reverence for people and sacred objects.

We make the sign of cross, the sign of the Christians. Then after a short greeting, the whole community acknowledges sin and asks God's forgiveness. We beg mercy from the three persons of the Trinity by praying, “Lord of mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” Then the priest leads the people to pray the Gloria, to adore and praise the triune God. The Gloria begins, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.” These words echo the words of the glorious song the angels sang in the skies over Bethlehem on the first Christmas night.

The Opening Prayer concludes the Introductory Rites. This prayer brings out the theme for the rest of the celebration.

Liturgy of the word

After the opening prayer, we sit down for the readings. On Sundays, we usually hear an Old Testament reading, the Responsorial Psalm, and a New Testament reading. We then stand for the Gospel reading. The change from sitting to standing shows the preeminence of the Gospel, for it contains the very words and deeds of Christ.

Each Sunday, the readings follow a three-year cycle (A, B, and C); the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke take precedence, with the Gospel of John sprinkled in here and there.

Usually, the First Reading is an Old Testament passage corresponding to the theme of the Gospel reading, and the Second Reading is a continuous reading from the New Testament. After three years, if you go to Mass every Sunday, you will have heard and been exposed to all four Gospels and most of the New Testament writings.

After the readings, the priest gives a homily. According to Father John Hardon, SJ, the homily “aims to explain in an instructive commentary the literal meaning of the chosen text or subject and from this develop a practical application for the moral or spiritual life.”

God is present and is speaking to us during the readings and the homily. We should be attentive and open our heart to Him. After being nurtured in faith by the word of God, we profess our faith in God by the recitation of the Creed. We also present the needs of the Church, the world, and the community to God during the General Intercessions.

Let us be grateful to God, Who feeds us with His word through the Church week after week.

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參與最偉大的祈禱

二月二日是「聖母獻耶穌於聖殿」慶日,紀念耶穌被獻給天主聖父,西默盎和亞納兩位熱切祈禱、聆聽天主的先知,承蒙天主啓示,得以在聖殿與小耶穌相遇。

我們參與彌撒,應該專注聆聽天主,與耶穌相遇, 並把自己和基督一同奉獻給天主聖父。我會在這裡,一連三個星期,和你們闡述聖教會最偉大的祈禱——彌撒:

進堂禮

彌撒以「進堂詠」作開端,而詠唱聖歌可以引領我們的心神,融入崇敬的聖禮;而且,詠唱是表達我們敬拜天主那份喜悅。詠唱「進堂詠」是告訴天主: 我們願意以歡欣和感謝的心來欽崇祂。

期間,神父走近至聖所,親吻象徵「最後晚餐」餐桌和加爾瓦略山的祭台,那是耶穌自作祭品的地方。親吻亦表示對藏在祭台內的聖人聖髑作出尊敬。附有聖髑的祭台,提醒我們埋有基督聖屍的聖墓,是彰顯祂復活奧蹟之處。

大禮彌撒用吊爐焚燒乳香,利用上升的輕煙,象徵我們的祈禱升到天主台前,也是明認神性的臨在,並向參禮者和聖物致敬。

劃十字聖號是基督徒的標記,而在神父簡短的「致候詞」之後,眾人向天主認罪,祈求天主寬恕,也向天主聖三祈求憐憫唸:「上主, 求祢垂憐。基督, 求祢垂憐。上主, 求祢垂憐。」;然後神父帶領信眾朝拜天主聖三, 誦唸或高唱「光榮頌」——「天主在天受光榮,主愛的人在世享平安」正好相應了聖誕夜,天使在晚空喜報聖誕的佳音。

「集禱經」結束「進堂禮」的環節,亦帶出餘下彌撒的祈禱禮儀主題。

聖道禮

「集禱經」後,眾人端坐靜聽「讀經」。主日彌撒通常有「讀經一」的舊約章節,信眾以「答唱詠」回應該段聖言;繼之的「讀經二」,內容則取錄自新約的章節。我們在神父宣讀「福音」前詠唱「亞肋路亞」,以表迎接聖言喜樂之情,眾人起立更是表示對「福音」的尊敬,皆因「福音」——天主聖言,真確地細說了基督的言行。

主日「讀經」分甲、乙、丙年循環三年一次重覆,「福音」則用「瑪竇」、「馬爾谷」和「路加」每年順序輪次,而當中每年都夾用「若望福音」不同部份章節。

通常, 「讀經一」的舊約章節是相應於當日的「福音」內容主題。而「讀經二」則順序地誦讀新約的章節。所以,參與主日彌撒,每三年我們都能重溫四部「福音」和新約的大部份內容。

在「讀經」及「福音」之後,神父向信眾講道。「耶穌會」會士若望.赫頓John Hardon神父說:「講道是神父按該日的聖言原文意義,作出指導性的解說,讓信眾能在神修或靈性生活上實踐。」天主藉聖言和神父講道臨在我們中間、訓導我們,我們應該專心地向天主打開心目, 虛心受教。我們接受了信仰的滋養後, 便一齊起立, 唸「信經」來宣認信仰。我們並把教會、普世、堂區和個人的需要,以「信友禱文」呈上天主,也在此結束「聖道禮」的一環。

讓我們感謝天主,通過聖教會,每週都以聖言養育我們。

This article was published at the February 1 issue of the BC Catholic newspaper. Please visit my personal website for my other articles for the Pax Sinica column.