Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pax Sinica Article: Mass (Part II)

Loving offer to God

Recently, we celebrated the feasts of the saints, St. Agatha, the Japanese Martyrs, and St. Scholastica, who gave their lives for God’s love. The Mass is a sacrifice where we offer ourselves with Christ to God the Father. This week, I am going to walk you through the Offertory of the Mass.

Procession of the gifts

During the Offertory, people in the congregation are united in prayer by the singing of a hymn. There is a procession of gifts. The people who bring the gifts represent the congregation. The gifts, bread and wine, are presented to the priest. This gesture reminds us that the priest is offering and praying on behalf of the people.

At this part of the Mass, we should offer our heart, mind, will, and everything to God. Giving in the collection is a symbolic but very real way of giving ourselves. The contributions we make help to support the works of the Church.

Blessing of bread and wine

After the priest has received the bread and wine from the people, he prepares the chalice by pouring in wine mixed with water. This mixing of wine and water symbolizes the union of divinity and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. The priest also says prayers of blessing over the bread and over the chalice. These blessings are derived from ancient Jewish prayers said by those who celebrated the Sabbath.

The priest then quietly says two prayers that express humility and contrition. In the first one, he joins his hands, steps back slightly, and bows deeply saying, “Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite heart.” The priest then washes his hands and says the second prayer, “Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.”

Our sacrifice

The priest then invites the people to pray and the people respond, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good , and the good of all his Church.”

Pope John Paul II said, “these words are binding since they express the character of the entire Eucharistic liturgy and the fullness of its divine and ecclesial content.”

The priest concludes the Offertory rites with the Prayer over the Gifts.

Mass is a sacrifice. Going to Mass regularly trains us to give ourselves to God. Self-giving love is very edifying.

Many years ago, a non-Catholic lawyer had his office at the foot of a hill. Each morning, he saw a widow walking up the hill for Mass. One cold, icy morning, the lawyer saw the widow on her hands and knees crawling up the icy hill. As he watched, the lawyer's eyes were filled with tears. When he went home, he asked the servant girl who worked for his wife to get him books on Catholicism. He said, “I want to see what it is in that Church that would make a woman crawl up a hill on her hands and knees to get to it.” Due to the example of the widow, the whole family of the lawyer converted to Catholicism. We should be grateful for the opportunity to attend Mass.

When the Church was persecuted in Greenland in the sixteenth century, one Christmas night the Catholics gathered in a house. A man held an old corporal and said, “My dear friend, on this sacred linen the last Holy Mass was said in this country fifty years ago. I served that Mass. This holy cloth is all that remains to us of the holy sacrifice. On it rested the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Let us kneel down and thank God for letting us have at least this dear and precious relic. Let us beg Him to send us priests soon again, so we can have among us once more the sacred body and blood of our Lord.”

image

image

給天主愛的奉獻

最近, 我們慶祝了聖女亞加大、日本殉道聖人、和斯高拉諦加的瞻禮,他們都是因愛天主而奉獻了自己的生命。我們參與彌撒,也是與基督一起奉獻給天主聖父。現在讓我們談談彌撒中的「奉獻」。

奉獻禮

奉獻禮進行時,信眾藉聖歌一起祈禱。教友代表拿著麵餅酒水作為禮品,朝祭台前行,奉上給神父,這顯示神父將代表信眾向天主奉獻禮品和祈禱。

此刻,我們應該把自己的身心、意向及一切,奉獻給天主。另方面,有教友收集信眾團體的捐獻——金錢上的捐獻,亦是奉獻自己的一種表達,同時可以資助聖教會牧民的工作。

祝福麵餅酒水

神父接過麵餅酒水後,唸祝福麵餅的經文, 並把麵餅安放在祭台上; 然後把酒水混和在聖爵中——攙和酒水象徵耶穌基督天主性和人性的結合。神父接着唸祝福杯爵的經文。神父祝福麵餅酒水的經文,是修錄自古猶太人慶祝安息日的經文。

隨後神父合十雙手,稍作後退,躬身默唸「主,我們懷着謙遜和痛悔的心情,今天在祢面前,舉行祭祀,求祢悅納。」神父之後洗手,同時默唸「上主,求祢洗淨我的罪污,滌除我的愆尤。」這兩段經文均表達神父謙卑和痛悔之心。

我們的奉獻

然後,神父邀信眾一起祈禱,信眾回應「望上主從你的手中,收納這個聖祭,為讚美並光榮祂的聖名,也為我們和祂整個聖教會的益處。」

教宗若望保祿二世說:「這些經文是必需唸的,因為它們反映了整個感恩禮儀的性質, 也充份顯示出感恩祭的神聖的和教會的本質。」神父最後以「獻禮經」結束奉獻禮的部份。

「彌撒」其實是「祭獻」。經常參與彌撒,使我們習慣把自己獻給天主。自我奉獻的愛甚有啟迪性的:多年前有一位律師,他的事務所處於山麓下。每天早晨,他都看見一個寡婦步行到山上的聖堂參與彌撒。在一個冬季的早上,律師又看到那寡婦,不避低溫寒氣,仍到聖堂去。他看那寡婦在冰點下掙扎用手腳爬行上山,甚為感動,也奇怪聖堂內究竟有什麼吸引人的東西,令寡婦每早喫而不捨,遂决定親自探究。結果,律師帶同家人,都皈依受洗,成為天主和聖教會的兒女。

能參與彌撒是一種恩賜。十六世紀,天主教在格陵蘭Greenland遭到迫害。某聖誕夜,一些天主教教友在屋內聚在一起,有人展示一塊舊的聖體布(彌撒中用的九摺布),說:「親愛的朋友,這是一塊五十年前在此舉行最後一台彌撒用過的聖體布——曾盛載過耶穌基督的聖體聖血的布,是該台彌撒後碩果僅存的聖物。我們跪下,多謝天主讓我們能保存着這珍貴聖髑遺布,並求祂盡早派遣神父到來,得使基督的聖體聖血再臨在我們中間。」

This article was published at the February 15 issue of the BC Catholic newspaper. Please visit my personal website for my other articles for the Pax Sinica column.