What is the first thing you see when you enter a church? Why do we sign ourselves when we enter the church? What is the significance of the number of candles lit at the altar during mass? What is the meaning of the word “Eucharist”? These were some of the questions Fr. Martin Arlando asked when he gave his formation on “The Mass Explained” to a crowd of more than 250 parishioners at the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang.
Fr. Martin started off the formation on the 28th January, 2015 by explaining that he would not be able to cover all aspects in the short space of two hours. He had prepared a total of 118 slides and would try to do his best in the given time. He began by drawing a comparison of the similarities of the Tent that housed the Tabernacle during ancient times with the design of the church today. The participants began to see the significance of the various fixtures and its correlation with the design of the Tent. They saw the central position of the tabernacle as the first thing to be seen on entering a church, the bronze Laver (used for cleansing by the priest), the candles on the altar to seven lampstands of ancient times (as the Word illuminates), the lighting of incense as a practice of Aaron every morning and evening in the Tent
Fr Martin then went on to explain the four parts that made up the Mass. He explained that all the seven sacraments are celebrated at mass in seven liturgical rites. Three of them are believed to impart a “sacramental character” on the recipient. The word “mass”comes from the Latin word Ite, missa est which means “Go you are sent forth” So at the mass we are commissioned to go forth and share the mass with others. The word “Eucharist” come from the Greek word meaning Thanksgiving. God saved us through his son’s sacrifice for which we give thanks.
In communion we show our unity as one church and as the one body of Christ. The meal is offered in thanksgiving. This will be celebrated the first time at CDM this year when we all come together for the Passover Seder Meal during Lent. He reminded those present that the Mass is not just a memorial but it brings a present reality of the past. We are all joined to this moment in the past as we offer ourselves with Jesus in the Mass. The mass can be interpreted in many ways. It is a sacrament of love, a sign for unity, a bond of charity and a paschal banquet.
In order to help us all remember the various parts of the Mass, Fr Martin asked the participants to liken the Mass to a meeting of old friends. We all decide to meet at a place (the Church). We greet one another (the Introductory and Gathering Rite). We apologize for having not meet up earlier (the Penitential Rite). We tell each other stories (the Liturgy of the Word). We bring gifts (the Offertory). We share a meal (the Liturgy of the Eucharist) and then we bid farewell (The Concluding Rite and Commissioning).
In between we do many things like we sign ourselves when enter church to remind ourselves of our baptismal vows. We genuflect or give a low bow when entering pews to recognize the presence of God in the tabernacle. We collect all the peoples’ prayers to offer to the Father (the Collect). We stand for the Word of God at the gospel but sit for the other readings. We profess our faith in the Nicene Creed which is a public profession our willingness to give our lives for one another just as Jesus did for us. We listen to the Eucharistic prayer offered up by our priest to the Father for us which is the longest prayer in the Mass. We a prayer of glory to God in the Doxology. We offer a Sign of Peace as an offer of reconciliation to one another. Finally the Mass ends with a Blessing and Dismissal where we are commissioned to carry the Mass to others.
Fr Martin acknowledged that he had to superficially cover many aspects of the mass due to time constrains. In order to help the parishioners better understand the Mass, all the 118 powerpoint slides of this formation has been posted on the CDM website (http:\\www.cdm.my) for their reference. In the feedback from this formation there was the general request for Fr to give a followup formation to explain in greater detail certain aspects of the mass. Some more knowledgeable parishioners remarked that this formation was an eye-opener of what they did not know about the Mass. The formation ended with fellowship at St Faustina Hall.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
16th February, 2015.