Q: Fr. McClane, in the Gospel of Mark (1:15) Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” How was the gospel known before it was written?
A: The word “gospel” means good news. So when Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” he is saying “repent and believe in the good news.” And the good news is this, that: “God infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.” (CCC 1) Later, the written account of the life of Jesus, the good news, was called the Gospel.
Q: Why do we cross our forehead, lips, and heart? To keep the Lord in our thoughts, hearts and to speak of our lord? Really do not remember when was taught and when did this start… do not think we did this when I was a child…. Rather old now!
A: When the Gospel is about to be read, the priest or deacon says: ‘A reading from the Gospel according to ____.’ The congregation then responds, ‘Glory to You O Lord,’ making the Sign of the Cross with their thumb over their forehead, lips, and heart.
This gesture of signing ourselves with the Cross is a way of praying, “May the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.” It is said prior to the reading of the Gospel as a way of prayerfully inviting Christ to come to us in these ways as His sacred Word is proclaimed. This outward gesture made with our bodies points to an inward prayer that is happening in our hearts. After all, the hearing of the Gospel must change our minds, it must be proclaimed by our lips, and it must affect our hearts. By our hearts, we especially mean our wills, affections, emotions, and passions. This tradition goes back as early as the ninth century when the faithful were making the Sign of the Cross on their forehead and heart at the reading of the Gospel. Then, in the 11th century, we find the deacon and the faithful making the Sign of the Cross on the forehead, mouth, and heart at the reading of the Gospel. This gesture has been incorporated into the Roman Missal that we use today.
Q: How long after we consume the Host and/or Precious Blood does the real presence of Jesus stay with us? In other words, how long before the bread and wine are no longer bread and wine?
A: We had a question similar to this not long ago but the answer is worth repeating. The Host (the Eucharistic species of bread) remains for about 15 minutes after reception during communion. This is based on the biology of the digestive system. It also reflects the Catechism’s statement that the presence of Christ “endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1377). This is why many saints have recommended offering 15 minutes of prayer after receiving the Eucharist as a thanksgiving to God. This quiet time allows the soul to savor the presence of God and have a true “heart-to-heart” with Jesus who is more than just with us but who is truly within us. Here is a nice article about this topic: https://aleteia.org/2017/05/17/how-long-is-jesus-present-in-the-eucharist-after-weve-received-communion/
Q: Here are two related questions on the Creed that we say during Mass: Why do we say the Apostle’s Creed and not the Nicene Creed which proves a more in-depth understanding of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s life and work? Is there a reason why during Lent and the Easter season we say the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed the remainder of the year?
A: Both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, are structured on the fundamental belief in the Trinity and the "work" proper to each of the three Persons: the Father and creation; the Son and redemption; and the Holy Spirit and sanctification. Both Creeds also capture the course of salvation history as initiated by the Father, culminating in Jesus, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, as well as the redemptive mission and Paschal Mystery of our Lord in the Age of the Church. The Apostles Creed is attributed to the teaching of the Apostles. An ancient tradition held that on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles composed this Creed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, each apostle wrote one of the twelve articles of faith expressed in the Creed. On the other hand, the Nicene Creed was produced by the Council of Nicaea I (325) which was called to combat the heresy of Arius, who basically denied the divinity of Christ. The Council wanted to teach very clearly that Jesus Christ is "consubstantial" or "one in Being" with the Father, sharing the same divine nature; that He is begotten, not made or created; and that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through her, Jesus Christ, true God, became also true man. The creed written at Nicaea was later expanded to include the teachings on the divinity of the Holy Spirit. It is through both of these creeds that the faith has been preserved, guarded, and handed on to the next generation. Here at Holy Eucharist, we have had a tradition of saying the Apostle’s Creed during Lent and Advent and Nicene Creed during the rest of the liturgical seasons.
Q: Why don’t we kneel during the Liturgy of the Eucharist?
A: Here at Holy Eucharist, we do not have pews with kneelers because the designers of the church wanted chairs to allow flexibility in the way the Worship Space was used. At the time of construction, Hoffmann Hall did not exist yet, and the designers wanted the ability to clear out or move around chairs for non-liturgical community events. Therefore, we have a tradition of standing during the consecration. If you would like to kneel during consecration, you may do so. However, as I have said in answers to previous questions about liturgical furnishings, I am open to new possibilities, and we will continue to evaluate our sacred space and look for ways we can worship God and serve one another even better.
Q: In response to your answer about the faithful having full, conscious and active participation in the Mass, do you feel that saying the rosary during the Mass is a good idea? Another priest in the Monitor said that it takes away from your full participation in Mass.
A: While the rosary is an excellent devotion, the Mass deserves our full focus and attention. It is important to pay attention and respond in prayer during Mass so that we can remain focused, so that our mind, heart, and body are all united in our participation. The Mystical Body of Christ is the one family of the faithful gathered together in Christ so it is important to pray as a family, all participating together in unison in our worship during Mass. The better time to pray the rosary is before or after the Mass.
Q: Why do we have to go to Mass on Sundays?
A: Sunday is a holy day because Jesus made it holy by His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday, and the Holy Spirit made it holy by descending from Heaven on the Church on Pentecost Sunday. From the beginning of the Church, Sunday has been designated “The Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). By her authority, the Church has made every Sunday a day of obligation to attend Mass as well as a few other liturgically important days of the year such as All Saint’s Day and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Attending Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation is a grave obligation unless there is a serious reason for being unable to attend.
Q: What is the significance of the large candle that sits near the Baptismal Font?
A: The paschal candle — blessed once a year during Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday, remains lit in sanctuary throughout Easter season. During the rest of the year, it is kept near the Baptismal Font and then is lit during Baptisms. It symbolizes the risen Jesus, and reminds us that He is our Light. A small baptismal candle is lit from the paschal candle during Baptisms and given to the one being baptized.
Q: Why don’t all Christian denominations celebrate the Mass?
A: The divinely revealed truths of the Mass and the Eucharist have remained unchanged throughout human history, whether all have believed in them or not. From the beginning, all Christians celebrated in common the Mass and believed in the Eucharist until Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church in 1517. By the year 1600, there were over two hundred Protestant interpretations of Christ’s words, “This is my Body…this is my Blood.” Even today, Protestants do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ, although some believe in some form of presence in communion. However, they do not celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass with the Catholic understanding of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation means that through the priest’s words of consecration, the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Q: Where does the Mass come from?
A: Jesus Christ, who is the God-Man, revealed the Mass at the Last Supper, before He died on the Cross, to redeem the world from sin and death. He instituted the Mass and the Eucharist to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross – to be continued throughout
the ages until the end of time, as He said,
“Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Q: Why are faith, grace and participation so important in Mass?
A: The Church calls for the faithful to have “full conscious and active participation” in the Mass. Only those who believe, with faith, in the truths of the Mass can benefit most fully from the grace and the fruits of the Mass.
Q: My children are always asking why the church uses incense. When Bishop O’Connell was using the incense on a chain to push it towards the congregation at your installation mass, my children asked once again…”Why?” I have no idea what the official reasoning is, just that the church has always done this. Any insight to pass along to curious little ones?
A: First, it’s wonderful that your children are curious about the Mass and asking questions on the traditions of the celebration. Second, it’s equally wonderful that you, as their parent, are seeking the answer for both of you. We definitely don’t always have the answer to every question, but we can try to seek it out. As for your question, there isn’t a solid answer as well. The use of incense has been around in cultures predating the time of Jesus on Earth. The Lord instructed Moses to build a golden altar for the burning of incense (cf. Exodus 30:1-10), which was placed in front of the veil to the entrance of the meeting tent where the ark of the covenant was kept.
As for the Mass, we can’t put a specific time when it was introduced into our Mass or other liturgical rites. At the time of the early Church, the Jews continued to use incense in their own Temple rituals, so it would be safe to conclude that the Christians would have adapted its usage for their own rituals, and in Catholic history, it’s been documented as being used for centuries.
With that being said, we don’t just incense for historical reasons. There are a few symbolic reasons for incensing. First, it purifies and sanctifies (blesses). Per the Roman Missal, the book that contains liturgical prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Mass, incensing can be used during many specific times of the Mass to include over the people, as your family witnessed, or for other liturgical rites.
Secondly, the smoke can also symbolize the prayers of the faithful drifting up to heaven: like Psalm 141 verse 2 says, “let my prayer be incense before you, my uplifted hands an evening offering.” Lastly, incense also creates the ambiance of heaven. It adds a sense of solemnity and mystery to the Mass. The visual imagery of the smoke and the smell remind us of the transcendence of the Mass which links heaven with earth, and allow us to enter into the presence of God.
Q: When a Bishop or Cardinal are involved with the Mass as with your installation Mass, they only wear the miter when moving around in the Worship space and during the Eucharistic part of the Mass they also remove their skull cap. What is the significance of this?
A: A bishop acts in different roles during the liturgy and so he will wear or use different things to signify his role. When the Bishop acts as Bishop, the miter (the tall, white pointed hat) and crosier (crook) signify his governing and teaching office. The miter is worn when when the bishop is seated; when he gives the homily, when he greets the people, addresses them, or gives the invitation to prayer; when he gives a solemn blessing to the people; when he confers a sacrament; and when he is walking in procession. The bishop wears his zucchetto, or skullcap, under the miter. Both the miter and zucchetto are removed the when acting as a priest during the liturgy so that the bishop’s head is uncovered. In 1 Corinthians 11:4, St. Paul says men are to remove their hats at prayer…this continues to this day. This is why men remove their hats as they enter a church. Why all of this fuss over hats? The Catholic Church is a visible church. Where the bishop is, there is the Church, and the miter makes the presence of the bishop clear. It’s a symbol of his authority as a bishop which is an enduring office instituted by Christ himself to teach, sanctify, and govern.