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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Last week we concluded our series of questions discussing the Liturgy of the Word. Now we will proceed to think about the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where Christ is made truly present and becomes our food. But before we deal with the Liturgy itself, we will spend some time considering the Eucharistic vestments the priest wears during Mass.

Why do priests wear special dress when celebrating the Mass?
When a priest celebrates Mass, he is required to wear special dress, his vestments. These have their origins in the first centuries of Christianity and have evolved over time in a complicated way. Originally, they were the ordinary, secular attire of priests. The dress priests wore at the altar was the same as that worn in everyday life in the late Roman Empire. It seems that the custom of wearing special dress for Mass developed from priests saving newer and cleaner clothing for the Eucharistic celebration. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this style of dress was preserved for priests and the celebration of the sacraments, while the laity abandoned such styles. Hence, it is an ancient tradition that the priest wear special attire, fittingly decorated, as a powerful sign of reverence for the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Though various developments and permutations continued to take place, the form of priestly vestments was settled during the Middle Ages. The development ensured that the vestments they have a powerful symbolic function.

What is the symbolism of the Eucharistic vestments worn today?
Since the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent liturgical changes, the required Eucharistic vestments for the priest are:
 the alb, a long white tunic. The white linen symbolises the purity of heart of a priest. If the alb does not cover the collar of the priest's street dress, he should wear an amice (an oblong of white material with ties on two corners) under the alb to hide his collar. He ties the alb at the waist with a cincture (a length of rope) unless the cut of the alb does not require this. The amice traditionally represents the “helmet of salvation” (cf. Eph 6:17), and the cincture modesty and chastity.
 the stole, a long scarf-like vestment worn around the neck, over the alb. It symbolises the heavy yoke of Christ the priest carries, which Our Lord nevertheless makes light (cf. Mt 11:30). It is the mark of office for priests.
 the chasuble, the outer and chief Eucharistic vestment. Historically, it was like an enormous poncho covering the entire body. Today it takes various forms – the Gothic chasuble which drapes down to the wrists or the Roman chasuble which does not cover the arms. It’s colour corresponds with the liturgical season or feast of the day.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:58 am

Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Why do we have a sermon or ‘homily’?

The homily always follows the Gospel on Sundays and feast days. Through the readings God speaks to us about salvation. They provide us with spiritual nourishment. The homily helps us to understand and reflect on what we have heard, to “digest” this spiritual food. The homily is not meant to be a theological discourse, but is intended to educate and inspire us in living out our Christian vocation to holiness.

It must be given by a priest and be in deep harmony with Church teaching. This is because it is part of God’s sacramental communication with us. This does not mean that it will perfect! The priest is certainly not. It does mean that God will be speaking to us in a human, direct and definite manner. So listen out!

Why do we recite the Creed?

We recite the Creed after the homily. The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo meaning “I believe”. By reciting the Creed, we publicly show our personal belief in the truths of Christian faith. It is not just a list of theological statements – the Creed is prayer, in which we express to God our faith in the truths he has revealed to us.
Furthermore, the public recitation of the Creed by the entire community at Mass is a great expression of our unity in faith. It is worth considering carefully each clause of the Creed and not just reciting it like robots. The Creed also acts as a summary of the central points of our faith. By memorising it and reflecting on it, we can be certain that the faith we hold is the same faith handed to us from the Apostles and safeguarded by the teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church down the ages.

The form of the Creed used is often known as the Nicene Creed. This is because it was composed at the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD – it is a very ancient expression of Christian belief). However, it was revised at the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD) and small additions were made to the Latin version during the Middle Ages. It is this version which was handed on to us by the Church and the English we recite is a translation of the Latin.

What are the bidding prayers (also called the Prayer of the Faithful)?
After the Creed, the priest invites us to pray. The biddings (the word originally comes from the Old English word biddan, “to pray”) are then proclaimed, usually by a reader from the lectern. They are addressed to the congregation and ask our prayer for some special intentions. These intentions traditionally include the needs of the Pope and the Church, our nation, our local community, the living and the dead. At this point we, the faithful, communally ask God's help in these concerns.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 11:47 am