Last fall, I wrote about black Catholics in the United States.
I touched on the topic of lack of black Catholics and how there is an immense need for African-Americans to be evangelized in America.
This time, I will uncover an issue that’s fundamental to, I think, reaching black Christians in Protestant denominations which is the Holy Mass.
If black Protestants have a liturgy, it certainly isn’t comparable to the Mass. If anything, the typical Sunday service for black Christians that I’ve witnessed consisted of 1) intense praise and worship songs which is really a multi hour-long event in which the choir sings contemporary songs, gospel, or historical gospel music 2) communal prayer 3) sermon 4) testimonies about the work God is doing.
All these things are noble and great, but before I converted to Catholicism, what mattered most is historical continuity. What prompted me to even begin a “Christian quest” was the question of how did the earliest Christians worship.
To me, the average worship service I saw seemed detached from the original or early church form of worship.
In my quest, I found various liturgies like the African American Episcopal Church or Anglican church, but I was bombarded with criticism that these were too theologically “liberal” or not in line with Christian history (Catholic friend told me this).
Later on, I would read excerpts from Justin Martyr, a second-century theologian, about the layout of the liturgy that is highly identical to the Mass with a focus on the Eucharist.
After reading his testimony about the central act of worship, I was convinced something like this existed.
It was the Mass!
The Mass is the form of worship that cemented the Church then and what continues today.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has two parts, Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Liturgy of the Word is the direct reading of Sacred Scripture to the people.
If the Bible is the Word of God then literally, Jesus Christ, who is the Word made flesh, speaks to us.
After the first two readings, we proclaim “Thanks be to God.”
We stand to receive the words of Christ and utter “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”
Through an Old Testament, epistle, and Gospel reading, we’re admonished to imitate the call of holiness, grow in Christian faith, and prepare our minds for the partaking of the Eucharist.
More than often, the Old Testament and New Testament readings show the divine plan of salvation being prepared long before Christ which shows that the Bible has of the unified link of salvation.
Then the priest or deacon opens up the readings to convey the meaning called a homily. Sometimes, the homilies can appeal to the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church), Tradition (oral transmission of the deposit of faith entrusted to the apostles and to their successors), early church writings, commentary from an early church Fathers, or commentary from the Saints.
All of these sources help the listeners grow closer toward an intimate relationship with Jesus that focuses on holiness.
This is different than a Sunday sermon where a minister gives their opinion to educate their congregation or teach them a life-application skill.
In contrast, the homily helps the hearer be prepared to enter into the mystery of the Eucharist so that while bearing the true and substantial presence of Jesus, they can be his witness to the world when the Mass has ended.
Yes, with any form of teaching, sometimes it’s dull and dry but at the end of the day, the Word of God has been proclaimed for our betterment.
The Liturgy of the Word is a unique experience. It’s where the Church carries on the mission of proclaiming the amazing name of Jesus to nourish the faithful.
Next time, I will address the Liturgy of the Eucharist and how central the Lord’s Supper is to our faith!
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