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Your questions answered on ‘The Mass: The High Point of Christian Worship’

The third installment of ‘The Mass: The High Point of Christian Worship’ of the Archdiocese’s Know Your Faith series concluded with a Question-and-Answer segment Monday, February 21 facilitated by Msgr Michael de Verteuil, Chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.

The series has been ongoing for two years via Facebook live & Youtube

Moderator and Head of Pastoral Planning and Development, Gary Tagallie commented that a lot of time is spent on the Liturgy of the Word and a shorter time on the Eucharist. Responding to this, Msgr de Verteuil asserted that the Word must not overshadow the Eucharist.

He explained, “The Liturgy of the Word leads to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but it’s an important part also… and we can’t say this is more important than that. You have to see it as part of something and not something on its own.”

According to Msgr de Verteuil, the homily can vary. “There are some occasions when the Liturgy of the Word goes on for a very long time. I remember going to one, when the readings were drawn out…they were all acted out…. It’s the part that people will remember and enjoy depending on the preaching. People comment on a good homily…they never say a good Eucharistic prayer….” He observed, “For example, somebody said ‘Come to this Mass, we have dynamic priests’…but what about the rest of the Mass…is there any worth?” The question of ‘how long should a homily be?’ followed. Msgr de Verteuil said that the US bishops in a document, outlined 10 to 12 minutes.

Pope Francis said homilies at Sunday Mass should not go beyond 10 minutes. He commented, “There are others who say ‘What?’ I know in some Caribbean countries which shall remain nameless, if you don’t give a 40-minute homily, you don’t get a collection at all…they expect to get their money’s worth…”

Responding to an observance by one viewer of “a lot of practices” that has crept into the Mass over time, such as genuflecting and making the Sign of the Cross simultaneously and raising hands during the Gloria acclamation, Msgr de Verteuil underscored, “Some people have their own acts of piety. And it shouldn’t bother us.” Theoretically speaking, “you shouldn’t do that”, he said, commenting on the first act, “But that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with it.” He explained, “When you genuflect, what’s your focus? Your focus is God.You’re genuflecting in the presence of the Holy. So, you’re giving God a certain worship and making the Sign of Cross at the same time is asking for a blessing of yourself…. I don’t think anybody is going to hell because of it,” he said. He said the Church tells us if the tabernacle is in the sanctuary, you genuflect, if it is not, you bow. On raising hands during the Gloria, Msgr de Verteuil stated, “this is a difficult one because the Church says nothing about it.”

He presumed that the raising of hands during the Gloria may be influenced by the charismatic influence of raising hands in praise. Ultimately, he asserted “There’s nothing I can find that says do not raise your hands during the Gloria; there’s nothing I can find that says raise your hands during the Gloria.” Overall, he said Catholics should approach the Mass in different ways, in a spirit of joy, that faithful are gathered in an encounter with God; in reverence, in recognition of the representation of the sacred meal of Jesus’ “and we should also approach it with a recognition of who we are, the people of God”.

One frequently asked question, ‘Why do we celebrate Mass on Sunday?’, is a “very complicated question”, Msgr de Verteuil said. He explained that the Jews celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday, and Jesus celebrated the Sabbath at the synagogue. “Along the lines somewhere, and we still don’t know exactly when, but it begins in scripture, we see things happening on the first day of the week, which is Sunday—the Resurrection of Jesus, the sending forth of the Holy Spirit …. we read in Revelations 1, John receives his revelation the first day of the week… in Acts of the Apostles, they were praying on the first day of the week…” Because of Jesus’ Resurrection, the first day of the week, Sunday, took on a particularly important place in Christian practice.

It wasn’t until around 200 or 300 years ago that “it came to be fully on the first day of the week”, Msgr de Verteuil said