Father Francisco Nahoi gave his class on the New Liturgy on Wednesday October 19, of this year. In this class, given in Rhegini Hall at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, Father began by discussing the different parts of Mass. He also discussed what separates Ordinary Mass from Extraordinary Mass. One of main things learned is that the terms, “High Mass, Low Mass, and Solemn Mass only refer to Extraordinary Mass.
One of the first questions presented was the role of Kavanah in Mass. Father Francisco pointed out that our Catholic Mass owes its origins to the structure of the temple liturgy and the 24 Levites who presided over the Jewish Liturgy at the time of the second temple period.
Examples of Introit Psalms are Psalm 15 and Psalm 24. These Psalms repeat the theme, “Who may ascend into the mountain of the Personal Name? Who may stand in His Dedicated place?” Each Psalm goes on to answer that question. Other examples are the Shir HaMa’aloth, or the Songs of Ascent, Psalms 120-134, which people sang on their way from their villages to the Jerusalem Temple. They are now song in preparation for Kavanah and Mass.
Father pointed out that we can see examples of the Jewish Liturgy as it comes into use in Christian Liturgy in the Book of Revelations. One key example of this is Revelations 4. Our Holy, Holy, Holy is found in Revelations 4 as part of the Divine Liturgy of St. John, writer of Revelations.
We see the importance of ascending to the mountain. This mountain is at once Mt. Horeb/Mt. Sword, which Torah also calls Mt. Sinai/Mt. Sinai/Mt. Bush/ for the burning bush, Mt. Mariah, which is one of the seven mountains of Jerusalem, and the Jewish Temple. The mountain refers to where the Romans sacrificed Jesus, and therefore the Mass. That is why the major change coming to the new Mass is song.
As Father Francisco Nahoi discussed the parts of our Catholic Mass, he made it clear, the major change coming to Mass is that we will be singing. St. Augustine related, “Qui bene cantat, bis orat, He who sings well, prays twice.” Sursum corda et Totum dependeat, lift up your hearts and the whole world depends on it. This is because, “Ubi spiritus est cantus est.” “Where there is spirit there is song.”
In Father’s presentation, we discussed the meaning of prayer. The Mass is prayer. We discussed three words for prayer, תְּפִלּה Tefillah, which is Hebrew along with δέομαι, and προσεύχομαι, both of which are in Middle Greek. The Greek middle voice shows the subject participating in the results of the verbal action. The middle form of the verb can be translated as “the performer of the action acting upon himself.” One example is washing. We wash ourselves.
The Artscroll Seder relates, “Tefillah gives us an insight into the Torah’s concept of prayer. The root is “פִלּלּ,” to decide. Prayer is the soul’s yearning to define what truly matters.” In confession, we sit down with the priest and relate our faults. The priest gives advice and counsel on how to live our lives better in the future. Confession is God, through the priest, praying, working on the person confessing to improve that person’s life.
In the same manner, Mass is the congregation ascending to the mountain of God to stand before God to decide what is important in life and how to lead lives better in the future.
Through song, we pray twice, we strive to make our Mass experience more real. Through this we make it easier to arrive at Kavanah. Through Kavanah, God, Blessed be he, and if he wills, will descend in the Epiclesis and we will directly experience God’s presence, his Shekinah.
A student in the class related that Father can give homilies on the Physical Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If we do not feel this Kavanah, the Shekinah, Father is wasting his breath. If we do feel this Shekinah, this presence, no homilies are necessary. When the Protestants come up with their arguments against the Physical Presence, all we have to say is, “I just felt Jesus’ Presence at Mass on Sunday.” There is no rebuttal to this.
That is why the major change coming to the Mass is that we will sing it. It is not that Father likes to sing, but that we need to create the full experience of the mountain, creating a three dimensional experience of that mountain in liturgical space. The other changes to the Mass are largely cosmetic, designed to better translate the Latin Mass into English. This change brings us back to the Mass as Jesus, St. John, and the apostles understood Mass, the Jewish liturgy as practiced in the first century, and transformed by the body and blood of Jesus Christ.