The Sunday Mass Illustrated
If you just want to look at the pictures you can skip the introduction – but it helps to make sense of what you are looking at.
In the life of the Apostolic Church, it would have been the practice of Jewish people, who had become Christians, to attend the normal Sabbath services, which began on began on Friday night and concluded on the Saturday evening. These synagogue services comprised of prayer, psalms, readings, sermon, intercessions and a final blessing. After attending the Saturday night service, Christians would gather for the ‘Breaking of Bread’, the first of many names for the Mass. We see this pattern described by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home (2:46). This may seem odd to us, as we are used to Mass being on Sunday morning. However, for Jewish people the new day began at sunset, not midnight. As they left the Sabbath evening synagogue service and darkness was falling, the Lord’s Day had arrived.
After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans, Jewish Christians were excommunicated from the synagogues. Now, in their homes, they combined the synagogue service to the Breaking of Bread service, and the basic structure of the Mass was created and remains with us to this day:
- Liturgy of the Word (former synagogue service).
- Liturgy of the Altar (the Breaking of Bread).
Over time, and especially after the Emperor Constantine allowed the Church to openly practice its faith and worship AD 312, the worship of the Church could now take place in public buildings and additional material was added. By the time we reach the life of Saint Benedict (480 AD – 21 March 547and Pope Gregory the Great AD 590 – 604, the final shape of the Mass was formed:
- Introductory Rites
- LITURGY OF THE WORD
- LITURGY OF THE ALTAR
- Concluding Rites.
Luke implies that the primitive form of the Mass was a daily event, and also in the life of Gregory the Great. This gave rise to different forms of the celebration of Mass.
- Sundays: a full sung service, in which everything was sung – prayers, readings, blessings. The service would be presided over by a priest or bishop and assisted by a deacon and subdeacons. Later this would be described as a Missa Solemnis – Solemn High Mass and would take place in cathedrals and great churches.
- In parishes on Sunday, were resources were slender, there may be just a priest and deacon and the service was less elaborate but still sung and be known as a Missa Cantata – Sung Mass.
- In small chapels and on weekdays the service was not sung and known as Missa Lecta – Read Mass. It is also known as a Low Mass, meaning Simple Mass. Such a service would be just a priest and a small congregation, and probably a server to assist.
At Morningside, as there is no deacons, we have a Sung Mass on Sundays and a Low Mass on weekdays.
In the following photographs, taken over several different services, are divided up into the sections dating from the time of Gregory the Great.