Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Mass: Did You Know ... ?

Did you know how early in history the Mass was recorded?  Of course we have the institution of the Eucharist there in the Last Supper narratives.  And we have the account from later in the day that first Easter, when Jesus (appearing incognito) met two disciples on the road to Emmaus and explained the Scripture to them (the first half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word) and then revealed Himself in the "breaking of the bread" (the second half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist).  But when do we first read of the Mass we know today with its Gospel reading and homily, petitions, monetary collection, etc.?  Would you believe 150 A.D.?  It's true.

St. Justin Martyr (writing from Rome) recorded it in his Apology to the Emporer Antoninus Pius:

On the day which is dedicated to the sun ... the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead ... all those who live in the cities or who dwell in the countryside gather in a common meeting, and for as long as there is time the Memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read. Then, when the reader has finished, the president verbally gives a warning and appeal for the imitation of these good examples.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers *in common and heartily for ourselves ... and for all others everywhere, so that we may be accounted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, to be found keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an eternal salvation. Having concluded we greet one another with a kiss*[1]
... Bread is brought forward along with wine and water, and the president likewise gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people call out their assent, saying the Amen. Then there is the distribution to each and the participation in the Eucharistic elements, which also are sent with the deacons to those who are absent. Those who are wealthy and who wish to do so, contribute whatever they themselves care to give; and the collection is placed with the president, who aids orphans and the widows, and those who through sickness or any other cause are in need…(Apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Chp.67).[2]

[1] Material within asterik is inserted from Chapter 65 of Justin’s Apology to the Emporer Antoninus Pius in Jurgens, William A., The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1 (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1970), p.55.
[2] Ibid, p.55-56.

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