Teaching Mass

Many years ago I did a series of Teaching Masses in Lent and they were a great success. So many people came up to me after to say that they had learned so much about the liturgy that they’d always wondered about but were too afraid to ask. I suppose we take it for granted that people will have gone through some sort of liturgical education at their Confirmation but of course some haven’t been confirmed, some are from different traditions, some did Confirmation classes over 60 years ago, and liturgy maybe wasn’t on the agenda. I love liturgy. I love the drama and theatre of it. And I love it when a congregations ‘gets it’ and responds enthusiastically.

Our 1982 liturgy may not be perfect (especially regarding inclusive language but let’s hope that is to come) but it also has a lot to redeem it. Today we started with the Preparation to the Collect of the Day. We spoke about preparation before the service begins; the preparation of the stage for the drama of the Eucharist to begin; that ‘Grace and peace to you…’ comes from Paul’s letters and requires an enthusiastic Amen, not a half-hearted one; the Collect for Purity which collects our thoughts; the Summary of the Law which we, at St Mark’s, say during Lent and Advent and was used to educate the masses in the Ten Commandments; the Confession to remember that our little personal stories are part of that larger narrative in which we come from God and go to God, and take up the journey again and again, and then the Absolution (think Prodigal Son and a father running helter skelter to hug his child to bits) and there was a bit of Brief Encounter in there too but you had to be there; the Kyrie as a response to a litany; the Gloria belonging to an ancient collection of non-Scriptural songs called ‘psalmi idiotici‘ (songs of simple people) which is omitted in Lent but sung extremely joyfully on Easter day; and finally the Collect of the Day which we actually say together.

There was even a hesitant round of applause at the end of it!  Of course, in all the excitement I forgot the Confession which we move to the later bit in Lent after the intercessions. Pride comes before a fall, right enough.

Next Sunday is our Family Service so I think we may look at the church building and the signs we make.  Think of it as a liturgical work-out. You might want to practise a few genuflections during the week to get yourself limbered up. No lycra necessary.


5 thoughts on “Teaching Mass

  1. What a great idea. We had a similar study session on the origins of the liturgy in Perth a couple of years ago, which I also found useful.

    Better 1982 than 1970… 😉

  2. It’s a brilliant idea, Ruth. So often it really is just assumed folks will automatically know what the point of each of the acts in the ‘play’ are about.
    Brief Encounter???!! You had steam trains in the sanctuary racing each other, I hope? That would have been tirribly tirribly thrilling.

    Although it’s not incl. lang. – tho’ easy enough to inclusivise ‘unclunkily’ – I always liked the flow of the ’82. And the underlying upbeat feel as comp. to the ’29 and ’70 – y’know the ones that are ‘I’m crap, I’m totally crap, I’m really really crap – worms are better ‘n me, like’.
    Think the ’82 gets a nice balance between being reminded of the holiness of God and our human failings, and that understanding that we are created in the image of the One who loves us, and the whole of creation, beyond our wildest imaginings.

  3. Quite. I wouldn’t even begin to do such a thing with the 1970.

    Brief Encounter (with voices):
    Husband: You have been a long way away.
    Laura: Yes
    Husband: Thank you for coming back to me.
    In the Absolution God says ‘Thank you for coming back to me.’

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