Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Catholic Basics

Mike, our Director of Liturgy and Music, is putting together a worship aid for tomorrow. He was asked to put some short blurbs on why Catholics do what we do in the Mass for those who may not understand it fully. So, I gave him the following (extremely) brief explanations of some of the particulars we see in Catholic worship, which I thought might be useful to some of our readers. Enjoy!

Incense represents our prayers being offered to God in heaven. "From the angel’s hand the smoke of the incense went up before God, and with it the prayers of God’s people" (Rev. 8:3-5)

Holy Water is a reminder of our baptism and of our commitment to live a Christ-centered life. “And the priest shall take the holy water in an earthen vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.” (Num. 5:17)

The Sign of the Cross is also a reminder of our baptism, the Holy Trinity, and our identity in Christ. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).

We ask Mary and the Saints in heaven to pray for us, just as we would other Christian friends. The book of Revelation tells us of the Saints in heaven praying for us on earth. "the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5:8).

Catholics pray for those who have died bodily, not to achieve their salvation, but rather to speed the process of purification their souls undergo before entering heaven, if needed. Since “nothing unclean will enter” (Rev. 21:27) heaven and because of “sin that clings to us” (Heb 12:1), many souls will undergo this purification that Catholics call Purgatory.

All candles in the church are signs of Christ being the light of the world. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned" (Matt. 4:16)

Catholics kneel and genuflect as a sign of respect to the God whom we worship. “Eery knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God” (Rom 14:11)

We use Latin – a universal language of the church – as a sign of the universal nature of the Church. One language unites us all beyond our cultural boundaries.

The Eucharist is not just a symbol of Christ for Catholics. But, we believe it to be the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:55-56)

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