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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mass of the Catechumens: From the Collect to the Credo

Mass of the Catechumens: From the Collect to the Credo 

Dr. Remi Amelunxen

The last article looked at the Introibo to the Gloria in excelsis Deo. Here, we continue with the Mass of the Catechumens to the Credo, which closes the first part of the Holy Mass.




mass tridentine 
The Crucified Christ over the traditional altar
After the Gloria, the priest kisses the altar and turns to the congregation, extends his arms and says Dominus vobiscum (“the Lord be with you”), repeated frequently during the Mass. This is an ancient form of greeting expressing the wish that God be with them to give them the grace to pray well. Via the server, the congregation responds “Et cum spiritu tuo” (“and with thy spirit”), signifying the closeness between the Priest and the people.

The Priest, then, goes the Epistle side of the Altar and bows to the Crucifix. He intones the second Proper, the Collect. The Collect comes from the Latin coligere, which means “to bring things together”. They are called “collective” prayers because they bring together and sum up all the needs and intentions of the Church, both spiritual and temporal. Often more than one Collect is said.

Every Collect is divided into three parts: first the “invocation” to God, second the “petition” we desire; and third the “pleading” that we obtain what is asked. Nearly all of these prayers conclude with the words “Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum" (“through Jesus Christ Our Lord”). At these words the server answers “Amen" (so be it).

The Epistle, Gradual & Gospel

Now, we come to the Epistle (meaning letter), the third Proper in the Mass. In the first ages of Christianity, passages from the Prophets were read before the Holy Gospel and later, passages from the epistles of the Apostles. In the Roman liturgy today the Epistle varies, usually taken from the epistles of the Apostles and at times from the Old Testament.

The present order of the Epistles and Gospels was arranged by St. Jerome in the early 5th century and final changes were made by Pope St. Pius V in 1570. At the conclusion of the Epistle, the server says “Deo gratias" (Thanks be to God) as an expression of gratitude for the divine revelation.

The “Gradual,” the fourth Proper, is a Hebrew word meaning “Praise the Lord.” It is a psalm introduced by St. Gregory the Great at the beginning of the 7th century designed to epitomize the Epistle. The few verses invoked are masterpieces from a spiritual and literary standpoint. The Gradual expresses the truths that the Epistle should produce in our souls.

The Gradual itself changes according to the feasts and different seasons of the years. During Paschal time it is omitted and two other verses are said in its place. Like the Introit, the Gradual verses announce the purpose of the Mass, whether to honor a Saint, depict some sacred mystery of the faith, pray for departed souls or other intentions. It is followed by the Alleluia or, depending on the season, the Tract, which are verses taken from the psalms or the Old Testament.


reading of the gospel
The reading of the Gospel at a low Mass
On certain days when the joy of the Alleluia is prolonged or the sorrow and expression of penance in the Tract extended, a hymn called the “Sequence” is added. There are five Sequences on various feast days in the Missal - Easter Sunday (Victimae Paschali), Pentecost (Veni Sancte Spiritus), Corpus Christi (Lauda Sion), Feast of the Sorrowful Mother (Stabat Mater) and the Masses for the Departed (Dies Irae).

The Priest, then, goes to the center of the Altar, leaving the Missal open; raising his eyes to the Crucifix, he inclines profoundly keeping his hands joined. The acolyte, then, takes the Missal from the Epistle side to the left or Gospel side.

The Priest with bowed head at the center of the altar first reads from the center Altar card the “Munda cor meum,” asking God that his heart and lips may be purified so that he may worthily proclaim the holy Gospel. The allusion is to the Seraph that touched the lips of the Prophet Isaiah with the burning coal to purify him. Then, the priest asks the blessing of God with the “Jube Domine benedicere.”

munda cor meum

The Missal is carried from the Epistle side to the Gospel side to indicate that the light of Faith, having been rejected by the Jews was transferred to the Gentiles. The Gospel teaches the truest, most exalted, most vital doctrine concerning God and all things heavenly. It is also concerned with man and his destiny, the world and its final destruction.

The reading of the Gospel is always preceded by the words Dominus vobiscum (see below). This is to make the faithful aware that it is the Word of Christ himself that we are about to hear.

dominus vobiscum

The Priest makes the Sign of the Cross on the Missal, then, on his forehead, lips and breast to signify that the Holy Gospel be in our mind, that our lips proclaim the truths of our Faith and that our heart may live according to its precepts.

After reading the Gospel, the acolyte says “Laus tibi Christe," “Praise to thee Oh Christ,” an act of thanksgiving. The Priest, then, raises the Missal, kisses it and says, “Per evangelia dicta, deleantur nostra delicta" (by the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out).

The Epistle or Gospel are usually explained to the people when a sermon is given.

The Nicene Creed or Symbol

Having heard the Divine teaching of the Holy Gospel, the Priest in the center of the Altar extends, elevates and joins his hands, then, lowers them, bows to the Cross and recites the Nicene Creed, the final prayer in the Mass of the Catechumens. The object of the recitation of the Credo is to lead the Faithful to confess the Faith, since that Faith is based on the sacred text.

council of nicae
Constantine and Church fathers at the Council of Nicaea holding the Symbol
The Nicene Creed or Symbol is the profession of Faith as formulated at the first general council of Nicaea in 325 and further developed at the Council of Constantinople in 381. While the Apostles’ Creed contains all the truths of the faith, the Nicene Symbol expands on them, addressing the different heresies that arose in the early centuries of the Church.

For example, Arianism, the gravest threat to the nascent Church, challenged the uncreated divinity of Christ and his equality with the Father. Thus, the Nicene Creed affirmed that the Son of God is begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.

Likewise at Nicaea, the word Filioque was added to this phrase: Qui ex Patre Filioque procedit, to make the Procession very clear, combatting here the heretics who refused – and still refuse – to admit the truth that it is the Father, conjointly with the Son, who sends forth the Holy Ghost. Thus, this Symbol is recited to confess the Faith and also combat the heresies that emerged against the Faith.

The Credo is not always said at Holy Mass. The days on which it is are arranged in the liturgy according to mystery, doctrine and celebration or solemnity. It is said on all the festivals of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother; by reason of the doctrines of the Faith it is said on the feasts of the Apostles and Doctors of the Church; and by reason of celebration or solemnity, on the feasts of the first and second class and during octaves of feasts.

Credo Symbol

In reviewing parts of the Credo requiring action by the Priest are the following:

The Priest bows to the Cross at “Deum,” again at “Jesum Christum,” genuflects after “descendit de caelis,” and only rises after saying “et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factum est.” He bows at “simul adoratur” and makes the sign of the Cross at “et vitam venturi saeculi, Amen.” At the word “et”, the Priest touches his forehead, at “vitam” his breast, at “venturi” his left shoulder and “saeculi Amen.” his right shoulder.

This beautiful prayer of gratitude for the mysteries of our Faith, which acts as the sublime transition to the Mass of the Faithful, represents the end of the Mass of the Catechumens. 

A.b. Lefebvre (+1991) _Messe for the Feast of Christ the King at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet_1990.