A Biblical Walk through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy






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Publication: Pastoral Music
Author: Challancin, James
Date published: September 1, 2011

A Biblical Walk through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy Edward Sri. Ascension Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-935940-00-5. 157 pages, paperback, $12.99.Three DVD set, $74.95. Leader's Guide, ISBN: 978-1-935940-03-6. 51 pages, $ 8.95. Student Workbook ISBN: 978-1-935940-01-2. 36 pages, $7.95. Starter Pack (including one each of all of the above), $99.95.

Solid catechesis that enlivens and deepens our entering into the Mass awaits users of A Biblical Walk through the Mass. For each part of the Mass, Edward Sri explains what power it could have for worshipers, shows its place in the greater tradition of the liturgy, and develops wide-ranging scriptural foundations for the part. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal is used frequently, as are the Catechism of the Catholic Church and many of the writings of Blessed John Paul II.

Sri does it all in very short chapters. The book is designed for "people in the pew." His use of Scripture should make this tool especially attractive. Scripture study is already enjoying renewed popularity among those who want to know their faith better and be more actively involved in the Church.

The translation changes of the Mass texts are clearly explained in the places where they occur. Sri shows them to be part of bringing the Mass more deeply into the hearts of the worshipers. He does not pursue the controversies. This is a very pastoral book.

One of the places where Sri is at his best is his discussion of "The Lord be with you." It is not an ordinary greeting, he affirms, not something to be replaced by "Good morning" or the like. Instead it is scriptural and conveys the presence of Jesus within the community of believers. Then he presents Old Testament individuals, like Moses, from whom God seemingly asked impossible missions. They were always reassured with the promise that God would be with them.

Chapter 11, "The Creed," is also a gem. This priest, ordained and ministering for forty-three years, still found new and exciting insights about our confessing the creed in the Mass.

The book has a brief introduction: "What is the Mass?" Here Sri discusses "The Mass as Sacrifice," "The Real Presence of Jesus," "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "Holy Communion." The remaining chapters take up the individual parts the Mass.

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" reflects on the abiding presence of Christ in the reserved Blessed Sacrament. Sri begins with Matthew 1:23, then notes how Catholic churches always have a sacred space with a tabernacle for the reserved Sacrament. He concludes the brief discussion with quotes from St. Alphonsus Liguori and Blessed John Paul II praising the excellence of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and the devotion of Eucharistic adoration.

To make the material very accessible for parish catechesis, a set of three DVDs presents the material in four forty-minute sessions. There are a leader's guide and a student workbook to go along with the DVDs. A Biblical Walk through the Mass is a resource of The Great Adventure Bible Study Program. It uses the same techniques of The Great Adventure that have proved so effective in parish Bible study groups.

There are a few things missing that one would have wished were included in the discussions. The four parts of the Mass are only sketchily stitched together. It is not shown how one builds on the other. Nor is there any indication that the entire celebration is directed toward the moment of Communion (Catechism of ihe Catholic Church, 1382). Sri quotes this article of the Catechism in his introductory chapter, but his discussion of it moves in other directions.

As a result, the "The Real Presence of Christ" in the introductory chapter does not pursue links with Communion. The discussion seems to leave the Real Presence as sort of an icon-object solely for worship. It is not clear that Christ becomes mainly present so that he might intimately unite himself with us in Holy Communion.

Likewise, nothing is said of how Communion builds the Body of Christ, the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1396). He presents Communion entirely as our personal union with Christ. How that unity joins us to one another, forming the Church, is not explored.

These two aspects are part of the greater, recovered tradition of the Eucharist. Unfortunately, they are not yet well engrained in popular catechesis.

Aside from wanting more, I can affirm that what is given is solid and inspirational. This reviewer intends to use A Biblical Walk as refresher sessions for the parish lectors and the extraordinary ministers of Communion. It is also going to be the core of a fall parish blitz using the introduction of the new Missal as an opportunity to reinvigorate our Eucharistic celebrations.

The book concludes with a very useful index.

James Challancin

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