The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition

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by Donald Wuerl, Mike Aquilina

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An insightful and practical exploration of Catholicism’s most sacred tradition.
The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition is an engaging and authoritative guide to Catholicism’s most distinctive practice. And now, with the Church introducing revised language for the Mass, Catholics have a perfect opportunity to renew theirSee more details below


An insightful and practical exploration of Catholicism’s most sacred tradition.
The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition is an engaging and authoritative guide to Catholicism’s most distinctive practice. And now, with the Church introducing revised language for the Mass, Catholics have a perfect opportunity to renew their understanding of this beautiful and beloved celebration.
With eloquent prose and elegant black-and-white photography, bestselling authors Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina guide readers through the different parts of the Mass, from the entrance procession to the blessing and dismissal, capturing the deep meaning of elements that are at once ordinary and mysterious: bread and wine, water and candles, altar cloths and ceremonial books.
Step by step, they explain the specifics, such as the order of the Mass, the vessels used, the unique clothing worn, the prayers and responses, the postures and the gestures. Then they explore the rich historical, spiritual and theological background to each. Prayerful but practical, fact-filled but readable, The Mass prepares readers to participate more fully and appreciatively in the sacred rite at the heart of Catholic life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Here we find the Mass accurately and lovingly explained down the last prayer – indeed, the last gesture. Using excellent historical and biblical references as well as quotations from the Fathers of the Church, the authors lead the reader step by step into the great mystery of God’s love for us that is the Mass.”
– Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR

“There is genius in Catholicism and nothing demonstrates that more tangibly than the Mass. At the same time it is impossible to ignore the fact that millions of Catholics don't have such an appreciation for the Mass. Is it a big problem? Yes. Is there a simple solution to that big problem? Yes. If every Catholic in America would read this book I think it would be a great first step in our quest to engage disengaged Catholics and turn the tide for Catholicism in America.”
– Matthew Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Rediscover Catholicism and founder of
“This is an ingenious, deeply satisfying exploration of the Mass – its history, its elements and its meaning.  The authors blend the best of priestly and lay wisdom about the central act of Catholic worship into a volume that is simultaneously rich in detail, wonderfully readable in style, and a marvelous resource for nourishing one's faith.”
– Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia 

 “Excellent, inspiring, and practical. I recommend this book to everyone (particularly at this time of confusing press coverage.)”
– Fr. Michael Scanlan, Chancellor of Franciscan University
“It’s the ‘source and summit’ of our Christian life, so to understand, love, and appreciate the Mass is imperative for anybody serious about discipleship. This excellent book is a great place to start.”
– Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
The Mass: The Glory, The Mystery, The Tradition is an ideal introduction to all the aspects of the Mass.”
– Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., Editor-in-chief of Magnificat

“This is a book for all believers who want to enrich their knowledge, understanding and love for the Mass.”
– Most Reverened David A. Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburg

“What an inviting—and refreshing—guide to the Mass! Whether you are a Catholic or non-Catholic, a church-goer thirsty for a deeper understanding of the celebration you have attended so many times, or are simply curious about the Catholic Mass, this book is your passport to a new, deeper, richer experience with the Mass, and with Christ in the Eucharist.”
– Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus and the New York Times bestselling author of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Library Journal
Beginning with an explanation of the development of the Mass through history, Cardinal Wuerl (Archbishop of Washington, DC; The Catholic Way: Faith for Living Today) and Aquilina (Eternal Word Television Network personality; Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts) go through the text of the Mass step-by-step, from the sign of the cross to the ending amen, explaining the meaning behind the words and the gestures, taking special care to explain the changes coming in 2011. Directed primarily at Roman Catholics, the book presumes no previous knowledge and explains even the smallest elements of the Mass, so that it could be read profitably by non-Catholics seeking a clear explanation of the central rite of Catholicism. For those seeking a more scholarly study, there is Keith F. Pecklers's The Genius of the Roman Rite: On the Reception and Implementation of the New Missal. VERDICT Wuerl and Aquilina offer a well-written and easy-to-understand explanation of the Roman Catholic Mass, drawing on the text of the revised Roman Missal that will be used beginning in Advent 2011, so this will be of interest to all concerned readers.—Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ

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Product Details

The Crown Publishing Group
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Random House
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Read an Excerpt

The Mass Is What We Do

The Mass is what Catholics do. It’s the heart of Catholic life, for individuals and for the community.

A Catholic may fill up hours with devotional prayers and volunteer service, public witness, and almsgiving.

A parish may sponsor a school and a soup kitchen, a scouting troop and several Bible study groups.

The Mass, however, is the heart that gives life to all of it. Our tradition describes the Mass beautifully as “the source and summit of the whole Christian life.” Catholicism means many things to the world. It has inspired the art and architecture of the great masters. Our sanctuaries have echoed with masterworks of music. Our saints have served the poorest of the poor. Yet all these things we trace back to a single source: the Mass.

Catholics think of the Mass as synonymous with the parish church. Whether we say “I went to church” or “I went to Mass,” we mean the same thing. Even if we do many other things at our church, the Mass is what the building was made for. To “go to church” is to go to Mass. This is true for every Catholic. When the pope travels to distant lands, the news media pay close attention— and the world watches as he simply does what Catholics do: he celebrates
Mass, sometimes for a congregation of hundreds of thousands of people.

Yet such a large-scale event is no greater than the usual Mass in an ordinary parish. It is the same, in its essence, as a Mass that a military chaplain offers on the hood of a Jeep during a lull in a battle.

The Mass is the most familiar and recognizable element of the Catholic faith; and still it is also the most enigmatic. In the Mass we see postures, gestures, and items of clothing that would seem out of place anywhere else. We hear words that hint at deep and ancient mysteries. Even the more familiar words sometimes mean something quite different from their meaning in ordinary usage.

The words, the vestments, and the gestures of the Mass took their origins in times long past. Nevertheless, they hold infinite meaning for Catholics today. For we believe that the Son of God took flesh and became man in a particular time and place, and that he used the language and culture of that time and place to convey truths that speak to every age and nation. Jesus insisted on this point; and so, “on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23–26).

He said, “Do this,” and so this — the Mass — is what we Catholics do.

We find the experience more rewarding, however, when we understand the Mass as we pray it. And that’s the reason for this book.

In the chapters that follow, we’ll look at all the elements that go together to make up a typical Mass. We’ll define some basic terms. We’ll outline the parts of the ritual. We’ll look at each and every part from up close. We’ll examine the prayers. We’ll discuss the vessels and the vestments used in the ritual. We’ll speak a bit about doctrine. We’ll trace some prayers and practices back to their historical and biblical roots. We’ll take a slow walk through the Mass, stopping to see the sights along the way.

It’s not a very original idea, we acknowledge. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem and Saint Ambrose of Milan produced such books in the fourth century. Great saints have followed suit. In the last century, many more such books appeared, from authors as great as Monsignor Ronald Knox and Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Why do Catholics need new books to go over the same ground? Saint Augustine addressed God as a truth “ever ancient and ever new.” The prayers and signs do come to us from venerable antiquity, and they remain basically the same. Yet some details change, as the rites make their home in different times and cultures. We’ve changed, and so our experience of the Mass has changed. It’s time for us to take a fresh look, from where we sit now—and from where we stand and kneel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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