Session 5 of Altaration was a true revelation of the fact that all the practices observed in the Catholic church are intentional. I think the most beautiful aspect of our faith is the manner in which it is symbolised and our ability to identify with each act or tradition, universally.
The session offered answers to many questions often asked by Catholic and non-Catholics alike ranging from why we genuflect to what influences the clergy’s choice of clothing and significance of colours during the various liturgical seasons. The significance of common acts during mass such as the washing of hands by the priest during the offertory (lavabo) and exchanging the sign of peace (formerly kiss of peace) were explored.
It was also phenomenal to directly associate some of our mass responses to incidents that occurred in the Bible. A prime example can be seen in the response we give to the words
“Behold the Lamb of God…”
when the Priest holds up the consecrated host. We respond with
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”.
These words were culled from the Centurion in Matthew 8:8 who realised that Jesus Christ was the true authority and had faith that by His word alone, his servant will be healed. In the same way, we believe that by receiving the body of Jesus Christ- the sacrificial lamb that died for the remission of our sins, we are feeding our souls and will be healed of spiritual “ailments”. To understand the symbolism of the whole mass and worship in this way is to repeat history as God’s people because the BIBLE represents our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth! For more on what else we say at mass from the Bible click here.
Thoughts of a Chief Shepherd
The Archbishop of Lagos, Most Reverend Alfred Adewale Martins, graced us with his presence, literally! He expressed that the manner in which we fellowship is instrumental to promulgating a vibrant future when sharing our faith. Doing this on a regular basis will result in an inevitable growth of our lives’ purpose as God made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next world. Indeed, the title of the series we are following, Altaration, is a play on the words ‘Altar’ and ‘Alteration’ where the focus lays on enlightening how we perceive our mode of Catholic worship and developing a greater understanding of the Mass and Sacraments while deepening our personal relationship with God.
Watching how deliberately the mass was broken down to us through session 5 of the Altaration video made His Grace deeply appreciate the intricacies of his vocation. In particular, he said that after celebrating mass for 33 years, one may assimilate a zombie stance, so being reminded of the basics is ideal. He perceived the video to be very helpful in recognising the value of mass and resonated that being “let loose” after mass to anxiously share the Gospel with friends and family is a clear indication of what we ought to be doing.
As you can imagine, some pressing questions were put forward to His Grace by the most inquisitive of the group. These answers came from years of knowledge and experience; read through and learn something new!
Q: Why do we still use the expression “lamb of God”?
A: We still use this expression because Jesus Christ represents the sacrificial lamb of God without blemish referred to in the old testament. These prophecies paved a way for fulfilment in the New testament as Jesus was the perfect sacrifice provided by God for the redemption of His people. In the New Testament, the expression is specifically used by John the Baptist to describe Jesus before His baptism in the Jordan (John 1:29).
Q: If a host drops during Holy Communion, what does the Priest do?
A: The communion plate is also held out by a mass server during the distribution to guard it from dropping on the floor. As a last resort, the Priest is to pick the host and purify the area where it dropped.
Q: Why do we sit during the 1st and 2nd Readings and stand during the Gospel reading?
A: The Old testament readings are given their due position but readings from the Gospel are of a higher magnitude and such reverence is given to the voice of Jesus Christ; standing is a sign of respect.
Q: Why do we genuflect with one knee?
A: It is practical for one knee to be used. We are obliged to kneel with two knees only when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed at the altar as a sign of respect. Watch a video here on genuflecting
Q: Why does the archbishop wear a red alb?
A: All albs are white, any vestment of a different colour worn by the archbishop during mass is by virtue of his rank of “Chief Shepherd”.
Q: What is the significance of blood and water and the mingling of water and wine by the priest?
A: Jesus Christ came to share his divinity with humanity and as water washes us clean from the stains of sin, the wine represents the blood of Jesus, which was shed to give us new life.
Q: Why are Eucharistic ministers not used during mass in Nigeria?
A: Eucharistic ministers are not used in Nigeria as it is the tradition that Reverend Sisters assist in this task. Also, due to the sacred nature of Holy Communion, the church will have to appoint ministers based on their good moral standing in society and completion of special formation by the church. The laity will also have to be educated to ensure there are no speculations in receiving Communion from someone other than a Priest or Reverend Sister.
Q: On what occasion do Priests wear black chasubles?
A: They are worn during funerals as a sign of mourning or on All Souls day, however, white can also be worn to signify a new life in Christ and purple can be worn for requiem masses.
Q: On every altar, is there a relic of a Saint?
A: Yes – In Lagos, most churches have been dedicated and a relic of a Saint is embedded on the altar. When a church has been erected for the sole purpose of worship and sacred functions, it undergoes a dedication to God by a solemn rite as is the ancient church’s custom.
This session really hit home for me as I asked myself these questions: How well can you defend your faith? Can you comfortably explain the symbolism in Mass to anyone who is curious? I was also struck by how humble and regular in demeanour the Archbishop seemed as he is an earthly confirmation that there is no rank in the heavenly Kingdom. After all, our positions on earth are really appointed to us from above just as Jesus Christ told Pontius Pilate before His Crucifixion (John 19:11).
I’m just a regular girl who doesn’t know it all in life, searching for answers to questions that have been revealed to me as I wake up every morning. I also know that I am not perfect but I can get through life as I continuously try to be a living testimony of the word “purpose” and I am overjoyed that I can do this with people who share similar sentiments.
Will you join us at our next session?