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Catholic Worship
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Catholic worship is liturgical. The word Liturgy comes from the Greek word λειτουργία, leitourgia, which literally means "work for the people.” This means the people fully participate in the act of worship, and while the priest has certain specific functions he performs in leading worship, the people likewise have certain specific functions they perform in the pews. So everyone works together in the worship of God, and nobody is left out.


All Christian worship is liturgical in some sense. We see a small shell of liturgy in the worship of our Baptist and Pentecostal brothers and sisters in Christ, when they set aside certain times for singing, certain times for praying, certain times for standing and certain times for sitting. It’s the same in the Catholic Church, except it’s a little more involved. 


While there are many liturgical rites in the Catholic Church, the primary rite of worship is the Holy Mass, also called the Divine Liturgy. The word “Mass” is a Western contraction of a few Latin words found at the end of the Divine Liturgy: Ite, Missa Est which translate into English as "Go, it (or He) is sent.” So the word “Mass” is just how Western Catholics say “Divine Liturgy” by contracting the last three words of that liturgy. Nobody knows why Western Catholics started doing this, but it’s just a tradition that stuck.


The Holy Mass (or Divine Liturgy) is the most important liturgical celebration in the Catholic Church, because it is during the Mass that Holy Communion is prepared and served. This is the supreme act of Catholic worship. There is nothing higher.


The Catholic Church has many ways of doing the Holy Mass (Divine Liturgy), but here in the Ozarks, you will only encounter three…


The first is called the Novus Ordo meaning “New Order” and it’s the order of Holy Mass (Divine Liturgy) given by Rome in 1970 to be translated into every language. This is the most common form of the Mass we see celebrated today, and this is the one you’ll encounter in most Catholic parishes here in the Ozarks.


The second is called the Vetus Ordo meaning “Old Order” which is also known as the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), which was the most common form of Catholic worship in the West prior to 1970. It goes by a few other names, such as “Extraordinary Form” and “1962 Missal,” but the most important thing to remember is that this form of the Mass is celebrated exclusively in Latin and tends to be a bit more formal than the Novus Ordo. It is also very beautiful. There are a few parishes here in the Ozarks that celebrate this form of the liturgy. Find them here.


The third is called Divine Worship and this is a special form of the Holy Mass that comes to us from the English Patrimony. It was celebrated in England for centuries, originally in Latin back when England was a Catholic country, then in English when England became Protestant. Late in the last century, many Anglicans returned to the Catholic Church and brought this ancient liturgy back with them. Since then, Rome has fully embraced and rehabilitated it for use in the Catholic Church again. It is now a second form of English liturgy. Here in the Ozarks, there is only one parish that celebrates this form of the Mass, and that is Saint George in Republic. It incorporates many elements that resemble both the Novus Ordo and Vetus Ordo with some calling it the “best of both worlds.” It also has elements that are uniquely English in character, including the use of Sacred English in the liturgy (thee, thou, thy and thine, etc.). We see a nod toward Sacred English in the Novus Ordo Mass with the Our Father prayer, as Rome recognizes that some languages (like English for example) have sacred variants they use for worship. In the Divine Worship Mass, this recognition dominates the entire liturgical experience.


You simply cannot understand Catholic Christianity solely by reading a book or a website. While these things are helpful, Catholic Christianity must be experienced to be appreciated and understood. So the best way to truly understand Catholic Christianity is to start going to Mass.

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