Hail Mary…

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Here we are, sat in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and the intercessor has started expecting us to pray to Mary… how blasphemous!

…and how mistaken.

The Virgin in Prayer Artist: Sassoferrato Date made: 1640-50 National Gallery, London

The Virgin in Prayer
by Sassoferrato
National Gallery, London

The Hail Mary prayer is not a prayer to Mary, but a prayer with Our Blessed Lady. This is an important distinction, and often the source of much confusion. Many accuse Anglocatholics of worshipping Mary, of elevating her to be perhaps a fourth part of the Trinity, if that were either mathematically or theologically possible; and yet we all know that prayer can and should only be directed at God: usually the Father, but also on occasion, the Son or the Holy Spirit, for which it matters not because three are one and one is three without division or exception.

Most people would have no problem if I asked them to pray for me. The Hail Mary does the same, and is (as with all proper prayer) rooted in Scripture: taken from Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42. They recall the words of the Angel Gabriel to Our Lady and address her with her first title: as one filled with grace. This is not her own grace, but the grace of God. We can never achieve anything by our own merits, but only through God, and so the Lord takes this normal, very young (12 or 13 years old) girl and fills her with grace so that she may become the bearer of God in flesh. Mary travels to her cousin Elizabeth, also blessed by God with the bearing of John the Baptist when she had been written off as fruitless by society, and we echo her words, that she is “blessed amongst women” because of the fruit of her womb. To cite words of Scripture cannot in any way be blasphemous, and certainly not when it speaks of the Incarnation: the stepping of God to this world, the seemingly remote becoming intimate.

Incarnation (literally en-fleshment – the wrapping in meat) is an outrageous concept – that God chooses for us to be poured out (Philippians 2:7) into the frail vessel of humanity is unique and challenging, for it shows the value that God places upon us, and the value and dignity that should be accorded to humanity and human life. Many think that the focus of the faith is on the Cross, conveniently forgetting the Resurrection, whereas perhaps we should be more focused on the alltogether more radical idea that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son (and therefore himself) to the World (John 3:16). So often we think that Scripture is about the Cross when perhaps it should be seen as about the Incarnation. There are many people who forget that Jesus was an actual person, who walked this earth and whose real life is attested to in many (non-Christian) historical records.

We then turn to ask Mary to pray for us, giving her the ancient title “Mother of God”, in Greek Theotokos – “God bearer” – a title accepted for her at the Council of Ephesus in 431 in recognition that she bore Christ who was both Divine and Human, and the mix of those two cannot be separated. It is said that S. Athanasius likened the mixing of God and Man as not like the mixing of Oil and Water, which separate, the more divine oil floating on the top of the mundane human water; but rather like the mixing of water and wine where the two become innately mixed. This is why the priest adds water to the wine in the chalice as s/he prepares the altar “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ  who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” You may wonder how God, present from before all time, can be Mothered by someone born in time, yet this is the paradox of the Incarnation, that the timeless one was born at a fixed point in human history: the immense and challenging privilege of bearing God into this world should be recognized as it is and rightly celebrated with honour. Honour and worship are different things, and the latter does not apply.

Asking someone filled with God’s grace to pray for us, recognizing that we are sinners, is therefore a logical step, and seeking that prayer for our present life and the end of our life isn’t such a bad idea therefore is it? Pray for me… I need God’s help, and as we are told, if more people pray for it, then we are strengthened by that prayer. God hears and answers all prayer, and more people praying for something doesn’t force God to listen to any given prayer, for each prayer is heard and responded to; but knowing that others are praying helps us. When someone says “I’m praying for you…” does that not give us confidence and strength? So, Mary, model of faith and devotion, taker-on of an incredible task to bring the Son of God into this world, first apostle, pray with me to God Almighty…

The Embolism in the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.

I still say… new translation[1]
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy, keep us free from sin,
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ
Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, by the help of your mercy,
we may be always free from sin
and safe from all distress,
as we await the blessed hope
and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

For thine is the kingdom, the power,
and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

…But I’ve said the Lord’s Prayer all my life, learnt it off by heart and yet Fr Simon insists on breaking the prayer in two with a prayer of his own! How dare he! He’s messing around with the prayer that Jesus taught us and which comes straight from the bible!

Or is it?

There are two versions of the Lord’s prayer in Holy Scripture. They can be found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. You will note that the Lukan version is more succinct and direct, and the version we learnt at our mother’s knee is closer to the Matthean version. Luke ends with temptation and Matthew ends with delivery from evil. The Book of Common Prayer at both Mattins and Evensong (pages 79 and 88 respectively in my Everyman edition) ends also with the delivery from evil – so where did these other verses come from, and why do they feature in the BCP Holy Communion?

The lines are also scriptural, and form a doxology from 1 Chronicles 29:11, they are often used as offertory prayers also, and like all doxologies, are used as praises to God at the end of prayers or readings.

The reason for the juxtaposition of these two portions of scripture goes back to the ancient monks and their copying by hand of the gospels. It was common in the liturgy of the time to end the saying of the Lord’s Prayer with a doxology, and the 1 Chronicles one was often used. It is said that one day a monk was copying the Gospel of Matthew and (it is thought) came to the Lord’s Prayer and thought to himself “Oh, I know this” so started writing it out from memory rather than copying it, and he included the 1 Chronicles doxology from the liturgy in it by mistake. Over time, his manuscript was also copied and the error perpetuated.

There is a particular method of biblical examination known as Source Criticism which determines and debates the differences and varieties in manuscripts and so we can be quite clear about the approximate date that this crept into an understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. It also gave the use of the doxology greater weight so it became intimately linked with the prayer. The Authorised Version contains this error, but it will not be found in any of the modern translations.

However, for centuries, the Church has sought to restore a recognition that while a part of the worship of the church, it is two separate pieces of scripture, and so inserts an extra, and if you would read it once more from the top of this article and see, rather beautiful prayer to separate these two important elements of our worship at this point in the Eucharistic sacrifice

So this is why you may find yourself a little halted, as the priest draws attention to our purpose for making the Lord’s Prayer in what is known as the embolism and we are all then able to praise God in that wonderful Old Testament doxology.

Much of our prayer is drawn from the Scriptures, whether it is during the Mass itself, the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer (which an old monk once described to me as a pickling in the scriptures) which is required to be said daily in church and in the intercessions, where we might at times join our prayers with the angels and the saints, the prophets patriarchs and martyrs in heaven, in the vision of St John the Divine (Revelation 19), and also ask them to pray for us. The Book of Revelation tells us that when in heaven we will constantly be engaged in worship and intercession, so praying now might be seen as good practice!

In the same way, when we sometimes pray using the prayers often known as the Hail Mary, we are quoting directly from Holy Scripture (Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42) to pray alongside Our Lady. We do not ever pray to the Blessed Virgin, but using her as the model of faith and devotion to Christ, we join our prayer with hers. It is a common conceit of those who do not understand to simply write off this prayer which has sustained so many on their Christian journey as a prayer to Mary rather than to God, but there can be nothing wrong in praying with the Scriptures and using it as a tool to help us approach Almighty God in prayer.


[1] In 2011 There was a new translation of the Roman Rite from Latin into English. Admittedly it’s closer to the Latin, but it’s a far worse translation: stilted, less poetic. It’s almost as if it was written by someone who had access to Google Translate but whose language was not originally English. I therefore, as is my right as an Anglican, use the translation which suits the liturgy over which I am presiding: contextual is the key point.

The Bells! The Bells!

In Churches like ours, the ringing of bells is an established part of our tradition. They call the people to worship on a Sunday from far and wide and are seen by the public as characteristic of Anglican worship. They are, however, not the only bells which can and should be used in our church.

The ringing of bells is an ancient tradition of the church (directly traceable back to before St Paulinus of Campania in the 3rd Century)  and is an important although often overlooked element of worship. We worship with all of our senses: we do not gather simply to read the words of the Holy Communion together, but to celebrate and to do this we use all of God’s gifts:We see the liturgical action


  • We taste the bread and wine transformed by the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ who is really present in those sacraments
  • We touch those elements, we touch our neighbour when we share the peace
  • We may have the opportunity to smell – flowers, perfumed candles, incense
  • and we hear the word of God proclaimed and the symbolic ringing of bells

We are multisensory beings and therefore we worship using all of our senses. Some acts of worship are more like this than others: Blessèd, for example, the alternative worship events that take place throughout the diocese are more immersive celebrations, but Evening Prayer on a Sunday when led by Jane are also examples of sight, sound, smell and hearing combining to help us to reach out to God.

Even a small child can be drawn to the ringing of a bell, and it can penetrate through the deafest of ears to point out in symbolic terms key points major stages of the Mass. Where we may be less able in one sense, God provides in other ways, so by using as many of God’s gifts to us in his worship we can all come closer to him.

It is rung at the end of the Sanctus to identify the beginning of the words that Jesus used to institute the eucharist, signifying the epiclesis or sending down of the Holy Spirit on the elements to consecrate them. It is also rung as the priest elevates the elements to expose them to the people to draw attention to this showing.

It is customary for the congregation to make the sign of the cross on themselves as the elements are elevated (and also later when the priest shows both chalice and wafer to the people as he/she says the words “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World…” and when a blessing is given or the priest uses the words “In the name of…”). By making this gesture we begin to pray with our whole bodies: body and soul together.

The bell is also rung as the Priest finishes his/her communion and is an indicator that the people should now come forward to make their own communion.

Each time the bell is rung, it is rung three times, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is a momentary pause between each of the three rings because at that point the external church bell can be rung once to signal to all those in this area that these key points of the Mass have been reached. I personally would love to see our witness in this way – and let the world know what we are doing – wouldn’t you?

Isn’t this all an anachronism? I think not, for tradition means building upon the past, and acknowledging our part in the past whilst looking towards the future. In ringing bells we enable people of all abilities, ages and understandings to approach the throne of grace in worship.

We use symbol because words alone are inadequate in our worship and we recapture some of the wonder and awe that we perhaps had as small children and which we want to engender in our young people.


The Sign of the Cross

Self-described “Torah-true Jews” to this day wear tefillin (“phylacteries”) on their foreheads and arms as a sign of their identity and devotion. This practice stems from Deuteronomy 6:4-8:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes.

Compare those words with the words of St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (d. A.D. 386)

“Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are in the way and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the poor’s sake; without toil, for the sick, since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of evils; for He has triumphed over them in it, having made a show of them openly; for when they see the Cross, they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, Who hath bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the Gift; but for this rather honour thy Benefactor.”

The Sign of the Cross is absolutely ancient, rooted not only in the Old Testament but the New (The Revelation to St John the Divine speaks of those who have the sign of God in their foreheads — and those who have the sign of the Beast in their foreheads). In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Bishop seals the sign on our foreheads with holy chrism. St. John of Damascus wrote

This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers.

Crossing one’s self recalls this seal, and the invocation that is said while making this holy sign calls on our God — the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost — and is a sign of our of belief; it is both a “mini-creed” that asserts our belief in the Triune God, and a prayer that invokes Him. The use of holy water (there is a small silver bowl of holy water on the left outside the vestry in church) when making this sign, such as we do when we enter a church, also recalls our Baptism and should bring to mind that we are born again of water and Spirit, thanks be to God.

The Sign of the Cross is the very mark of our salvation – the cross which sets us free. With the Sign, we send a visible sign to the world.

Making the Sign of the Cross

Typically, the right hand is used. The thumb, index, and middle finger are brought to a point. They are then placed on the forehead, then moved down to the sternum. The Western Rite Catholic will then move the hand to the left shoulder or to the area of the left pectoral muscle, and then to the right; the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox will do the opposite (i.e. right, then left). As one moves through the Sign, one recites, at the forehead, “In the name of the Father”; at the sternum, “and of the Son”; and across the shoulders, “and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.”

The sign is made:

  • When the invocation of “In the name of the…” is used
  • When a blessing is given
  • When the sacred elements are elevated
  • When the sacred elements are displayed to the people during the mass or during exposition or benediction.



Act of Remembrance (Liturgy)

As we gather we have the opportunity to reflect on these Holy Scriptures

God is our refuge and strength;
a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46.1

I lift up my eyes to the hills –
from whence will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121.1-2

This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning.
Lamentations 3.21-23


Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40.31

What does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6.8


We gather outside at the Memorial where there is one outside our Church, or indoors.


They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.

We will remember them.

Two Minute Silence

The flags are lowered. We hear the Last Post, the two minute silence and then the Reveille. Wreaths are then laid at the Memorial,

Ever-living God
we remember those whom you have gathered
from the storm of war into the peace of your presence;
may that same peace calm our fears,
bring justice to all peoples
and establish harmony among the nations,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We then sing our opening hymn as we return into Church

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven
who like thee his praise should sing?
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise the everlasting King!

Praise him for his grace and favour
to our fathers in distress;
praise him still the same for ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless:
Praise him! Praise him!
Glorious in his faithfulness!

Father-like he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hands he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes:
Praise him! Praise him!
Widely as his mercy flows!

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
blows the wind and it is gone;
but while mortals rise and perish
God endures unchanging on.
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise the high eternal One!

Angels, help us to adore him,
ye behold him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space:
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise with us the God of grace!

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
The Lord be with you
and also with you

We meet in the presence of God.
We commit ourselves to work in penitence and faith
for reconciliation between the nations,
that all people may, together,
live in freedom, justice and peace.
We pray for all who in bereavement, disability and pain
continue to suffer the consequences of fighting and terror.
We remember with thanksgiving and sorrow those whose lives,
in world wars and conflicts past and present,
have been given and taken away.

Penitential Rite

Let us confess to God the sins and shortcomings of the world;
its pride, its selfishness, its greed;
its evil divisions and hatreds.

Let us confess our share in what is wrong,
and our failure to seek and establish that peace
which God wills for his children


Lord have Mercy Lord have Mercy
Christ have Mercy Christ have Mercy
Lord have Mercy Lord have Mercy


Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you, + pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in life eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Word of God

A reader says:

Hear these words from the New Testament

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
John 14:27

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest ofrighteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
James 3:17-18

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

These are the words of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Another reader says:
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew:   (Matthew 5:1-12)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God


Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided,
urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way,
sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided,
Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.

Lord, for that word, the word of life which fires us,
speaks to our hearts and sets our souls ablaze,
teaches and trains, rebukes us and inspires us,
Lord of the word, receive your people’s praise.

Lord, for our land, in this our generation,
spirits oppressed by pleasure, wealth and care;
for young and old, for commonwealth and nation,
Lord of our land, be pleased to hear our prayer.

Lord, for our world; when we disown and doubt him,
loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain;
hungry and helpless, lost indeed without him,
Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.

Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us,
self on the cross and Christ upon the throne;
past put behind us, for the future take us,
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b.1926)


Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict, and ask that God may give us peace:

for the service men and women who have died in the violence of war, each one remembered by and known to God; May God give peace
God give peace

For those who love them in death as in life, offering the distress of our grief and the sadness of our loss; May God give peace
God give peace

for all members of the armed forces who are in danger this day, remembering family, friends and all who pray for their safe return;
May God give peace
God give peace

for civilian women, children and men whose lives are disfigured by war or terror, calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity; May God give peace
God give peace

for peace-makers and peace-keepers, who seek to keep this world secure and free; May God give peace
God give peace

for all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership, political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace. May God give peace
God give peace

O God of truth and justice, we hold before you those whose memory
we cherish, and those whose names we will never know.

+Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord
and let light perpetual shine upon them

May they rest in peace
and rise in glory
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world, and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm. As we honour the past, may we put our faith in your future; for you are the source of life and hope, now and for ever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
for ever and ever.



The Congregation are invited to come forward to  offer symbols of remembrance and hope, such as single flowers or crosses at the foot of the altar as music is played.

Act of Commitment

Let us commit ourselves to responsible living and faithful service.

Will you strive for all that makes for peace?
We will
Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
We will

Will you work for a just future for all humanity?
We will

Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in us
that have not yet been cast out by love:
May we accept the hope you have placed
in the hearts of all people,
And live lives of justice, courage and mercy;
through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer.

The Kohima Epitaph

When you go home, tell them of us and say,
for your tomorrow we gave our today.

Blessing and Dismissal

God grant to the living grace, to the departed rest,
to the Church, the Queen, the Commonwealth and all people,
unity, peace and concord,
and to us and all God’s servants, life everlasting.
and the blessing of God Almighty,
+Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all
and remain with you always.

Go in the peace of Christ
Thanks be to God

The National Anthem is sung after which we may depart

The National Anthem

God save our gracious Queen,
long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious, happy and glorious,
long to reign over us: God save the Queen!

One realm of races four, blest more and ever more,
God save our land!
Home of the brave and free, set in the silver sea,
True nurse of chivalry, God save our land!

Of many a race and birth from utmost ends of earth,
God save us all!
Bid strife and hatred cease, bid hope and joy increase,
spread universal peace, God save us all!

Official Peace Version (1919)

Passing Water

At the entrance to the church there is a small dish of water, dwarfed by our elegant font, so often walked past, so often ignored and yet a vital reminder for everyone of the power of our baptism in Christ.Picture2

The water in there is never there long enough to get stagnant, because at each baptism, the water is renewed; for this water is holy and it is intended for us to remind ourselves of our baptism each and every time we come into church.

Dip your finger into the cooling water, make the sign of the cross by touching your forehead, abdomen, right shoulder and then left shoulder. If you are coming in with someone else, dip your finger in and offer it to them for them to do so: the waters of baptism are to be shared, as God so willingly shares the salvation they promise with you.

In making this sign, we are reminded that from the waters of Baptism we are grafted as the children of Christ and have an indelible mark inscribed upon our souls marking us as Christ’s own forever.

Although the water on our forehead will evaporate in a few moments, Baptism is for all time: a sign to us of salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. What better way for us to begin our worship of the Almighty than to be reminded of this great act of the love of God towards us before we offer Him our thanks and praise?

But is this just another example of Romish practice imported into our fine Anglican Church? Just like all the other things discussed in these articles, the sharing and use of Holy Water has been a feature of Anglicanism before, during and after the Reformation and became most visible under the Oxford Movement. We sometimes forget the heritage of the Church of England and lose sight of the fact that it has always seen itself as Catholic and Reformed.

We are all, and have always been Catholics because we state a firm belief in “one holy, catholic and apostolic church”. Catholic means universal, and does not mean “Roman Catholic”.

In being Catholics, this does not automatically make us what used to be called “High Church”, for that label has not really been relevant to the Church of England since the 1930’s. Just as many of the ‘free churches’ are rediscovering ritual and symbolism, so the Church of England has increasingly become aware of its rich liturgical and symbol heritage carried through the Prayer Book, the English Missal and into Common Worship.

At the heart of this is a yearning to reach out to God with more than just words, using all of our senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) to engage with God’s wondrous creation and to try to express the inexpressible. By worshipping with more than just our lips, we celebrate our humanity in all its diversity:

“Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord” (Psalm 150)

Why is it called Mass?

Picture1Some may be mystified by my habit of calling the most important act of worship to the Christian Community ‘Mass’. Surely, one might think, that Mass was something exclusive to the Roman Catholic Church, and what was wrong with Holy Communion or The Eucharist ? However, if we pause to reflect, the Mass is indeed a word in common Anglican Usage – every 24th of December, Midnight Mass is openly celebrated by Anglican Churches of all traditions as the first act of worship of Christmas. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer also referred to this worship as ‘comonly called the Masse’.

If we look closer, we can note that Holy Communion and the Eucharist refer to specific parts of the wider act of worship: Holy Communion refers to the actual partaking of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, whilst the Eucharist (Greek for ‘Thanksgiving’) speaks really of the portion of worship which consecrates the elements of bread and wine into the Blessèd Sacrament and Precious Blood. Only the term Mass speaks of the whole act of worship (as does Divine Liturgy the Orthodox word used.

Mass itself is rooted in the Latin word Missio meaning to send, and is therefore related to Mission. It is in the sense therefore of the people of God gathering together (amassing, perhaps?) and then, empowered by the Holy Spirit through the sacraments, being sent out to make a difference to the world, hence the use of the ancient dismissal: ite missa est – go, the mass is ended […and you are now sent out to do God’s work]. I would therefore want to reclaim the word from the exclusive jurisdiction of Rome, and keep it within common Anglican usage, as used in a number of other parishes within Plymouth and within the wider Diocese.