Sunday Mass/Liturgy (Explanation)

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

The Mass (or liturgy) that most of the Continuing Anglican churches use, including St. John’s, is from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  When coming to visit, there might be a steep learning curve if you are unfamiliar with our tradition.  Below is a brief explanation of the basics of the mass, and highlight key areas.

First of All – What is “Liturgy”?

Purpose of the Mass

In traditional Anglicanism, our worship involves the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  The Commentary on the 1928 Prayer Book contains a great overview of the Mass.  It says this: “the Holy Communion is the primary and central act of corporate worship of the Church, and regular participation in its observance is a solemn obligation upon all the faithful of God.”

Two Big Movements During the Mass

If you just look at the church bulletin for Sunday, it may seem like a big list of items.  This list will contain hymns, readings, prayers, etc.  However, there is a logic to it, dating back to the early centuries of the church.  The major portions of the Mass are as follows:

Liturgy of the Word (Mass of the Catachumens)

  • Summary of the Law
  • The Epistle
  • The Gospel
  • The Creed

Liturgy of the Sacrament (Mass of the Faithful)

  • The Offertory & Consecration
  • The Communion
  • Post-Communion Thanksgiving
  • Gloria In Excelsis & Blessing

If you come to worship, it’s important to try to feel the flow of this logic to understand what’s going on.

The Eucharist as the Culmination of the Mass

This article is the best I’ve come across for explaining the entire rationale of the liturgy and how we relate to the culmination of the mass, the Eucharist. It is lengthy (approx 30 min of reading) but well worth your time.

The Mass Increases in “Pressure” As It Moves to the Eucharist

In this video, although this is coming from a Coptic Christian, his description of the two main parts of the liturgy is very good. He describes how there is a kind of “increase of pressure” from the beginning of the liturgy to the end parts.  This is in the first 4.5 minutes of the video below.  This pressure is because the mass is moving toward the pinnacle of Christian worship and sacraments: the Eucharist.

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