The Same but Different

It was the same order of Mass, the Eucharist was consecrated and distributed, yet it was different. While in Washington DC, I attended Saint Luke’s at the Immaculate Conception. It is a parish of Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. Basically it is an Anglican parish that has been received into the Catholic Church, but it retains elements of the Anglican heritage. It was a beautiful Mass and I was very glad to be part of the congregation, since it was my first Catholic Mass that was not of the Roman rite.

The first thing I noticed was that five deacons were assisting the priest and the priest was wearing a hat as he processed to the altar. The hat may have a special name and have Anglican roots. I believe in previous years priests of the Roman rite may have also worn one, but that was a bit before my time (or memory). The priest faced the altar for many of the prayers. While for some that may hearken back to the Latin Mass, again for me, this was new since I am only familiar with the Mass as it is today.

After  the procession, everyone kneels. I was glad they had booklets for me to follow that included the required postures, as this was a new one for me. We knelt from the sign of the cross until the Gloria. The penitential rite began with a set of responses between the priest and the people from Psalm 43. The priest then said the prayer “I confess to Almighty God…” by himself, which was a twist for me. The people responded to that prayer with, “May Almighty God have mercy on thee, forgive thee thy sins, and bring thee to everlasting life.” What an incredible moment to pray for the priest before he consecrates the sacrament! All too often we forget that the priests are human too, and need our prayers just as much as we need his. The people then said the “I confess to Almighty God…” prayer and then stood for the Gloria.

The liturgy of the Word was very similar to the Roman rite, as was the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the exception of some different prayers and definitely more singing by the choir (which alone would have made my attendance there a joy!). There was one prayer in particular that  was recited by all after the Lamb of God/Agnus Dei, but before Communion:

“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.”

I found it such a beautiful prayer to say before receiving Communion, that I took a picture of it so as to remember the words. One of the added blessings in attending this Mass, is that it increased my awareness of the routines of our own Mass.  We sometimes  lack the appreciation and attention this special encounter with our Lord deserves. This particular prayer really focused my attention on the gift I was about to receive.

Another first for me was receiving Communion at the altar rail. After Communion the priest and people all recited a prayer of thanksgiving for receiving the sacrament. Although I don’t include the words here, it  was of equal beauty to the one before Communion. While the concluding rite seemed to be the same, the curve ball came when the last Gospel was read, after the sign of the cross. The passage is the beginning of John’s Gospel. How appropriate now that we had received Communion to be reminded before we left that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It was truly a blessing to receive the same Jesus and participate in a Sunday worship just a bit different from what is familiar to me.

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