Ceremony vs. ceremonial--which is it?


I was recently discussing the structure of the Mass with a friend and referred to the portion instituted by Christ at the Last Supper as a *Ceremonial *(having had its genesis partly in the practices of the Passover Ceremony and partly in Christ’s fulfillment thereof). She wondered aloud whether that was the correct terminology; she thought it should be referred to as just *ceremony *or ritual. I am unsure; all three terms seem to be more or less correct, but now I’m wondering about the usage of the term *ceremonial *and how it ought to be used.

I looked up *ceremonial *in several different Catholic Dictionaries and the only entries I found referred to the book in which the ceremonies of the church are contained…but then when I read the entry, it also refers to some of the ceremonies themselves as ceremonials. (???) In Merriam-Webster, there is a second definition of ceremonial that is a noun instead of an adjective, denoting a “special ceremony.”

Does the term ceremonial have the proper implication as I used it? What word would you use to refer to the portion of the Mass where the consecration takes place? (Aside from just Consecration; I’m referring to not what happens, but the liturgical genesis of that portion of the Mass…)

(Sorry if this is the wrong forum…does this belong here, or in ask an apologist?)



Dear Lisa, ceremonial isn’t the right word to use as it implies that the Mass is not a real event but just a copy of the Last Supper.
Wearing a ceremonial sword is just for show. It may be a sword but it just a symbol.
It implies that the Mass is just a fancy copy of the Last supper instead of the real thing.

The Mass is not simply a symbolic event as some non-Catholic denominations believe it to be. However to use the word ‘ceremonial’ regarding the Mass implies that is the belief, that the consecration is not the transubstanciation of bread and wine into the real present of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The first Mass, the first consecration occurred during the Passover ceremony, but it was not pat of the Passover ceremony. The Mass was His new creation at this time. The Passover meal was simply the time that Jesus chose to create a new thing, because it was the eve of His death.

Jesus wished to give this great gift of the Eucharist to the apostles as His first priests, and to to the Church He was founding upon them with Peter as the rock on which He would build His Church.

To be able to share with your friend a true understanding of the Mass, the Eucharist, the Consecration, you can read at this link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church




If I were using the word *ceremonial *as an adjective, then yes, that is the connotation. But I am using it as a noun, to denote a very specific and unchangeable part of the Mass which is descended directly from the rite (or as I called it, ceremonial) that Christ instituted in the Supper Room. My understanding, from having seen that word used in many different historical works about the Mass and other traditional practices of the Catholic Church, is that in fact this usage is correct.

But I guess I’m going to have to choose a different word just to make sure that people don’t understand me in the way you did. The connotations you are implying couldn’t be further from what I was intending.

In which case, what would be the more accurate choice for this situation? Rite or Ceremony?



The Passover meal celebrated by Jesus was one of many kinds of bloodless sacrifices that was part of Jewish Tradition. It is the reason why the mass is either a ceremony or ceremonial and is a liturgy which is the work of the people with the priest presiding. The same same bloodless sacrifice is made at each mass with the added understanding of Christ sacrifice on the Cross.
Dcn Frank


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