Conversation on Organization of Mass

Not really sure where to post this so I figure here might be the best spot...

I'm from a Protestant background as is most of my family. And while I haven't joined RCIA yet (I've been moving around a lot but hopefully coming very soon..), my family knows that's the direction I feel like the Lord has led me.

To get to the point of this post, I was raised in a (Free Will) Baptist Church and I recently entered into a discussion with a family member about why a Catholic Mass is organized the way it is. The exact church I grew up in had a service that was not nearly as structured as a Catholic Mass. Lots of times the pastor would request the choir sing another particular song that they might not have prepared for. Many times he would not have a sermon prepared and would just get up and speak about a subject that he felt like the Holy Spirit had put on his heart. Almost every Sunday we had a section of the Service where anyone that had prepared a song could just get up and sing (sometimes we’d have 5-6 people sing, sometimes none). Even the sermons that were planned out would be accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation with slides to accompany the sermon. As another example, I was a piano player and many times he would many times ask me to come play a certain song at the end of a service while he was doing an altar call without any advance notice. I can remember him saying plenty of times that he liked not having a structured service because it left the service open to being determined by God.

Now the person I was discussing this with definitely doesn't mind preparing a sermon beforehand as they realize there is a definite difference in quality between a prepared and an ad-hoc sermon. But I guess it's just the lack of any apparent choice or what my previous pastor would have called 'openness' to letting God lead the service. They realize that homilies will differ from parish to parish, but for the most part (Scripture readings, prayers, responses etc) anything that is chosen is chosen from a pre-set list. Also, the Mass just has a different ‘feel’ to it ala the Powerpoint slides.

While I do have a hard time refuting his point, I disagree with him on what I prefer. I really like the structure of the Mass . I love the feeling that I know that all around the country/world there are many people studying the exact passages that I am on that day. It just gives it so much more of a 'community' feel than everyone being completely separate. I feel like keeping stuff (relatively) the same, gives us more of a chance to focus on God rather than what's going on around you. I feel like the spontaneity stuff is better suited to study groups and other things besides the Mass.

I basically told him why I prefer that type of service, but that certainly didn't go the full length to explain why Catholic services are so much more rigid than what we were accustomed to. While I prefer for worship the more rigid style, I can certainly see his point and I have a hard time making a better argument rather than just something based on style or taste. Having Ad-Hoc prayers could definitely seem more personal and more 'from the heart' so I’m not really sure how I should respond. I told him I would try to find more information about why it was this way and get back to him though.

Two points I did leave out but thought about later that seem helpful:
1. Having a pre-set schedule of Scripture readings helps to ensure that a wider variety of passages are read. (This doesn't really explain the prayer portion however)
2. Catholics view the Mass as a much more solemn event (The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass etc.), but I really have no idea where to start in explaining this one.

The point of this post? I’m not really sure. I guess I’m just looking on people’s thoughts on this matter. Have you ever run across this type of question about openness? How would you explain it? Would you guess it’s mainly just a difference in background where it’s just not what someone’s familiar with?

Sorry if this has been posted before/a lot. I tried searching for this to make sure but really had no idea how to frame a search….
Thanks for your input and sorry for the long post. I tend to ramble a lot…..

Well, the first point I would make is that Catholics don’t consider the Liturgy of the Word, (which would be the part of the Mass that most “resembles” a Baptist service without communion) to be the most important form of worship.

Catholics consider the Liturgy of the Eucharist (combined with the Liturgy of the Word) to be the form of worship that Christ himself. We believe the Book of Revelation describes the Mass as the form of worship practiced in heaven and we are so fortunate as to be able to practice it here on Earth!

Actually, if you read Deuteronomy, you will find a rudimentary organization of the cultic sacrificial worship of Ancient Israel. This particular cultic worship prefigures the Sacrifice of the True Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The bread and wine sacrifices also prefigure what Jesus was going to do at the Last Supper. What Jesus did at the Last Supper was to take the elements of the various sacrificial rites of Ancient Israel (the Lamb-since He was the Lamb-, bread and wine) and combine them into the one Sacrifice. He thus brought to fulfillment what His Father had mandated for Ancient Israel and commaned His Church to do the same, as an everlasting memorial.

Thus, there is a precedent for form in both the Old and the New Testaments.

The “rigid structure” is referred to as the Order of the Mass, and it not just univerersal. It is very very old. Therefore, it doesn’t just link us across geography and culture, but also across time. It does have room to throw an extra song in, though. That practice is mainly suppressed in the Catholic Church by presiders’ desires to not be murdered on the church steps by their own music directors, nor to face the headache of not having the parking lot emptied in time for the next Mass. (Two identical services every Sunday morning is not the norm in many Protestant churches.)

CS Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, made the point that when a preacher has the freedom to choose his own readings, his congregation will very often find themselves on a treadmill of the preacher’s 15-20 favorite passages and two dozen favorite songs. At any rate, I think it highly unlikely that a preacher choosing his own readings will, over the course of three years, come up with anything like the variety of Holy Scripture that will come up over the course of three years in the major Masses of the Catholic Church. He probably won’t even approach the variety in the Church’s old one-year lectionary. Unfortunately, he will also deny his congregation the seasonal rhythm of returning to the same readings in the same season over the course of one’s lifetime. Neither is it likely that he will come up with anything approaching the internal connection from week to week that is built into a Catholic liturgical year. I know of priests who have admitted that there are readings from Scripture they would happily leave alone entirely, excepting that the Church has chosen to include them in the Lectionary. Facing up to those readings is a good thing.

These observations reveal an unexamined axiom buried within your friend’s thinking: He actually believes that a preacher doing whatever he feels like doing at a particular moment is necessarily more in keeping with the will of God than if the preacher were limited to the freedom that exists within boundaries that have been prayed over and planned in advance with great care. He believes that the habit of being led by one’s own individual spontaneous desire is necessarily a more holy and widely edifying practice than the habit of being obedient to the greater Church. Based on the inherent holiness in our spontaneous desires, taken as a whole, whatever would make him think this is so? Even if it worked for him, what would ever lead us to believe that it would work well as a universal norm?

Having said that, I do know a priest who never prepares his homily word-for-word to be read from a page anymore. He prepares for what he is going to say, but he always gives the homily extemporaneously. He said he has had the experience that the homilies are much better, and he does believe that it is because the extemporaneous method gives the Holy Spirit more room to work (provided, of course, that he does not use this as an excuse not to prepare!) That is what I mean by using the freedom that exists within the Order of the Mass. There is some freedom there. It simply isn’t so unlimited as some would like. That does not mean that those limitations are not a very good thing.

I just want to chortle a bit and say “I told you so.”

Many times in the past several years, I have posted on these forums that the notion that the Mass is becoming “Protestant” is ridiculous. I have stated that most evangelical Protestants (which includes most Baptists, one of the largest Protestant denoms in the U.S.) see even the most OF of OF Masses as “rigid” or “ritualistic.”

See?! I was telling you the truth. :thumbsup: Chortle, chortle.

That being said–sorry, jb80, for hijacking your thread and being nasty to fellow CAF members!–I will comment to the OP that he/she should tell your friends that even though it isn’t as obvious, most of the various Protestant worship services DO have a “liturgy.” It may vary a little from week to week, but as you proved by summarizing a typical worship service, there is a regular “Order of Worship,” and there are certain events that you can pretty much expect from every worship service, even if they are placed in a different order in the program. There are other events that would never, ever happen even in the most free of worship services.

For example, in almost every evangelical Protestant worship service, you can expect some kind of congregational singing at some point in the worship service. In many evangelical services, you see a time of Praise and Worship, usually using contemporary choruses and a small group of song leaders and instrumentalists. In smaller, poorer churches, it might just be one song leader. In certain Pentecostal Protestant services, this time might include tongues and interpretations, slayings in the Spirit, spiritual singing, and dancing/gymnastics. In wealthy Protestant megachurches, this time may include brilliant solos and ensembles, lighting effects, and even multi-media displays (slides, video). The time of P and W might be omitted if there is a guest band or soloists. But it is highly unlikely that you will ever attend any evangelical Protestant worship service that is completely without some kind of music.

I would suggest that you order Scott Hahn’s wonderful book, The Lamb’s Supper. This is an excellent explanation using the Bible, from a former Protestant pastor, of what the Mass is. It’s not a worship service. Because it’s not a worship service, there is no “program” or “order of worship.” It’s a real event–a re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and this is one reason why the order cannot be moved around. It’s a real event that can’t be changed.

The Mass is organized with the purpose of preparing us to receive the Eucharist. It is highly structured because the Eucharist is the greatest gift we can receive and should not be taken lightly. And if you think about it, most events in life that are important we do give structure to: weddings, graduations, burials, etc. - there may be some time set aside in each for “openness” as you call it, but the overall event is still highly structured.

As you mention the Mass is a very solemn event and the Church would be remiss if let each of us celebrate it however we saw fit. Instead she prepares us as best she can to receive Jesus Himself (no small task!). So we ask forgiveness for our sins, listen to the readings and psalms, hear the homily, so that when the Eucharist prayers are said and Jesus is made present in the Host we can be ready to receive Him, and hopefully, understand the gravity and privilege of the situation at hand.

The Mass of the Early Christians by Mike Aquilina is a really cool book, if you want to learn about how early in Church history the Mass got its structure. God bless!

[quote="SMHW, post:2, topic:186065"]
Well, the first point I would make is that Catholics don't consider the Liturgy of the Word, (which would be the part of the Mass that most "resembles" a Baptist service without communion) to be the most important form of worship.
...
We believe the Book of Revelation describes the Mass as the form of worship practiced in heaven and we are so fortunate as to be able to practice it here on Earth!

[/quote]

[quote="benedictgal, post:3, topic:186065"]
Actually, if you read Deuteronomy, you will find a rudimentary organization of the cultic sacrificial worship of Ancient Israel....

Thus, there is a precedent for form in both the Old and the New Testaments.

[/quote]

[quote="EasterJoy, post:4, topic:186065"]
The "rigid structure" is referred to as the Order of the Mass, and it not just univerersal. It is very very old. Therefore, it doesn't just link us across geography and culture, but also across time

[/quote]

Wow, very good points that I wouldn't be able to express as well as you all have in your posts above. The parallels to the book of Revelation, and the parallels to Old Testament worship rituals both give a precedent for this type of worship. It also shows this as the 'established' form of worship which can be a powerful point.

[quote="EasterJoy, post:4, topic:186065"]
It does have room to throw an extra song in, though. That practice is mainly suppressed in the Catholic Church by presiders' desires to not be murdered on the church steps by their own music directors, nor to face the headache of not having the parking lot emptied in time for the next Mass. (Two identical services every Sunday morning is not the norm in many Protestant churches.)

[/quote]

Heh, Way too true about the music director. The lady who taught me how to play the piano was never too happy when something spontaneous was given to her. I believe I almost witnessed what you warned about a few times...

[quote="EasterJoy, post:4, topic:186065"]
At any rate, I think it highly unlikely that a preacher choosing his own readings will, over the course of three years, come up with anything like the variety of Holy Scripture that will come up over the course of three years in the major Masses of the Catholic Church.
...
know of priests who have admitted that there are readings from Scripture they would happily leave alone entirely, excepting that the Church has chosen to include them in the Lectionary. Facing up to those readings is a good thing.

[/quote]

Beautifully put. This is the point I was trying to get across on the first point that I said I left out but I think this describes it even better. The variety of material is guaranteed rather than it being a variety based off the preacher's preferences.

Also, I completely agree about being forced to face up to readings that are difficult and bring us out of our 'comfort zone' Getting out of our 'comfort zone' and into 'deeper waters' is actually what the Priest at the Parish I attended Sunday touched on from the readings in Luke

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”.

I think this is a great point because I can't tell you how many times when I first started looking into the Catholic Church I would read some apologetics material and literally have never heard that verse or passage touched on in my life (John 20 comes to mind...).

[quote="EasterJoy, post:4, topic:186065"]
He actually believes that a preacher doing whatever he feels like doing at a particular moment is necessarily more in keeping with the will of God than if the preacher were limited to the freedom that exists within boundaries that have been prayed over and planned in advance with great care.

[/quote]

This seems like it really touches at the heart of the discussion. Why is he (and me as well since I had a hard time disagreeing....) assuming that a spontaneous prayer is much better or more from the heart than one that was wrote down after much prayer, study and meditation? I know that in my own experience when I pray about a direction I need to go in my life God doesn't just all of a sudden reveal it to me (although this certain could happen), but most of the time it is gradually and after much prayer. And I guess just because something has been deliberated over doesn't mean it's not from the heart. In fact, to truly search the depths of our hearts is not an easy task and is probably much more accurate once again after much prayer and time.

Having said that, I do know a priest who never prepares his homily word-for-word to be read from a page anymore. He prepares for what he is going to say, but he always gives the homily extemporaneously. He said he has had the experience that the homilies are much better, and he does believe that it is because the extemporaneous method gives the Holy Spirit more room to work

I can see this being just as true. In fact, I think any public speech that is done word for word is hardly ever as good as one to where you basically have an outline in your head and you know the material enough to make it like a normal 'conversation'. At least that's what my college Public Speaking professor told me ;)

Thanks for all the comments so far and please let me know any more thoughts you may have!

[quote="Cat, post:5, topic:186065"]
Many times in the past several years, I have posted on these forums that the notion that the Mass is becoming "Protestant" is ridiculous. I have stated that most evangelical Protestants (which includes most Baptists, one of the largest Protestant denoms in the U.S.) see even the most OF of OF Masses as "rigid" or "ritualistic."

See?! I was telling you the truth. :thumbsup: Chortle, chortle.

That being said--sorry, jb80, for hijacking your thread and being nasty to fellow CAF members!

[/quote]

No need for an apology at all! I'm glad I could help you to have a little fun haha.

[quote="Cat, post:5, topic:186065"]
I will comment to the OP that he/she should tell your friends that even though it isn't as obvious, most of the various Protestant worship services DO have a "liturgy." It may vary a little from week to week, but as you proved by summarizing a typical worship service, there is a regular "Order of Worship," and there are certain events that you can pretty much expect from every worship service, even if they are placed in a different order in the program. There are other events that would never, ever happen even in the most free of worship services.

[/quote]

Good point! While I think what he was more concerned with is the particular fact that a lot of the prayers are "scripted" and the Scripture Readings are set way in advance, I think we both were too quick to overlook many of the structured things we had grown accustomed to. Like you said, there is a definitely 'flow' to the service that would feel awkward to have changed. On top of that, there was one song we even sang every single week!

[quote="Cat, post:5, topic:186065"]
I would suggest that you order Scott Hahn's wonderful book, The Lamb's Supper. This is an excellent explanation using the Bible, from a former Protestant pastor, of what the Mass is. It's not a worship service. Because it's not a worship service, there is no "program" or "order of worship." It's a real event--a re-presentation of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, and this is one reason why the order cannot be moved around. It's a real event that can't be changed.

[/quote]

D'Oh! I own this book and have read this book! Unfortunately it was one of the first books I read on my journey. I believe I had only attended Mass once or twice when reading it and I even told myself that this was definitely one I needed to come back to after I became a bit more familiar with the flow and responses. Thanks for the much needed reminder!

[quote="DeniseFath, post:6, topic:186065"]
The Mass is organized with the purpose of preparing us to receive the Eucharist. It is highly structured because the Eucharist is the greatest gift we can receive and should not be taken lightly. And if you think about it, most events in life that are important we do give structure to: weddings, graduations, burials, etc. - there may be some time set aside in each for "openness" as you call it, but the overall event is still highly structured.

[/quote]

I really like this point here. The Mass is something that is extremely important. In fact, what can be more important than our relationship with God? Every other important event in our lives is planned out and set beforehand as to what is going to happen. Why should something that is important as preparing to receive Jesus be treated with any less attention? We certainly wouldn't plan our own Wedding and not have every detail planned out....

[quote="DeniseFath, post:6, topic:186065"]
The Mass of the Early Christians by Mike Aquilina is a really cool book, if you want to learn about how early in Church history the Mass got its structure.

[/quote]

Thanks for the suggestion! I'll definitely look into it!

[quote="DeniseFath, post:6, topic:186065"]
God bless!

[/quote]

And God Bless you all as well! Thank you all for the comments and still feel free to leave any other thoughts you may have

Just because something is spontaneous (unplanned) does not make it necessarily “spiritual” or “organic” or “better”. There is also the very real possibility that the basic structure of the Catholic liturgy was determined by God!

There is the danger that an improvised service begins to highlight or showcase the people doing the talking, singing, whatever, instead of directing everyone to the worship of God. It can also make the people who don’t feel “moved by the Spirit” to contribute in some unique way that they are spiritually inferior or lacking in something. It could make them disillusioned with worship altogether.

Ah, I’ve agreed with you already! It is nice to know that you can (or, in theory, should be able to) enter a Catholic church anywhere in the world and participate in the same liturgy. Now, there are regional variations (such as language and customs), and there are multiple Rites in the Catholic Church – the Roman Rite is only one such Rite! – so there may be some things that feel foreign to you, but that is the legitimate variety of worship in the Catholic Church: not improvisation from one day to the next, from one parish to the next, but a diversity of liturgical rites, each with its own structure and order, but all following the same general plan.

The “sameness” helps keep us from feeling caught off-guard and unsure of where the worship is going next. (This is why a pet peeve of mine is priests who change the words of certain prayers so that the people don’t know when to respond!) It also aids our memory: repetition of certain Scripture passages or of certain prayers, over time, ingrains them in our mind.

I couldn’t agree with you more!

Again, spontaneity is not a guarantor of quality. I’ve got a quote from a book about this that I recently read; I’ll share with you when I get home. Also, what happens when you’re spiritually dry and you haven’t got a decent from-the-heart prayer to offer? (That’s why the Psalms are wonderful. Get to know them well, and pray them as personal prayers when you can’t find your own words.)

The prayers we have at Mass are, by and large, very ancient, and the product of very prayerful people who have found a way to put into words both doctrine and reverent petition to our Lord.

You bet we do! Here’s the beginning of the introduction of my book on the Mass:
THE MASS, OR AS it is called in the Eastern Rites, the “Divine Liturgy,” is the greatest prayer that can be prayed, because it is the prayer of Jesus Christ to God the Father. Christ is the Head of His Church – His Mystical Body, the People of God – so the faithful who participate in the Mass are also praying that same prayer, each to his own degree. Because the priest by virtue of his participation in the ordained (ministerial) priesthood acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”), there are certain parts of the Mass which are prayed by him alone; but because all the faithful share in the baptismal (common) priesthood, we are called to participate in the Mass in our own way.

During the Mass, the saints and angels in Heaven are present in a mystical way, because the Mass is a foretaste of the true heavenly liturgy. Participation in the Mass is not hindered by death: the souls of the faithful departed also being purified benefit from the offering of Mass. The Mass is truly the action of the whole Church joined with Christ.

Every Mass is offered for four reasons (or “ends”): first, to give glory to God; second, to thank Him for all He has bestowed; third, to attain expiation for our sins by means of repentance and the offering of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (the Eucharist) to the Father; and fourth, to present our needs before God in prayers of petition. In order for the Mass to be what it is meant to be, it is necessary that the faithful cooperate with and take part in the Mass through individual participation in it.
The Catholic Church recognizes that the earthly liturgy is a participation in the heavenly liturgy; that is, the angels’ and saints’ worship of God in Heaven is experienced through the Church’s worship of God on earth. That is why the Divine Liturgy is so solemn and mystical, and why it is full of signs and symbols that draw our minds and hearts to God.

I definitely agree with what you’re saying. Especially how it can gravitate to an almost showcase of just a few people.

That’s a very good point. We usually think of ‘breaking habits’ so habit is usually associated with something bad. But we’re truly creatures of habit and when we get in the habit of something good, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

I always love a good quote so I’d love to hear it!

Another very good point that I hadn’t thought of.

This sounds very interesting. Just a quick question. Does your book focus more on the history of prayers and responses in the Mass or is it more focused on the changes that are coming with the new translation? Or a combination of both?

I’d like to re-read the Scott Hahn book, the Mike Aquilina book sounds interesting, and now with your book I have a third book that sounds interesting and they all seem to cover a different angle as well so I’m not exactly sure where to start haha.

I really like this description. I actually said in my initial conversation that the Mass is focused on God first rather than focusing on what ‘I’ get out of the service. However, I really like this wording much better than mine.

Thanks so much for your input!

Right: holy habits are healthy!

It’s a bit lengthy, but it’s quite appropriate to your inquiry:
In a media age, words come at us from all directions, like arrows from a thousand bows. Most of these arrows are marketing words, advertising words, words designed to manipulate us, to sell us something. …] For these reasons, among others, we distrust words, especially words that have been fashioned and shaped for the occasion by Madison or Pennsylvania Avenue.

So it’s not surprising that many are put off by the words of the liturgy. Surely, if we’re trying to worship sincerely, praise a God who loves us as a father loves his children, we want to use language is “authentic.” What child uses formal speech to communicate with their “daddy”? We want nothing to do with pretension, stuffiness, and any rhetoric that prevents us from being real.

In our desire to be real, we start thinking that authenticity is another word for spontaneity, as if everything we say at the spur of the moment is more true, more sincere than words we craft carefully. For many, the Freudian slip is considered more authentic than the measured reply.

Indeed, sometimes what we blurt out thoughtlessly is actually what we mean and feel. But more often than not, what we blurt out is ill-considered and something we either need to quality or apologize for.

The liturgy’s answer to crafted language that deceives or manipulates is not to abandon crafted language but to shape it so that it reveals reality. The most carefully crafted language in our culture tends to be poetry. And poetry at its finest moments subverts our best attempts at hiding from reality. …] The poetry of liturgy has just this power. The liturgy contains words that have been shaped and crafted over the centuries. It is formal speech. It is public poetry. As such it reaches into us to reveal not only the unnamed reality of our lives but the God who created us. “In worship the voice of the Church calls up thoughts and feelings often far beyond us,” wrote one liturgical theologian, “yet to which something in us faintly but firmly responds.” (Beyond Bells & Smells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy, pp. 113-114)

It’s not so concerned with history (although I do occasionally provide brief historical background for some part of the liturgy) as it is with a spiritual catechesis on the Mass: what do we say, where does it come from in Scripture, what does it mean, and why do we say it? In cases where the translation has changed, I explain why the new translation is better, that is, why the translation changed.

Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper” is very good for seeing how the Church Fathers saw the Divine Liturgy on earth as a participation in the liturgy of Heaven, and Aquilina’s “The Mass of the Early Christians” is helpful for a look at the historical origins of the Mass (and proof of the long-standing traditions). My book is about… well, see above.

I really like this description. I actually said in my initial conversation that the Mass is focused on God first rather than focusing on what ‘I’ get out of the service. However, I really like this wording much better than mine.

Thanks so much for your input!

\The exact church I grew up in had a service that was not nearly as structured as a Catholic Mass.\

**I was raised a Baptist too, before I got saved. ;)

Actually, Baptist services are JUST as structured as a Latin Pontifical Solemn Mass or a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Just because it's not written down doesn't mean it has no standard structure.

All the classical Eucharistic Liturgies of the Pre-reformation Churches, including those of the East, fall into two main sections: the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

So, EVERY church and EVERY congregation has a liturgy, that is, some kind of organized structure. The alternative is chaos.

The question is: are we going to follow a liturgy based on our own personal notions (including the idea that spontaneity is somehow more spiritual)? Or are we going to have a Liturgy based on Biblical precedent that can be traced all the way back to the Apostles?**

I agree it’s better to have a plan of what readings to cover when, in choosing scripture. That doesn’t automatically mean the Catholic Church’s plan is better than that of other churches. Several other denominations saw the wisdom of our post-Vatican II lectionary, and now have a similar three-year lectionary closely modeled on it.

Another approach I saw at one Baptist church is to go entirely through the Bible, skipping nothing. The day I was there they were doing Habukkuk - a bit dry, and a bit confusing, since they started midway through the book and I didn’t have the context of the first part to grasp what was happening in the latest verses. I can only imagine how parts of say Leviticus must have been. But the advantage is that ALL of the Bible would be covered, something we don’t do in the Catholic Church.

[quote="Digitonomy, post:13, topic:186065"]
I agree it's better to have a plan of what readings to cover when, in choosing scripture. That doesn't automatically mean the Catholic Church's plan is better than that of other churches. Several other denominations saw the wisdom of our post-Vatican II lectionary, and now have a similar three-year lectionary closely modeled on it.

Another approach I saw at one Baptist church is to go entirely through the Bible, skipping nothing. The day I was there they were doing Habukkuk - a bit dry, and a bit confusing, since they started midway through the book and I didn't have the context of the first part to grasp what was happening in the latest verses. I can only imagine how parts of say Leviticus must have been. But the advantage is that ALL of the Bible would be covered, something we don't do in the Catholic Church.

[/quote]

The bishops were made the chief liturgists of the Church when they were given the authority to bind and loose. In that light, it doesn't matter whether there exists some "objectively better" way to do liturgy than the way our bishops direct that it be done, within the legitimate exercise of their office. In that sense then, yes, the Catholic Church's plan is automatically the best, if only because it is the one that obedience calls us to. Since the Catholic Church is the one true Church, it follows logically that yes, considered in the most narrow sense, what is chosen for us to hear at our Mass is automatically the best thing we could be hearing.

I'm not saying that the advantages to the three-year lectionary did not exist when there was a one-year lectionary, nor that the advantages of the one-year lectionary vanished when the three-year lectionary was introduced, as if there were no objective grounds for considering some of the bishops' decisions to be better in one time than in another. It was vitally important that the lectionary readings were chosen after much scholarship, prayer and careful discernment, and that work of the Holy Spirit could have been resisted, to our detriment. We are not protected from every mistake the bishops could make. I am saying, though, that obedience in the Church has a value all its own, even considering that the bishops are but men, not fully free of the frailties of men. The value of that obedience, in that trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, trumps aesthetic considerations that might recommend any other gathering of Christians over our own gatherings for Mass.

By the way, it is hardly the will of the bishops in our own time that the faithful restrict themselves to reading that part of Scriptures selected for the Liturgy of the Word. There is nothing keeping us from reading the whole Bible, cover to cover. Having said that, it is better to read part, having had it handed on with the understanding that is the teaching charism of the Church, than to have read the entire thing but with our understanding in darkness, having misinformed ourselves about the truth is that we have read. We have a responsibility to read Holy Scriptures, as we are able, but also responsible to listen to the word of God as the Church proclaims it, and not as our own wills interpret it.

[quote="EasterJoy, post:14, topic:186065"]
...In that sense then, yes, the Catholic Church's plan is automatically the best, if only because it is the one that obedience calls us to. Since the Catholic Church is the one true Church, it follows logically that yes, considered in the most narrow sense, what is chosen for us to hear at our Mass is automatically the best thing we could be hearing.

[/quote]

I have to disagree - while our lectionary may well be the best, it's not automatically the best. And we are not called by obedience to follow it. We are free if we choose to attend say the Armenian Catholic liturgy, with the occasional foray back to a Latin church for a wedding, ordination, or feast. We need never follow the regular lectionary at all.

The argument was that our current lectionary stands head and shoulders above any Protestant choice of readings because it covers so much of the Bible. I simply said that may be true in some cases, but many Protestants get approximately the same readings as we do, and some actually get the entire Bible (minus the deuterocanonicals, of course). Doesn't mean that approach is better, just that the argument being put forth here was incomplete.

I don't think it was suggested that anyone join another denomination. It's perfectly appropriate to accept the readings chosen for us when we are at mass. But we needn't take a Pollyannish approach - God gave us intellect to ponder these kinds of issues, and message boards to discuss our ponderings.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.