The Biblical Roots of the Liturgy



Catholics are often unaware just how biblical the Sacred Liturgy is. The design of our traditional churches; the use of candles, incense, and golden vessels; the postures of standing and kneeling; the altar; the singing of hymns; priests wearing albs and so forth are all depicted in the Scriptures. Some of these details were features of the ancient Jewish Temple, but most are reiterated in the Book of Revelation, which describes the liturgy of Heaven.


Always enjoy Scott Hahn’s story of how he went to a Mass before he was Catholic and sat in the back…

As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn’t just beside me. It was before me-in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from the Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, “Hey, can I explain what’s happening from Scripture? This is great!” Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: “This is My body . . . This is the cup of My blood.”

Here is another article by Msgr. Pope about the Mass in Scripture…
Today’s Gospel of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13ff) does more than present a resurrection appearance. It also presents the Mass in seminal form as I will show. In doing this Luke and the Holy Spirit teach us that the Mass is the essential and most vivid way that we encounter Christ now. The two disciples also learn this lesson for as soon as they recognize Christ “in the breaking of the bread” he vanishes from their earthly eyes. In effect Christ teaches them they will no longer see him in an earthly way but now they will see him with the eyes of faith in the Eucharist, the liturgy and, by extension, in all the sacraments.


“Biblical roots”? That is a distinctly protestant view, and patently incorrect. Rather, the bible bears witness to the liturgy established by Christ.


True it is that liturgy has foundations in heavenly worship that are older than the Bible. Howver, ivy grows on walls. Some plants can be propagated from clippings that will generate new root systems. It is healthy and enriching to know the many relationships and similarities between the Bible and the Mass.


Thank you for the referral to the 2010 blog post by Msgr. Pope. The incident on the road to Emmaus prefigures:

  • The gathering rite
  • the penitential rite
  • the liturgy of the Word
  • the liturgy of the Eucharist
  • the dismissal rite


Yes and no. The bible (New Testament) was not compiled for decades after the passing of the Apostles. What the bible actually reflects is, as you say, the witness of the work of Jesus Christ in our world…and specifically the establishment of the guidelines for Liturgy. Church Tradition partly is about the HOW we lived our faith when most records were verbal, and thus Tradition protected the ongoing celebration of the Liturgy going forward. Eventually, the written Bible was, if you will, the codification of the actual way we lived. Having stated the above, it is also accurate to state that the liturgy has Biblical roots, since the Bible simply reflects, in writing, God’s revelation that up until its publishing was orally revealed. Since we Catholics do believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is not inaccurate to draw the link between it’s writings and the incorporation of them into the Liturgy. Just always need to remember that first came the Oral then came the Written if time sequence is the debate IMHO.


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