Why Mass has a structural rite?


Why there’s a liturgy? Why every Mass there’s always the same ritual order? Why there’s formulated responses and prayers? Why are we different from protestant sunday services where they do mostly everything spontaneous?


The Catholic Church is Apostolic. Our liturgy is not man made. It follows the same form given by Christ to His Apostles two thousand years ago.


I would recommend reading “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass: Understanding What We Say And Do In The Liturgy” by Edward Sri. It does what it says in the title.


One of my best buys.


Read Luke 24 13-35. Then read this…



As part of my graduate work in liturgy, I took a course called Ritual Studies. It looked at religious ritual from an anthropologic point of view. All cultures have some kind of rituals to express their religious beliefs. The reason is that the repetition of rituals helps us to make sense of their life and connects us to what is beyond our complete comprehension.

Even in the secular world there are rituals that we feel we need to follow. Rituals are all around us, even if we don’t notice them. Think about your morning ritual. Is the basically the same every morning? What happens when your daily rituals or routine is disrupted? If you have kids, think of their bedtime rituals. if you deviate from them they often get upset. Even when we don’t plan it, we engage in certain rituals. It is the Christmas season. Think of what your family does each and every Christmas that you wouldn’t dare change,

Rituals have a great degree of comfort for those who engage in them. They know what to expect and it gives them security. It is the same with the Mass. We know it, or should know it by heart. We know what to expect, what to say, what to do. Sometimes, yes it does seem to become too much of a ritual, too repetitive, too much the same, something we just do by rote without much thinking. But liturgy is not a head thing, it is a heart thing. When I find myself getting bored at Mass, I try to focus on a particular part of the Mass, and what God is saying to me in that ritual action.

Look how many arguments occur in these forums when people experience a Mass where the ritual is not followed exactly. It makes them uncomfortable, uneasy, agitated. There is a reason and it’s not just because they are being legalistic (although that happens a lot too). It is because the familiar ritual is being disrupted and for better or worse, their connection with God is disrupted.

As another poster suggested, read a book about why we do what we do at Mass. Take a course in liturgy that the parish or diocese may offer. The structure and rites of the Mass are there for a reason. The more we understand them, the less we think of them as unnecessary.


I was an involved and enthusiastic Evangelical Protestant for the first 47 years of my life.

Please keep in mind that even though the Evangelical Protestant worship services appear spontaneous, they are not.

In some denoms, there is no planned “order of service,” but the pastor and worship leader still have a basic structure in their minds and stick to it. And the music is rehearsed and planned, and the sermon is written in advanced and practiced, so it’s not really “spontaneous” at all. Even the Praise and Worship time is planned out.

In most Evangelical Protestant denominations, there is no spontaneity and everything is planned out. The musicians know exactly when they are supposed to start singing softly in the background while the pastor pleads for people to come forward to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The instrumentalists know when they are supposed to play background music. The Praise and Worship band has practiced and they know what choruses they will be doing and who will sing lead on each one and when the guitar riff will happen and when the band will drop out and allow the congregation to sing acapella. The light crew knows when the lights will blaze and when they will die down, and what colors will be used in lights at any given time in the worship service. The sound man know what will happen and has the amplification planned out.

Evangelical Protestant churches are competing with all the other churches in town for people in the pews, which means offering monies, which means survival of the church. So they don’t do things spontaneously. They plan everything and make sure that it is well-prepared and sharply-delivered so that people will like what they see and hear and keep coming back to their church and supporting the church financially.


Wow, Cat-
Excellent post!

Subconsciously, I realized the music was meant to drive people’s emotions, but I’ve never before seen it laid out so clearly.



Not much more I can really add except for my experience in a protestant church. I can tell you without a doubt any of the mainline denominations will have a ritual …a known order of their worship. The same thing every Sunday. Just like the Catholic Church, the things that are different are the readings/ scripture, homilies/ sermons and music. The order of it will be the same with possibly the exception of something extraordinary like Christmas eve.

Imagine if it weren’t that way. It would seem somewhat chaotic right? You would never know from one Sunday to the next what is going to happen and what you’re supposed to do. How do you then prepare yourself and your heart for worship?


Liturgy in the early church followed the Jewish service, with modifications. In that sense, we started off in the church with a structured worship rite. The mass has a history longer than Christianity (unless of course we extend Christianity’s history to Jewish history BC).

While the romantic notion that our clergy gets caught up by the Holy Spirit and delivers a spiritual experience has probably happened in the history of the Church, for most of our clergy, preparing a mass involves a lot of perspiration, preachers block, etc. I largely agree with an earlier poster that Evangelical Protestant pastors are not all that spontaneous either.

Individual bishops (there were no priests at that time - certainly none leading the liturgy) in the primitive church (within the first two centuries) similarly prepared the prayers for Sunday liturgy. Some are better than others at preparing prayers and sermons. Those who were not so good at it borrowed from those who were. As such, liturgical prayers, homilies and other similar writings of well known bishops became treasured and were incorporated into the liturgy or even read in place of the readings on prophets, etc. The former (incorporated into the liturgy) became the kernel of our liturgical books while some of the latter (readings) eventually became our New Testament.

Later, with the development of metropolitan authority (senior bishops with supervisory authority over other more junior bishops), set prayers in liturgical books also became a tool againsts heresy and to define the orthodox faith.

The liturgy did not jump fully formed into the Church but was the result of a long history of evolution. It is more interesting that way, to me at any rate.


What Protestants are you talking about? I was a Methodist before converting and the Sunday worship service was completely structured. No spontaneity.

Same applies to Anglicans, Lutherans etc.

You cannot use the word Protestant so vaguely. Which group are you talking about?


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