Explanation of the Mass - Liturgy of the Word (Part 5)


Through a series of informational articles, we will try to explain terms, prayers, and actions that happen at Mass and why they happen.  You will learn about the prayers the priest prays silently during Mass, as well as the people’s parts.  References to GIRM in italics refer to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the book from which rites related to the Mass are codified.  We hope this information will help to make your participation in Mass more meaningful and understandable.


GIRM 65. The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life.  It should be an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners. … It is appropriate for a brief period of silence to be observed after the Homily.

The Homily is meant to relate the readings to our lives.  The Word of God is not just 2,000-year-old words that mean less over time, but they are the living Word which applies to all of us today.  The Homily is meant to make the connection between Jesus’ message and our lives today so that we can more fully live out our Christian call to discipleship.

GIRM 67. The purpose of the Creed or Profession of Faith is that the whole gathered people may respond to the Word of God proclaimed in the readings taken from Sacred Scripture and explained in the Homily and that they may also honor and confess the great mysteries of the faith by pronouncing the rule of faith in a formula approved for liturgical use and before the celebration of these mysteries in the Eucharist begins.

The creed that we pray at Mass originated in Jerusalem as a profession of faith before baptism.  The Profession of Faith - Nicene Creed – the best statement of our Catholic belief, originated in 325 A.D. from the Council of Nicaea called by Roman Emperor Constantine to deal with controversies about what to believe about Jesus (Arius’ claims that there was a time when Jesus was not) and further developed at the Council of Constantinople in 381.  It is the most concise explanation of the Catholic faith and reminds us of the core of our beliefs.

A creed is a statement or summary of belief.  The structure of the creed reinforces our belief in the Holy Trinity, first addressing the Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit, stressing that the three persons are one God.  At the heart of our faith is our belief that God became one of us at the birth of Christ.  To highlight our belief in this truth, we are asked to bow at the words “By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

On Easter Sunday or on Sundays when we have baptisms, we are asked to renew our baptismal promises.  We are asked about our belief, to which we respond “I do” to each statement of our faith. The renewal of our baptismal promises is also a creed, a statement of belief, based on the Apostle’s Creed.

The Creed is a statement of the truths which we hold as Catholics.  When we recite this prayer together, we express not only our individual belief but the faith which all of us hold in common.  We return to these familiar “words of faith” week after week to remind and refocus ourselves on the truth.  The creed is a very important prayer!  When we pray the creed together, be sure to join in the prayer.  You may want to even memorize the prayer to make it truly your own!