Like my fellow pastors around the country, I’ve been reflecting on the changes happening to the prayers that we all pray at Mass. We pastors have been attending workshops and “talking shop” about how we’ll be working with these new texts when the changes are implemented on the First Sunday of Advent.
We have an expression for that in everyday life. We say, after talking and coming to a consensus, “We seem to be on the same page.” That expression shows the importance of agreed-upon ways of speaking.
When we gather for liturgy, we also find it helpful when we’re all “on the same page.” In this case, it means praying the same words to express our shared faith. The liturgy is the public work of the Church, all over the world. Across the globe, our creed and our prayers capture what we all believe as Catholics.
Even in the early Church, a time when the presider improvised many of the prayers at Eucharist, some common phrases and expressions were used. The leader would recall the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. Teachings of Jesus and the apostles would be quoted from memory or read from collections of sayings and letters circulated throughout the Church. Parts of the Hebrew Scriptures were used, such as the Book of Psalms.
As the Church grew and became the official religion of the Roman Empire, common, agreed-upon forms of the prayers, gestures and order of the Mass took shape. Eventually, these became organized into what we know today as “rites.” A “rite” is the term for a standardized way to worship.