The Mass is so very familiar to Catholics, as it should be. It's our weekly celebration of the Lord's Day!
Even those who do not attend on a regular basis assume they know exactly what the Mass is and would expect no surprises or interesting changes from week to week.
Of course, a major change took place in the late 1960s when the language used in the Mass changed to the vernacular of the people rather than Latin. Some of us are...seasoned...enough to remember the old Latin Mass vividly.
But what if you could go back further in time and experience the Mass? What would you find?
Some claim that the Church has changed teachings over time and if this is true, of course one would expect to see major changes in the Mass over time, especially over long periods of many centuries as cultures changed.
What if you could go so far back not only to when the Mass was univerally in Latin, but even before that- when it was in Greek!
Greek was the language of the early Church and is the language of the New Testament. Among the Greek Orthodox, of course, Greek has been maintained in the Divine Liturgy since the beginning. Only in the 200s did the Church begin to adopt Latin in the west.
Even the word "Catholic" is from Greek!
So, what if you could read an account of what the Mass was like in 155 AD in Rome, the capital of the Christian world? That would be fascinating!
In 155, St. Polycarp was alive and visited Rome. He was personally taught the faith by St. John and many were alive who knew an apostle.
Here you go! Courtesy of St. Justin Martyr, feast day June 1. His First Apology, 155 AD- (Notes are mine)
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read (the Liturgy of the Word), as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things (the homily). Then we all rise together and pray (the prayers of the faithful), and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought (the presentation of the gifts), and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings (the Eucharistic prayers in the Liturgy of the Eucharist), according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each (Holy Communion), and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons (Holy Communion for the homebound, have you ever heard of Protestants doing this??). And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit (the offering); and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need (Christian charity). But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead (the Lord's Day).
Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss (the sign of peace). There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (the Holy Trinty), and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to ge'noito [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins (baptism), and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined (in a state of grace and not mortal sin). For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. (how much more clear could this be??) For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. (Luke 22:19, the command of the Lord, DO THIS in memory of me)
Amazing! Does this sound familiar? It should, because the Mass in unchanged in essence and demonstrates the integrity of the Sacred Tradition through the centuries.
Look here for more incredible passages from very early Christian writers: