Saturday, June 1, 2013

Justin and the Oldest Catholic Relic

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Justin Martyr on June 1st of every year. He was one of the few lay men who has been given the illustrious title of "Father of the Church." In fact, most of the early Fathers were bishops and priests.

In any event, St. Justin Martyr was a Christian philosopher and native of Samaria. Martyred in Rome around the year 165 A.D., and likely born before the turn of the century, St. Justin, most likely benefited from the faith and the evangelization of the Samaritan woman (she is mentioned in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John). Indeed, it was from Samaria that the title "Savior of the World" was given to Jesus. And it was also in this region that St. Justin- a restless wanderer in search of the Truth -was inspired by the witness of those Christians who greeted their Roman executioners with a smile. He would later say that this is why he became a Christian.

Another invaluable service he provides for us Catholics in 2013 is that he gives a detailed description of the Mass in his letter (or book) to Trypho, a Jew. Keep in mind that St. Justin was teaching the Faith about 50 to 60 years after the last apostle died. And the account he gives of Catholic worship bears striking similarity to the Mass as we celebrate it today. I had given subtitles for each of the passages he wrote about the Mass. Do you see the similarity? Also, be sure to scroll down to see an older test of the liturgy; one that is said to date back to the first century.

The Lord’s Day: Sundays

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts.

We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.

The Readings and the Sermon:

The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do…The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

The Collection Basket:

The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.

The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

The Necessity of Believing in the Real Presence:

No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

The Consecration/Holy Sacrifice:

On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen”.

They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things.


The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

The Liturgy of St. James:

One hundred years earlier, we find something similar with the Liturgy of St. James. Some authorities believe this liturgy to date back as early as 60 A.D. Regardless of the exact date of its installation, the Liturgy of St. James is widely regarded to be the oldest liturgy, going back to St. James the Apostle.

Notice, as with St. Justin Martyr’s description of the Mass, the Liturgy of St. James also contains a basic blueprint of the Mass as it is celebrated in 2013.

And with your spirit:

After the approach to the altar, the Priest says:—

Peace be to all.

The People.

And to your spirit

The Sanctuary as Holy:

The Priest says this prayer from the gates to the altar.

God Almighty, Lord great in glory, who hast given to us an entrance into the Holy of Holies, through the sojourning among men of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord, and God, and Saviour Jesus Christ, we supplicate and invoke Your goodness, since we are fearful and trembling when about to stand at Your holy altar…

The Kiss or Exchange of Peace:

The Deacon.

Let us salute one another with an holy kiss. Let us bow our heads to the Lord.


[Here is one example]:

Remember, O Lord, Christians sailing, travelling, sojourning in strange lands; our fathers and brethren, who are in bonds, prison, captivity, and exile; who are in mines, and under torture, and in bitter slavery. Remember, O Lord, the sick and afflicted, and those troubled by unclean spirits, their speedy healing from You, O God, and their salvation.

The Lord’s Prayer:

The People.

Our Father, which art in heaven: hollowed be Your name; and so on to the doxology.

The Priest, bowing, says (the Embolism ):—

And lead us not into temptation, Lord, Lord of Hosts, who know our frailty, but deliver us from the evil one and his works, and from all his malice and craftiness, for the sake of Your holy name, which has been placed upon our humility:

Consubstantial with the Father:

The Priest says aloud:—

And the grace and the mercies of the holy and consubstantial, and uncreated, and adorable Trinity, shall be with us all.

The Eucharistic Prayer:

Then the Priest holds the bread in his hand, and says:—

Having taken the bread in His holy and pure and blameless and immortal hands, lifting up His eyes to heaven, and showing it to You, His God and Father, He gave thanks, and hallowed, and broke, and gave it to us, His disciples and apostles, saying:—

Water Mixed With Wine:

Then he takes the cup, and says:—

In like manner, after supper, He took the cup, and having mixed wine and water, lifting up His eyes to heaven, and presenting it to You, His God and Father, He gave thanks, and hollowed and blessed it, and filled it with the Holy Spirit, and gave it to us His disciples, saying, Drink all of it; this is my blood of the new testament shed for you and many, and distributed for the remission of sins.

Making the Sign of the Cross:

And when he makes the sign of the cross on the bread, he says:—

Behold the Lamb of God, the Son of the Father, that takes away the sin of the world, sacrificed for the life and salvation of the world.

Eucharist as Live Coal (Isaiah’s vision of God):

The Priest says:—

The Lord will bless us, and make us worthy with the pure touchings of our fingers to take the live coal, and place it upon the mouths of the faithful for the purification and renewal of their souls and bodies, now and always.

In the Name of the Lord:

The people:-

Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.

Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

The Priest prays.

Commemorating our all-holy, pure, most glorious, blessed Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, and all the saints that have been well-pleasing to You since the world began, let us devote ourselves, and one another, and our whole life, to Christ our God:

The Real Presence of Christ:

Prayer said in the sacristy after the dismissal.

You have given unto us, O Lord, sanctification in the communion of the all-holy body and precious blood of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Concluding thoughts: It is a miracle that the Mass has been preserved as long as it has. No other religious celebration can claim such distinction. Not only is the Mass the oldest "living" Christian relic, it was- even more than the preaching of the Gospel itself -the primary means through which souls came to Christ. And, as an unintended consequence, it was the chosen instrument of Christ in transforming a superstitious and barbaric civilization into one of love and civility.