VNO 17: For The Unity of Christians

Much ink has been spilled–and many computer keystrokes tapped–in criticisms of the third edition of the Roman Missal and its English translation. Amidst the problems of unintelligibility, one valid complaint is with the layout of the Missal itself. The seventeenth Mass for a Various Need and Occasion is near the back of the book. That’s not any different from the other forty-eight occasions. But if you’re looking for the Christian Unity preface, don’t seek it earlier in the book.

The preface contains two significant intercessions:

For through him you brought us
to the knowledge of your truth,
so that by the bond of one faith and one Baptism
we might become his Body.

… he might prompt and engender unity
in the diversity of your gifts,
dwelling within your adopted children
and filling and ruling the whole Church.

The first rubric given states:

This Mass may be used whenever there are special celebrations for the unity of Christians, provided it does not occur on a Sunday of Advent, Lent or Easter, or on any Solemnity.

If a special celebration were to occur on an ordinary Sunday, say, in the week of Christian Unity, it would be well within the bounds to set aside the readings, orations, and music for the Sunday of the missalette, hymnal, website, or Roman Calendar, and make for a deeper and more sincere observance.

The Lectionary for Mass (867-871) gives no fewer than twenty possible readings and five psalms. Including this rare appearance by the prophet Jeremiah (31:10-12b, 14b) for music after the first reading:

Lord, gather your scattered people.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together;
he guards them as a shepherd his flock.

The LORD shall ransom Jacob,
he shall redeem him from a hand of his conqueror.
Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings.

Then the virgins shall make merry and dance,
and young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.
I will lavish choice portions on the priests,
and my people shall be filled with my blessings,
says the LORD.

This is edited a bit from the NAB prose text here. Readers of the Gospel have eight choices, including three from Jesus’ farewell discourse of John 17. Maybe we could do with a reminder of all twenty-six verses. another notable option is the Last Supper Mandatum of John 13–it’s only appearance outside the Easter Triduum, if I recall correctly.

To go with that preface and twenty-five readings and psalms there are three sets of prayers. Each set includes two options for the collect–so a wealth of twelve presider prayers in this Mass.

Let’s look at the propers:


Entrance Antiphon John 10:14-15

I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep and mine know me, says the Lord, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Psalms 23 and 100 are Liturgy of the Word options, and may work well with this text, especially if another Scripture is chosen to follow the first reading.

Communion Antiphon Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17

Though many, we are one bread, one body, for we all partake of the one Bread and one Chalice.

Numerous songs include this text, either as inspiration for a verse or antiphon. If you pressed me for a Psalm, I’d say the 122nd or even the 145th.


Entrance Antiphon Psalm 106:47

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, to give thanks to your holy name and make it our glory to praise you.

One of the longest in the Psalter, the 106th includes a narrative of Israel’s history, including confessions of specific sins of Israel and appeals to God’s mercy. I wouldn’t think to include a list of Christian sins against unity, but the choice of this Psalm, even for its confident final expression of praise (verses 47-48) is an interesting one.

Communion Antiphon Colossians 3:14-15

And over all things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.

The notion of love is developed well in many of the lyrical passages of the first letter of John. If verses 12-13 and 16ff aren’t enough for the Communion procession, I’d go to the other author.


Entrance Antiphon Ephesians 4:4-6

One body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in us all.

The Ephesians canticle in praise of God (1:3-10) seems to make sense to join to this.

Communion Antiphon John 17:21, 23

May all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one.

Good matches for this text might include the Christological canticles of Philippians (2:5-11) and Colossians (1:12-20).

An other comments?

Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to VNO 17: For The Unity of Christians

  1. Pingback: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020, Day 1 | Catholic Sensibility

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