The Reformed Chaldean Mass

Q & A on the Reformed Chaldean Mass

Q – When and how was this Reformed Mass put together?

A – The Reformed Chaldean Mass is the work of a Patriarchal Liturgical Committee begun by the last Patriarch, His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid of blessed memory, interacting with the whole hierarchy of the Chaldean Church and continued under the patronage of our beloved Patriarch Mar Emmanuel III Delly. The Committee, comprised of experts in the Chaldean Liturgy, worked in cooperation with the Chaldean Synod of bishops for fifteen years before the Text of the Reformed Mass was finalized, approved and presented to the Holy See for official recognition. The most significant dates are as follows:

November 12, 2005 – the Chaldean Holy Synod in Rome approves the Reformed Missal.

February 18, 2006 – the Vatican gives the Reformed Missal its official recognition.

January 6, 2007 – the date given for the beginning of the New Mass by the Chaldean Holy Synod held in Shaqlawa, Iraq on May 9-11, 2006.

Q – Why a new Mass?

A – The Second Vatican Council gives reasons for a Reform of all Catholic Liturgies at the beginning of its first Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium:

“…to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church.”

This Constitution continues, regarding the Eastern Rites: “Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.”

It was first of all in response to the call of the Council, then, that the Patriarchal Liturgical Committee of the Chaldean Church was formed and commissioned. In addition to the general call of the Council, there were several particular reasons for its commission:

First, it was a response to the chaos found in Chaldean churches around the world, where Mass is being said in drastically different ways in different parishes. Because the Liturgy is not the prayer of any individual but of the whole Church together, this situation is contrary to the spirit of unity demanded by Christ for his Church. And so, the Reformed Mass is presented as the way to celebrate Mass in the Chaldean Church, following Christ’s command: “do this in memory of me…”

Secondly, over the centuries, the Chaldean Mass had been added to and changed in a disorganized and sometimes sloppy way. A Reform was needed to “clean up” what was sloppy while keeping all that was of value. This is especially the case with “Latinizations,” or things added or changed in the Mass simply as an imitation of the Latin Rite, which can be contradictory to the flow and meaning of the Chaldean liturgical structure.

Thirdly, recent scholarship in liturgy allowed the Committee to further develop the Chaldean Mass into an even more beautiful and meaningful ceremony, closer to the Scriptures and to the Apostles, and therefore to Christ himself.

Q – What are some of the most dramatic changes?

A – While most of the changes in the Mass will be noticed mainly by the priest, some changes are even more visible, for example:

The Eucharistic Prayer or Anaphora, the most climactic moment of the Mass, is now said aloud by the priest, where before it was said silently. This allows the people to participate, by their conscious attention, in the entirety of the Mass.

The architecture of the ancient Chaldean Church was encouraged. For example, the Sanctuary Veil, symbolic of the veil of the Temple which was torn open by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross, is reinstated.

There is greater movement in the Mass in the form of processions at the beginning of Mass, before the Gospel reading, and at the Presentation of the bread and wine.

The two Old Testament readings are re-stressed in the Sunday liturgy, giving greater opportunity to the Church to listen to the words of Holy Scripture.

Q – How will the people participate?

A – The New Mass offers much more opportunity for the participation of the people:

In the old Mass, there was a separation between the prayer of the priest and that of the people: while the priest was praying the Eucharistic Prayer, the most important one of the Mass, the people would be singing a song or praying on their own. In the New Mass, the people are able to participate with the priest by praying in their hearts the same prayer the priest prays out loud.

In addition to the hymns and spiritual songs that were already a part of the Mass (Abun d-bashmayya, Lakhu Mara, Qaddysha Alaha, Paghreh Da-Mshyha, Cruwwe wa-Srape), more hymns were added, to reflect the meaning of any particular moment of the ceremony: Ha Mzamnyton at the Presentation of the Gifts, Kahna Ma D-a’el after the coming of the Holy Spirit, Shlama w-Shayna during the Sign of Peace, etc. These hymns allow the people to participate in what is actually happening before them, rather than separating them from the events of the Mass.

Q – Why does the priest have his back to us?

A – During the Presentation of the bread and wine and the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest is, like you, facing the Cross. The prayer that he prays on your behalf is addressed to God, and so he faces the symbol of Christ, the Son of God, as he prays it. He does not have his back to you, any more than you have your back to someone behind you. He is only facing the same direction that you are, because he is praying to the same God.

Q – Why is the priest holding a cross?

A – The New Mass did not make every priest a bishop. Using a cross to bless the people is an ancient sign that it is really Christ who blesses us, and the priest blesses the people in his Name, through the power of his Cross.

Q – Why don’t we have the announcements in the same place as before? And why aren’t we praying an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the deceased anymore?

A – Interrupting the connection between the Gospel reading and the Sermon was always a distraction. We used to forget completely the Gospel story by the time we heard the sermon, because we had to think about dead relatives, or second collections, or fundraising parties. Now, there is no more distraction – we hear the Gospel proclaimed, then we hear it preached. The intentions for the Mass, including the names of the deceased, and the announcements, were moved to much more appropriate places:

The names of the people that we pray for during the Mass were made an integral part of the Offering itself, rather than a side-issue. They are now part of the “Book of the Living and the Dead,” the people who are named as intentions for the whole Mass, not just an Our Father and a Hail Mary.

As with other Churches, the other announcements have been moved to be right before the final blessing.

Q – Why doesn’t the priest prepare the bread and wine at Mass anymore?

A – Again, in a “return to our roots,” the bread and wine are prepared before the beginning of Mass. This is in conformity with the actions of Christ, who before the Last Supper began sent disciples to “prepare the meal” at the Passover supper.

Q – Why was the Creed changed to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father,” rather than “from the Father and the Son?”

A – This is another instance of the Holy See asking us to “return to our roots.” The original form of the Nicene Creed says that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father.” The phrase “and the Son” was added, in the West, in the following centuries. Though it is quite true to say that the Spirit proceeds from both the “Father and the Son,” the Eastern Church, encouraged by the Holy See, has asked us to return to the original form of the Creed.

Q. What about the other sacraments and ceremonies of the Church? Are they also going to be reformed?

A – Yes. As declared by the Patriarchal Commission, the Reform of the Chaldean Liturgy has begun with the Mass, and will continue its work of improving and revising all the other official prayers of the Church.

The next phase of the Reform will be the Naqpayatha or the Propers, the prayers and readings that are arranged to be said on every particular Sunday and Feast day of the year. In addition, this phase will encompass also the other two Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass, and provide readings and optional propers for Daily Mass.

The Reform will then look at the other Sacraments, such as Baptism and Confirmation, Marriage, Forgiveness or Reconciliation, Ordination and Anointing of the Sick, and sacramentals such as the Rite of Funerals, the Communion Service (“PreSanctified”), etc.

Finally, the Reform will turn to the Hudhra or Liturgy of the Hours.

Other Questions about the Reformed Mass?

e-mail Fr. Andrew Younan at: