Mass by David Maslanka

Latin text from the Latin Ordinary. Poetry and notes by Richard Beale.




She is the moss under my feet.
She is the green canopy over my head.
She is the birdsong at my right hand
And the curl of the snake around my left ankle.
She was the throb and striving of all my yesterdays
And she will be the dream of all my tomorrows.

Her disguise is a wondrous domino:
Through two windows in the silky night
The whole creation lies.
Whether it be night or day,
The beginning or the end,
We look upon this feast with hungry eyes.

This hunger is the same craving described by Simone Weil in Waiting for God. She equates the spiritual hunger for beauty with the craving for God. It was only another step for me to conclude that seeing in itself is responsible for our perception of separation from God, that suffering is unavoidable if we are to know even a small part of the whole creation: a simple illustration may clarify; when we are standing in a field we cannot see the whole field, and it is the same for us in creation – while we are in it we cannot see it. The domino (mask) refers to our human vision that symbolizes our desire and our understanding, as we try, and fail, to comprehend the universe and our place in it. Another image in this poem is unusual; the snake. In Eastern philosophy the serpent represents the nature of spirit, and also the spirit of nature, an over-arching creative force. Here it is meant to suggest the richness of the universe, as the cardinal points are addressed and praised, and possibly even the presence of the male principle of creation in the depths of the creative mother.



Kyrie eleison Lord have mercy
Christe eleison Christ have mercy
Kyrie eleison Lord have mercy

The Mass is for me an outpouring of love for God, an unconditional surrender of the soul to the one who created all there is. And the Kyrie is the greeting for the coming of the Christ, who will bring us this salvation. It can be sad, joyous, and celebratory all at once, but it has in it the awareness that what is happening is the central truth of our existence, the irreducible ceremony in which we express our love for God and for each other. In the Kyrie I visualize Christ on the way to Jerusalem riding on an ass, and the people are wild with joy, that the savior has finally come. This is the justification for calling it The Great Thanksgiving.


Before The Gloria: “Quietly entering your presence”

Quietly entering your presence
I am opened by your silence.
Help me to love without holding back
Help me to surrender to your will.
I await your inspiriting touch.
I await life with you.

Quietly Entering Your Presence is the supplication of a hungry soul as it begins its journey toward wisdom-of the heart. With the realization of the hugeness of Creation come the inevitable feelings of personal inadequacy, and the knowledge that our self-interest has separated us from what we most desire. This song acknowledges the power of silence, the requirement of waiting, and the hope of deliverance from separation from God. The first hint of acceptance is here.



Gloria in excelsis Deo Glory to God in the highest.
Et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis. And on earth peace to men of good will.
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. We praise You; We bless You.
Adoramus te. Glorificamus te. We worship You. We glorify You.
Gratia agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. We give You thanks for Your great glory.
Domine Deus, Rex cœlestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Lord God, heavenly king, God the Father almighty
Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe. Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris. Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, You, Who take away the sins of the world,
miserere nobis. have mercy on us
Qui tollis peccata mundi, You, Who take away the sins of the world,
suscipe deprecationem nostram. receive our prayer.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, You, Who sit at the right hand of the Father,
misere nobis. have mercy on us.
Quoniam tu solus sanctus. Tu solus Dominus. For you alone are holy. You alone are Lord.
Tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe. You alone, O Jesus Christ are most high.
Cum Sancto Spiritu, With the Holy Spirit
In Gloria Dei Patris. In the Glory of God the Father.
Amen. Amen

If the Kyrie is a hymn of Immanence, the Gloria is a hymn of Transcendence. To imagine this in images is finally impossible, but hearing the extravagant truth of the senses in musical form goes a long way to transport us to a place where the unimaginable can be implied. Through dance, through the rich texture of gamelan-like complexity of gongs and bells, and voices that howl in ecstasy at the limit of their range, the limitless God of the universe becomes palpable.


Before the Credo: “Bright Window“

Bright window, your night
Is full of stars
And the promise of morning.
Your light is like a strobe,
Longer in memory
Than in our eyes.
You are the white mask of honesty,
The face without shadow,
The noonday brightness,
The light in the window.

At your hearth I am no longer a stranger.

Mother, help me.
Infuse my heart
With joyful laughter
And call my name
From the unknown place
Behind every atom
Of the universe.

The bright window is the appearance, the look, of the universe itself. This window gives us light, honesty, truth, and comfort. Last but not least, it gives us the certainty of being, and a name. I view this as a prayer of supplication, a reaching into the primal center for courage and faith. By claiming a home in the created universe we
achieve our true self, our identity, and the name by which. God knows us. From this act of creative provenance comes the determination to affirm God in our lives, and the grace to make a statement of faith in the Credo. There is a solemn joy in the Credo which bears this out: we know that we have come to a turning point from which there will be no retreat. David and I have slightly different feelings about the Credo. While for both or us it is the turning point of the Mass, he, especially, appreciates its transformative spirit as it is modeled for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. For David, the child image is the symbol that connects us with the transformed life.



Credo in unum Deum, I believe in one God,
Patrem omnipotentem, factorem cœli et terræ, The Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
visibilium omnium, et invisibilium. of all things visible and invisible.
Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, And in one Lord Jesus Christ
Filium Dei unigenitum. The only-begotten son of God,
Et ex Patre natum ante omne sæcula. Born of the Father before all ages.
Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, God of God, Light of Light
Deum verum de Deo vero True God of true God.
Genitum, nonfactum Begotten, not made
consubstantiolem Patri: of one substance with the Father
per quem omnia facta sunt By Whom all things were made.
Qui propter nos homines, Who for us men
et propter nostrom salutem and for our salvation
descendit de cælis. came down from heaven.
Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto And He became flesh by the Holy Spirit
ex Maria Virgine: Et homo factus est of the Virgin Mary: And was made man.
sedet ad dexteram Patris and sits at the right hand of the Father.
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis: He was also crucified for us,
Sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepultus est. suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried.
Et resurrexit tertia die, And on the third day He rose again,
secundum scripturas according to the Scriptures.
Et ascendit in cælum: He ascended into heaven,
Et iterum venturus est cum gloria He will come again in glory
judicare vivos et mortuous: to judge the living and the dead:
cujus regni non erit finis. And of his kingdom there will be no end.
Et in spiritum Sanctum Dominum et vivificantem And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life,
qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur Who together with the Father and the Son is adored
et conglorificatur: and glorified,
qui locutus est per Prophetas. and Who spoke through the prophets.
Et unam, sanctam, catholicam And one holy, Catholic,
et apostolocam Ecclesiam. and apostolic Church.
Confiteor unum baptisma I confess one baptism
in remissionem peccatorum. for the remission of sins.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, And I await the resurrection of the dead.
et vitam venturi sæculi. and the life of the world to come.
Amen. Amen.

The Credo has always troubled me because it implies awareness that we must surrender our mind and our will to the creator who is above everything. So there is sternness, backbone, grating irony that what I am about to pronounce for myself – I BELIEVE – is the very thing that my ego despises. And yet the words come forth and I make my declaration with the whole creation present to hear me! In phrase after phrase the soul continues to surrender itself. Such is the implacable, ineradicable, inevitable drive of the Credo. It is always too long, but for the ego it is a good lesson.


Before The Sanctus: “Near the hermitage of my dreams”

Near the hermitage of my dreams
The mountain is covered with snow.
Goldenrod and wild aster
Fade to red osier dogwood.
There, in the fastness of ice,
I lie down upon your body
And you bring to birth in me
Indelible memories of home.
I become the child you meant me to be
In the beginning.

I know what it is to love
The mother behind the mask.
She is the one who waits
And refuses to wait.
She is the endless sound
of nebulae in bloom.

The spiritual journey sometimes takes us to places of arctic loneliness, and the interior landscape, even when it becomes familiar to us, contains frightening ordeals. The Hermitage of My Dreams is such a place, where the novice soul surrenders to the creator. It is a collection of images of fall and winter, the earth-body in its time of sleep, where the Great Mother imparts her creative plan for the next phases of life. In a way, it is like a time reversal: I came to the conclusion that memories of childlike love of God are the original human state, and might be worth returning to. We learn to wait for Her, and only then does She show us Her Holy, unending creation.



Sanctus, Sanctus Holy, Holy
Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth Holy Lord God of hosts.
Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua, Heaven and earth are filled with Your glory.
Hosanna in excelsis. Hosanna in the highest.

The Sanctus and Benedictus always produce in me the feeling of holy awe, and even terror. The profligate beauty of the universe has overcome the human heart, and now it sees its hope for salvation fulfilled in creation itself: It is another song of praise both for the creator of the universe, and the one who brings us that message, Christ. I believe it is inevitable to conclude that we become Christ for each other. There is joy and terror in that awarene


Before The Benedictus: “Sophia, when you call me”

Sophia, when you call me
I feel like dying.
I feel the earth opening up
I feel the Pit coming to greet me.

Sophia, when you call me
I feel like grieving.
I feel my heart breaking.
I feel valves shutting forever.
I feel pools of blood
In my fingers and toes.

Sophia, when you call me
I feel the fear of night.
I feel beasts snarling
Beyond the firelight.

The spiritual journey comes to a crisis in Sophia, when you call me. We wonder if surrendering is really going to free us from fear. We feel grief and the numbing terror of nonbeing. It is a song of doubt, in which we feel judged and inadequate. Nothing has prepared us for the transformation that is to come.



Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in excelsis Hosanna in the highest.

Before the Agnus Dei: “O Earth, O Stars”

O Earth, O Stars, who watch our pain and our joy,
Lift us up that we may see our Mother once again.
Together we live the only life there is
Music flows from our union.
When the universe expands and contracts,
It is the love we have for each other.
It is one breath.

Mother of womanly embrace,
Wrap us in the womb
Of your unending love.

When resolution finally comes, it is a surprise that it comes through the original hunger of seeing, the craving that the poet thought separated him from God in the first place. In O Earth, O Stars, he asks for a vision of the universe to lift him to an appreciation of the greatness of the Mother. He realizes that union with the mother-soul is his journey’s destination. While this is not different from traditional conceptions of mystical union, it is expressed in a way which specifically emphasizes motherly love, the unending love of creation itself.


Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
miserere nobis have mercy on us.
Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.

This hymn is for me the ultimate expression of human wretchedness because it acknowledges that without the presence of the living God there is no hope. We do daily what separates us from God, and we do not even know that we are doing it. To approach a God of mercy seems, in my darkness, to be the greatest gift. If God will forgive my transgressions, I will be whole.

David’s thoughts; “1 think of the Agnus Dei as the ‘great prayer’ of the Mass. It is paralleled in my mind with Kyrie, and the Crucifixus from the Credo.”


Before Dona Nobis Pacem: “I lay my sorrow down”

I lay my sorrow down
By the healing waters of life.
I open my wounds
to the love of God.
Come to me, Mother,
Any way you wish.
I am ready for your kiss,
Your fellowship,
And your healing grace.

Give me peace on earth
And after death
Your company among the stars.

In I lay my sorrow down, the writer acknowledges union with his soul by opening himself to God. With it comes gratitude and peace.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Dona nobis pacem Grant us peace
Note by Richard Beale