Have you ever connected the word “prayer” with the word “work”? Maybe you've said a prayer at your place of work like, “Please God, help me get through this day!” Other than that situation it doesn't seem like these two words go together. However, it may surprise you to know that the Church connects these two words in the word “Liturgy”. Liturgy is what we do when we come to Mass. It is the form of our community prayer and ritual. But did you know that the word “liturgy”, translated from the Greek, means “the work of the people”? From the earliest days of the Christian Church the community gathered to tell the stories of Jesus, break bread, and give thanks for their life in the resurrected Christ. Everyone participated in and contributed to the prayer celebration. This community prayer was, literally, “the work of the people”!

This tradition continues at St. John with the many liturgical ministers of prayer who you see serving at our weekend liturgies. Their service helps lead us in prayer and song, gathers our offering to God, helps us feel welcome, makes Christ present in the proclamation of the Word, and serves us the Bread of Life.

They include:

Other ministries of prayer are less visible at our Eucharistic celebrations but of great importance to our liturgical work and our experience of community prayer. The Art and Environment group and the Altar Society prepare and decorate the Church for the various seasons of the Liturgical Year – Advent and Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent and Easter – as well as particular feast day celebrations.

This parish is blessed as well with many Liturgy & Sacrament ministries that take place outside of our Sunday celebrations. They continue this prayer work by gathering together to practice forms of prayer that have been a part of our Church from the earliest times. Some also take the community blessing and the Eucharist we share to those unable to join in our celebrations. They include:

You are invited to share your gifts with the praying community. How is God calling you to become a part of this important work of the people of God?

What is a Sequence and why do we still sing and pray them today?

Back nearly 1000 years ago, the church celebrated Mass quite differently than we do today. One of the structural differences of the Mass that began to take shape was that the Alleluia was not a Gospel Acclamation, but rather a psalm response to the Second Reading, and therefore a meditation point to lead us into the Gospel. As a separate Gospel Acclamation, most Sundays the Church used a Sequence and these were the ‘real Gospel Acclamations of the time.

The council of Trent abolished the use of most Sequences and the Second Vatican Council changed the nature of the Alleluia from Psalmic reflection (have you ever wondered why the Alleluias we sing now have such a different character from the Alleluias of old?) to actual Gospel Acclamation and the verses explored now became associated with not just the New Testament, but most specifically with the Gospels as premediated reflections on what we were about to hear.

Notice only most Sequences were abolished. In fact of the hundreds in existence, the church maintained 5 Sequences (Easter Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Our Lady of Sorrows, and All Saints) and only asks that as a matter of course we do at the minimum the Easter and Pentecost Sequences during the year.

Here is the way the Sequence works today: it is an introduction to the Gospel Procession, so we don’t stand right away- in fact we wait, absorbing the prayer of the moment, a blessing invoking the descent of the Holy Spirit upon those gathered in our ‘Room of Worship’ until you hear the word Alleluia. At that point, we all rise in anticipation of hearing the words, thoughts, and life of Jesus, himself.


Therese Gorman

Director of Liturgy and Music

St. John Vianney, Walnut Creek