A Guide to Visiting a Liturgical Church for the First Time by Jonathan Bennett
Visiting a Catholic or Orthodox Church can often be likened to an alien visiting another planet for the first time.† It may be compelling and beautiful, but it can also be quite intimidating.† Since there are so many different Christian traditions, one may never have contact with another style of worship and when that contact happens the experience can sometimes be confusing. †This is even more so in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches because we stay so active during our worship and there is so much participation from those attending.† The purpose of this essay is to explain, in some detail, the service one can expect at a Catholic church.† After reading this, I am hoping you will feel much more relaxed in visiting churches of this type and be able to freely participate without anxiety.† Iím basing this article on the Eucharistic service on the Novus Ordo Catholic taken from the Roman missal.† Services in other non-Catholic churches (e.g. Anglican, Lutheran, etc.) are nearly identical and this essay should be of help to all.† This essay may include things you may not see and may omit things you will see.† However, itís a basic guideline for liturgical worship and ceremony and is not inclusive of local custom and practice.
I first want to make a brief comment about the structure of the service.† Since nearly the beginning of the Church, a two-fold division has existed in the Christian service: The Word and the Table.† The service started with a service of the Word and then reached its climax in the Eucharist.† I have divided this essay along subdivisions that I think are the easiest to comprehend and best suited to explain my points.† I hope this will make the service more meaningful to those who already do it and will help those who visit from non-catholic churches to know what to expect.† Also, my commentary is in normal type, while the parts of the liturgy are in italics.†
Coming Soon: the text of the mass with commentary! In the meantime, please read the following articles.