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I was watching this Shabbat video (a service to mark the beginning of the Sabbath, in Friday night), and there seems to be several similarities with the Mass rite (at least the Catholic one). (Notice the service is that of a Reformed Jewish community, and not Orthodox one).

There is the introduction rite (including lighting of candles) and concluding one, singing and reading of Torah (Psalms included), sermon by the Rabbi (?), a sacred place where the Torah is kept (a bit like the Tabernacle), a prayer for the coming of the messianic age, where people get closer together and hold arms or hands (like the Our Father), and so on.

Now, on the one hand, since the first Christians were Jews, it is reasonable to expect that the Christian worship be based on the Jewish one, with the introduction/modification of key elements, like the Eucharist itself (related to the Passover and etc). But also it is true that (early) Church fathers wrote against the "Judaization" of Christian practices (e.g. here and more general here).

The video I showed is however of the Reformed Judaism, a form of Judaism which seems not to have existed in Early Christianity. A more reasonable question is then how Orthodox ritual practices inspired the Mass. If this video gives some light on the Orthodox practice, in the second Century Ignatius of Antioch, arguing against Judaization of Christian practices wrote:

But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them.

Is there some formal analysis of the relationship between the Jewish service and the (Catholic) Mass?

  • This is a question that may be to wide in scope. There are short books by modern authors that point to the Old Testament Biblical Roots of the mass, then there are detailed ones that Go through each and every aspect of that relationship, and farther, Graduate Courses on the Biblical Roots of the mass. I'd Recommend "the Bible and the Mass: The Jewish Roots of the Christian Liturgy" by Dr Brant Pitre. The course is 26 hours of recordings and he provides notes. – Marc Feb 19 '18 at 19:53
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    The Jewish Pasch has more to do with comparison to a Catholic Mass than the "Shabbat". After all a Sunday service without the Eucharist reflects more with the "Shabbat". – Ken Graham Feb 20 '18 at 0:54
  • @KenGraham Thanks. I read that before asking, but it does not go into the more ritualistic aspects of the services. – luchonacho Feb 20 '18 at 10:11
  • @Marc Oh wow, that course looks like an amazing piece of work, which would surely answer most of my questions! I think there is a decent and shorter analysis here though. Maybe the question is too broad for this forum, but surely a summarised answer could do the job. I could do it myself based on the link provided. (And, well, youtube is full of talks about the topic, including one by Dr. Brant Pitre!) – luchonacho Feb 20 '18 at 10:19
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    It's really important to remember that the Mass and Jewish worship have developed separately for the last 2000 years. Neither is exactly the same as they were in the first century -- even Orthodox Judaism! So you can't think of modern Christian worship as having ancestry in modern Jewish worship. – lonesomeday Feb 20 '18 at 13:32
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The Jewish Sabbath service is an elaboration on the daily service, and a central element of the daily service is the Amidah, or standing prayer. The structure of the Amidah in modern Jewish liturgy is built up of 19 blessings (one of which was added after or even because of the split between Judaism and Christianity, so 18 matter here). The modern order and central content of these blessings seems to have settled into solid form by the 4th century (see Tractate Brachot of the Palestinian Talmud), and it's pretty obvious that the structure of these blessings is a response to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70.

However, the daily prayer cycle is connected to the cycle of sacrifices in the Temple. It's pretty clear that the synagogue services of 2000 years ago were synchronized to the times of the sacrifices, and even today, two of the daily services and the extra service on the Sabbath are named after the sacrifices they paralleled and then replaced. My guess is that the Amidah preserves elements of the liturgical structure that was used in the sacrificial ritual.

On the Christian side, it is clear that the Mass takes the place of the sacrificial service -- it's not just a reenactment of the Last supper. That is why a cycle of daily masses fits tightly into the canonical hours, which are themselves an elaboration on the Jewish daily prayer cycle.

There are parallel structures in text of the Mass and the Amidah. The "dona nobis pachem" at the end of the traditonal mass parallels the "oseh shalom" at the end of the Amidah, for example.

I strongly suspect that these parallels are no accident. The Mass and the Amidah as we know them today both developed after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and it's extraordinarily likely that their common ancestor would be found in the synagogue rituals of the first century.

Christians from denominations that have simplified or lost the traditional liturgy, reduced the mass to just bread and wine and forgotten the daily prayer cycle tend not to notice these parallels, but if you read a Catholic Missal that preserves the traditional text, and compare it with the text in a weekday Siddur (read both in English unless you know Latin and Hebrew), the parallels are obvious enough that 12-year-old kids who know one tend to notice them when they see the other.

  • What do you mean with "a cycle of daily masses fits tightly into the canonical hours"? – K-HB Mar 14 at 8:29

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