You are a researcher sent from the planet Zog with special responsibility for studying human religions. You have noticed that every day (and especially on Sundays) millions of humans gather around a text and some food stuffs. [What follows is version two (of four) of the prayer from the 2011 English translation of the Roman Catholic mass.]
“It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, your Word through whom you made all things, whom you sent as our Saviour and Redeemer, incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin. Fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection. And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory, as with one voice we acclaim:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
At the time he was betrayed and entered willingly into his Passion, he took bread and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is my Body which will be given up for you.’ In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took the chalice and, once more giving thanks, he gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.’
The mystery of faith: Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.
Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you. Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.
Remember, Lord, your Church, spread throughout the world, and bring her to the fullness of charity, together with our Pope and our Bishop and all the clergy. Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face. Have mercy on us all, we pray, that with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with the blessed Apostles, and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life, and may praise and glorify you through your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through him, and with him, and in him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, forever and ever.”
Questions for discussion (remember you’re an alien):
- What are these people doing with this text?
- Why are they doing it?
- What do they think is happening?
- What are the key bits of the text?
- What might be the link between this text and the rest of their lives?
- What other things strike you as interesting or odd about the text?