In the last morceau I mentioned the Lectionary, the book of Bible readings which is used at Mass. You will also notice another book used in the sanctuary at Mass: this volume is called the Missal.
The Missal is the collection of other prayers used at Mass. Mainly these are the priest’s prayers, although some other dialogue for the deacon, musicians, other ministers, and congregation are found there as well.
There are two characteristics of the Missal that strike me as important: one, it presents a “fixed text.” This means that the prayers we use are set by Church authority, and so represent our beliefs accurately. While there is room at Mass for a lot of spontaneously-worded prayer, we also worship carefully, and do our best to say exactly what we mean.
Yet a second idea helps balance this out: the Missal is a very, very flexible collection of prayers. Unless it’s a special feast day or season, there are usually dozens of prayers from which the celebrant can choose in praying the Mass. This kind of flexibility permits each and every Mass to be arranged to maximize the prayer experience of the whole assembly.