Mass

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The word mass has several uses. Most are simple to all users of English - although physicists may say that the idea of mass in their subject (similar to, but always to be distinguished from, that of weight) is actually very complex. One use may cause problems to those who do not share the common experience of Catholic Christianity in Europe.

The Mass (written with a capital 'M-' by members of the Roman Catholic church, and usually so by other Christians) is the central service in the rituals of that church, celebrating the sacrament of the Eucharist. Anglicans call the equivalent in their church 'Holy Communion'. All Roman Catholic priests are required as part of their duties to celebrate the Mass every day. Lay people are expected, while in a state of grace, to attend Mass at least once a week.

The Mass has of course been abused by various other sects and belief groups. The Black Mass, perhaps more celebrated in (sensational, or propaganda) fiction than in fact, is a rite supposed to be performed by Satanists ('devil-worshippers').

Mass, as the name of this church service, is pronounced in two ways by UK native English speakers.

  • Most pronounce it with the short '-a-', as in 'sat' IPA: /mæs/.
  • However there is also a pronunciation with the RP long '-a-' of 'father', or RP 'class': 'Mahss', IPA: /mɑːs/. This is associated with the upper classes, and some elite schools.
In the United States of America, Mass. is often used as the abbreviation for the name of the Commonwealth (or State) of Massachusetts - although the US Post Office preferred (2-digit) abbreviation is MA. (See [[1]].)