EXPLAINING THE CATHOLIC MASS

A Special thank you to the "All Saints Parish" in Mesa Arizona for this information.

An in-depth walk through our Catholic Mass — We explore the“Source and Summit” of our Catholic Faith!

THE INTRODUCTORY RITES — AN OVERVIEW:

The introductory rites of the Mass include the entrance procession, the sign of the cross and greeting, the act of
penitence, the Glory to God, and finally the opening prayer. This beginning of the Mass is not a random collection of prayers, but an ordered way to help all of us who gather for Mass focus ourselves in prayer. As we move toward the Lenten season, we will explain a different part of the Introductory Rites at the beginning of Mass each week.

THE ENTRANCE PROCESSION, The entrance procession serves a very practical purpose:

“Once the people have gathered, the priest and ministers, clad in the sacred vestments, go in procession to the altar… during the procession to the altar, the Entrance chant takes place.”(General Instruction of the Roman Missal) This
statement presumes something very important: that we are already gathered in the church, not running in at the last minute! This orderly procession of the altar servers, deacon and priest is accompanied by singing. This entrance song is more
than a little “traveling music:” The entrance song unites the people in a community of worship and introduces the people to the celebration of the day. This singing belongs to all of us who have gathered, not just the choir! When the priest, deacon, and servers reach the sanctuary steps, they reverence the altar with a genuflection or profound bow. While we genuflect
before and after Mass out of reverence for Jesus present in the Tabernacle, all reverences during the Mass are made to the altar where the Mass takes place. The altar represents Christ, “the stone that the builders rejected that becomes the Corner
stone.” (Psalm 118) The priests and deacons present then venerate the altar with a kiss. To kiss an object is a sign of respect and greeting, and dates to the 4th century. On solemn occasions, the altar is incensed, a symbol of our prayers rising up to God.

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS:

At the beginning of every Mass or of any liturgical activity, we begin with the sign of the cross. The original sign of the cross practiced by the early Christians in the days of the Apostles was a small one, traced on the forehead. The sign of the cross as we know it dates only to the 10th century, and was originally practiced only in monastic communities. By the 13th century, Pope Innocent III made its use mandatory for Catholics. The prayer is both a blessing and a demonstration; we invoke the blessing of God as we demonstrate with a visible sign that we belong to Christ. The prayer is both spoken and gestured, and both must be done with reverence and respect. As Catholics, we make the sign of the cross many times during the day, but we must never become complacent in how we make the sign of the cross. We’re praying, not shooing flies! When you make the sign of the cross, use your right hand as you say,“In the name of the Father (Right hand touches your forehead), and of the Son (Right hand touches your chest), and of the Holy (Right hand touches your left shoulder) Spirit (Right hand touched your right shoulder). Amen.

THE GREETING:

After the sign of the cross, the priest greets the people using one of three options. The most common option is for the priest to say, “The Lord be with you,” to which the people respond,“And also with you.” If the celebrant of the Mass is a bishop, he will say “Peace be with you” in place of the usual “The Lord be with you.” This greeting is not an ordinary greeting that we
give to a friend on the street; it’s meaning is more that just saying “hi!” before we go any further. This greeting is a shortened version of the greeting given by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Through this greeting we recognize Christ’s presence in the priest and in the gathered assembly, and our faith in the Holy Trinity.

THE ACT OF PENITENCE:

Mass begins with two of the most embarrassing things for most people to do. First, we sing in a group! Second, and perhaps more embarrassing for some of us, we are asked to call to mind our sins. All of us have sinned and fallen short of what the Lord has asked of us. We take part in this Act of Penitence, not out of guilt, but out of the loving mercy of the Lord. We can
call to mind our sins because we are confident in His love and mercy. After a short period of silence to call to mind our sins, one of three forms of this rite takes place:
• FORM A of the act of penitence is to recite the Confiteor, or the “I confess” prayer. This is a very traditional prayer of expressing sorrow for our sins, not just in action, but in thought, word, and in failing to act. We then in turn ask God, His Saints, and our brothers and sisters for mercy and forgiveness.
• FORM B is called the penitential verses, and comes from the prophet Baruch and Psalm 85. It is very rarely used.
• FORM C uses a series of invocations calling us to remember the mercy of the Lord, to which we acclaim “Lord, have mercy” or “Christ, have mercy.” When form A of the act of penitence is used, we will also acclaim the “Lord, have mercy” responses, but without the invocations.

At the end of the act of penitence, the priest says, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” This prayer, called the absolution prayer, does not take the place of sacramental confession for mortal sins.
Do you have a question about the Mass?

The Glory to God is a hymn of praise echoing the angels at the birth of the Lord, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” (Luke 2:14) The text elaborates on this message of the angels, recognizing the goodness
and mercy of the Lord God through his Son, Jesus Christ. This prayer dates back to the sixth century and began for use only at Masses when a bishop was the celebrant, and then only on solemn feasts. However, the beauty of this prayer captivated the priests and faithful. Slowly, permission was granted for priests to use it, but at first only for Easter. By the 12th century, the Glory to God reached its current level of use within the Mass. Today, the Glory to God is sung or said at all Sunday Masses, solemnities, and feasts except during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Whether sung or said, this prayer is one of praise, and our voices should be lifted in praise as we say it!

Q: What does it mean when you say Sunday in “Ordinary Time”? - B. A.
A: The Church divides the year into various seasons to help us mark the time of the year. Many of us are familiar with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost when we celebrate the events and mysteries of Jesus’ life. The weeks of the year that do not fall into one of these four seasons belong to“Ordinary Time”, when we concentrate on the teachings and miracles of Jesus. This is the longest season of the church year, ranging from 31 to 34 weeks. ‘Ordinary’ Time doesn't’t mean regular, dull, or boring, but refers to the word ‘ordinal’ or ‘numbered’ time, allowing us to count, or ‘order’ the weeks of the year. What are some characteristics of ordinary time? First, the priest will usually wear green vestments, a
color that symbolizes our hope. Second, the Gospels for the weeks of Ordinary Time generally follow a chronological order and focus on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Every week at Mass during ordinary time we learn more about the life of Jesus and how to live out that life in the world today — and there’s nothing ordinary about that!

THE COLLECT (OPENING PRAYER):

A lot takes place in the first five minutes of Mass. First, we gather as a community. We bless ourselves with the sign of the
cross, connecting us not only with each other but with the greater community of all Catholics, living and deceased. We
acknowledge our mutual sinfulness and need for mercy, and give praise to God for His goodness and glory to all of us.
How fitting that the first priestly prayer of the Mass is then called the “Collect”! This opening prayer takes all of our individual needs and focuses them, collects them into a common purpose for celebrating that day’s Mass. In the past, many collects were used in an effort to collect all the needs of the faithful, sometimes as many as ten!

The collect always follows the same pattern – YOU, WHO, DO, THROUGH: YOU: Naming God the Father, to whom the prayer is always addressed; WHO: naming the goodness that God has done for us; DO: naming our petition to God, asking our needs for that day; THROUGH: asking our petition through Jesus Christ in union with the Holy Spirit While the priest is the one saying the prayer, the prayer belongs to all of us – note the introduction is “Let us pray,” not “let me pray.” After this introduction, there is a period of silence to help us to focus and recognize Christ’s presence, through whom we address our needs to the Father. Listen carefully to the words of the opening prayer when you’re at Mass, and pray for that common intention for which all of us should pray on that day.

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD — INTRODUCTION:

After the collect is finished and everyone sits down, the Mass continues with the Liturgy of the Word. The Liturgy of the Word is comprised of scripture readings, a homily, the profession of faith, and the prayers of the faithful. The number of readings can vary from two to as many as nine, depending on the time of the year. As we continue this series on explaining the Mass, we will focus on the structure of readings for Sunday Mass, which consists of a first reading, a responsorial psalm, a second reading, a Gospel acclamation, and a Gospel. Why do we proclaim the Word of God at Mass? Every family has its story —
how your parents met, or how your cousin earned a particular nickname. When we gather for the Mass, we hear our story — God’s story of His love for us — through Sacred Scripture. We tell these stories whenever we gather for the Mass because these scriptures reinforce what we believe, to whom we belong, and our relationship with others and with God.

SILENCE AND THE LITURGY OF THE WORD:

As any family knows, there’s a difference between hearing and truly listening. How many family fights have been started because somebody heard but did not listen! The structure of the Liturgy of the Word lends itself not just to hearing the Word of God, but to listening. To listen, we need an active, engaged mind that is focused on the Word of God, and we need time to
process what we have heard for meaning. For this reason, it’s important to make good use of the silences in between the readings. Most Americans today are scared of silence. We aren't’ sure what we’ll hear when we’re quiet enough to let the Holy Spirit speak. During this season of Lent, resolve to move from a “scared” silence to a “sacred” silence, a silence that truly takes time to break down what we’ve heard and apply it to our lives as individuals. If we take time throughout the Liturgy of the Word to reflect, we are more open to that Word as we listen to the Gospel and the homily.

LITURGY OF THE WORD VOCABULARY:

Before we can talk further about the Liturgy of the Word, its important that we have some definitions in order. The Word of God is always proclaimed from the ambo, a raised podium with a flat or slanted top. Ambo comes from a Greek word meaning “to ascend.” The ambo should only be used for either the proclamation of the Word of God or for its explanation in the homily. The ambo is not for announcements! The readings at Mass are proclaimed by a lector or reader. While many people use these words interchangeably, they are different! Lectors are men and women, appointed by the pastor and approved by the bishop to serve for a period of time (in this diocese, usually three years), while a reader is a man instituted by the bishop to serve for life. In most dioceses, you will see an instituted reader only when a man is preparing for the sacrament of
Holy Orders.

THE FIRST READING:

The first reading is generally taken from the Old Testament, with two exceptions: During the Easter season, the first reading will come from the book of Acts, and on certain solemnities (All Saints and Immaculate Conception), the first reading will come from the book of Revelation. The first reading is always linked in some way to the Gospel, more than any of the other readings proclaimed at Mass. The first reading highlights the Gospel in one of many ways:
+ To show how a prophecy in the Old Testament is fulfilled through Jesus Christ in the Gospel
+ To make a contrast between events and personalities in the Old Testament and the Gospel
+ To make the meaning of the Gospel more clear through giving“the rest of the story”

The First Reading is an example of how an old practice of the church was restored during the Second Vatican Council. The early church fathers preached quite often on the Old Testament, and the old testament was regularly proclaimed at Mass during the early centuries of the church. Before long, however, the Old Testament reading was dropped from most Sunday Masses, and before Vatican II the Old Testament comprised only 0.1% of the readings used at Mass. This does not mean, however, that the Old Testament was forgotten in the liturgy! Many of the epistles in the New Testament, and even the Gospels quote the Old Testament extensively. With the revision of the Order of Mass in 1969, the Old Testament reading was restored to the Liturgy of the Word

When we hear the Old Testament proclaimed at Mass, we should never look at it as a solitary unit. The Old Testament points us towards Christ in the Gospel, and Jesus Christ in the Gospel helps us to fully understand the Old Testament. When you come to Mass, listen for the connection — some weeks will have a more explicit connection than others!

THE RESPONSORIAL PSALM:

Following the first reading, there is a period of silence to reflect on what has been proclaimed. This silence helps us to better
understand the reading. When we use the silence for this purpose, we participate more completely in the Liturgy of the
Word. After this period of silence, we raise our voices in song through the Responsorial Psalm. The Psalm is responsorial in two ways.

First, our participation in the sung antiphon, as well as listening to the verses, is our response to the first reading. Second, this psalm is generally sung in a responsorial format, where the people sing an antiphon in between the verses of the
psalm. The psalms do not always have to be sung with a refrain: Some groups will alternate reading verses of the
psalm, while others will read the psalm straight through, like the first reading. Just like the other readings of scripture during the Mass, the psalm should be proclaimed from the ambo.

The Psalms that we proclaim at Mass come from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. From the time of the Jews, Psalms were a regular part of worship — you could even call the book of Psalms the Bible’s song book! The early Christians continued this practice of singing psalms in their worship, although now with a clearer understanding of how those psalms spoke of Jesus Christ. St. Augustine even wrote a series of homilies on the Psalms, showing their importance in the early church. In the middle ages, the psalms were shortened to just a couple of verses and were used after the reading and known as
the gradual. The chants used for the graduals are some of the most complicated chants used in the older form of the Mass, difficult even for the choirs to sing.

With the current lectionary, the psalms have been restored to a longer, more complete format, with the use of antiphons to allow the assembly also to participate. There is also the option of using a seasonal psalm, or a psalm setting that fits with the tone of a particular church season, in place of the assigned responsorial psalm. This option allows for the people to meditate on the meaning of that season. When singing the psalms, the goal is for the text of the psalm to come through as clearly as possible. The musical setting of the psalm should help the psalmist convey the tone and meaning of the psalm to the congregation, engaging the mind in another way to help the community pray the text.

THE SECOND READING:

The tradition of semi-continuous reading of the Bible at Mass goes back to the earliest centuries of the church. In fact, it’s the origin of our response “Thanks be to God” at Mass! When a bishop would preside at a Mass, one of the younger clerics would read the Epistle (another word for Letter, in reference to the New Testament Letters), starting where he left off the previous week. When the bishop had heard enough of the Epistle, he would exclaim “Deo Gratias!” (Thanks be to God!) When we, too, reach the end of the reading, our response should be filled with joy at hearing God’s Word: “Thanks be to God!”
The Second Reading is a semi-continuous reading taken from the Letters in the New Testament of the Bible. Because the second reading follows a semi-continuous pattern, the second reading doesn’t always tie in with the first reading or the Gospel. Why, then, do we proclaim this reading at Mass? The Letters in the New Testament were written to the early church by St. Paul and the Apostles. These letters offered support, encouragement, correction and guidance to a young church finding its way in a society that did not support them. We also need the direction of the Apostles, guided by the Holy
Spirit, as we make our way through a society that doesn’t always support us in living our faith! Listen to the second readings as you would listen to the sage advice of a grandparent, mentor, or teacher.

The only exception to the semi-continuous second reading is during the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter. During these seasons, the readings are selected to highlight the theme of the season. A second reading during Advent might talk about the need to watch and prepare, while a second reading during Easter might talk about the glory of the Resurrection.

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION:

The Gospel Acclamation is a song of praise! We prepare to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ by singing praise to Him! During most of the year we sing “Alleluia” (Praise to God!). During Lent, another acclamation is substituted, as the Alleluia is seen as too joyful to be sung during the season of Lent. Our participation in the singing of the Gospel Acclamation is very important. In fact, the instructions for the Mass say that it should be omitted if it is not going to be sung!

THE GOSPEL:

At last we have reached the highpoint of the Liturgy of the Word, the Gospel reading. The word Gospel means “good news.” What we hear proclaimed at Mass truly is good news — the best news we can hear: Jesus Christ speaks to us! It is important to remember that when the Gospel is proclaimed, it is no longer the priest or deacon speaking, but Christ himself. We should pay especially close attention to the words of the Gospel as they are proclaimed. To help us focus on this very important reading, the Church gives us some additional postures and symbols of respect. First, we stand out of respect for the Gospel reading. Second, the Gospel is often carried in a special book, the Book of Gospels, that is placed in a place of honor during the Mass. Incense and candles are used on solemn feasts to indicate that Christ is present, speaking to us, through the Gospel we hear.

It has become a custom for one to make a small sign of the cross on the forehead, lips, and heart before the proclamation of the Gospel. Originally this gesture belonged only to the deacon or priest proclaiming the Gospel, and only then if the Mass was celebrated by the bishop. Over time, priests and deacons began to use this gesture at all of the Masses they celebrated, and the laity adopted the same gesture. Even though this gesture has been used for centuries, there were no regulations requiring this gesture at Mass until the 1980s! When you make this gesture, ask God to bless your mind, that you may ponder his Word; your lips, that you may speak his praise; and your heart, that you may love the Word of God!

THE CREED (PROFESSION OF FAITH):

After the Homily on most Sundays and Holy Days, we stand and recite the Creed. The creed that we pray at Mass originated in Jerusalem as a profession of faith before baptism. This was formalized in 325 at the Council of Nicaea and further developed at the Council of Constantinople in 381. This creed is known as the Nicene-Constantinople Creed, or more commonly as the Nicene Creed.

A creed is a statement or summary of belief. The structure of the creed reinforces our belief in the Holy Trinity, first addressing the Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit, stressing that the three persons are one God. At the heart of our faith is our belief that God became one of us at the birth of Christ. To highlight our belief in this truth, we are asked to bow at the words “By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

On Easter Sunday or on Sundays when we have baptisms, we are asked to renew our baptismal promises. We are asked about our belief, to which we respond “I do” to each statement of our faith. The renewal of our baptismal promises is also a creed, a statement of belief, based on the Apostle’s Creed.

The Creed is a statement of the truths which we hold as Catholics. When we recite this prayer together, we express not only our individual belief but the faith which all of us hold in common. We return to these familiar “words of faith” week after week to remind and refocus ourselves on the truth. The creed is a very important prayer! When we pray the creed together, be sure to join in the prayer. You may want to even memorize the prayer to make it truly your own!

THE PRAYERS OF THE FAITHFUL:

The Prayers of the Faithful, also known as the General Intercessions or the Universal Prayers, take place at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, and serve like a hinge connecting the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the next part of the Mass). The structure of the prayers of the faithful is generally the same: a short introduction by the priest, followed by 5-7 intercessions proclaimed by the deacon or lector, with a short concluding prayer led by the priest. At the end of each petition, we respond “Lord, hear our prayer.”

While there are no official texts for the prayers of the faithful, they follow a general order:
For the needs of the Church
For public authorities and the salvation of the world
For those burdened with any kind of difficulty
For the local community.

In addition, Bishop Olmsted has asked all parishes in the diocese to include an intention for vocations every week, and to conclude the prayers of the faithful with an intention for all who have died. Writing the prayers of the faithful has been described as having “a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other,” drawing parallels between the readings proclaimed at Mass and current events for which we should pray today. At some Masses, the deacon or priest will also include a moment of silence for which to pray for our own personal intentions.

The prayers of the faithful truly belong to the faithful; that is, all who are baptized. This is a time not just for those needs close to us as individuals, but for the needs of this parish, this diocese, this country and for the Church as a whole. When we pray in this way, we recognize our place within the larger community of the baptized, and bring those prayers and intentions with us as we move forward in the Mass.

The Preparation of the Gifts (Part 1): THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST – OVERVIEW:

At the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread and wine, gave thanks, broke the bread and shared the cup, saying, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood.” In the same way at Mass, Christ, present through the priest, “in Persona Christi” celebrating the Mass, takes bread and wine, gives thanks and says the same words of Christ: “This is my Body… This is my Blood.” As Catholics, we believe that through this action and the action of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ which we share, just as the disciples did at the Last Supper.

THE COLLECTION:

After we have sat down following the prayers of the faithful, the collection takes place. The collection is not just a practical need that must take place but has spiritual significance as well. The collection has existed at its current place in the Mass since the 2nd century. In the early days of the church, people would bring whatever gift they had for the good of the community: bread and wine for the Mass, but other gifts, too: animals, eggs, produce, cloth, thus the necessity for the Lavabo, the washing of the hands, whatever was their best gift to offer and was needed for the good of the people. In fact, to not bring anything for the community, or to bring something that wasn’t your best was considered an insult to the community! In our modern society, where we work not necessarily for items but for a salary, the monetary gifts we place in the collection represent the gift of our lives, and the gift of living out the faith in the world during the past week. When we bring forward the collection to the altar, it represents our lives also being united with the altar and what is about to take place. While the offerings are being taken up, a song is usually sung. This song should express our joy at what is about to take place in the Mass, and often will further reflect on the Gospel of the day.

SETTING THE ALTAR:

Before the collection is brought forward, the altar servers assist the deacon or acolyte in preparing the altar for Mass. The deacon or acolyte brings over the priest’s chalice and paten (a flat dish for holding the priest’s host), and unfolds a special cloth called a corporal where the chalice and paten are placed. Sometimes, the chalice will be covered with a pall, a stiff piece of fabric designed to keep particulates or insects from flying into the chalice. The servers bring the ciboria (vessels containing unconsecrated hosts) and cups for the precious blood. All of the vessels to be consecrated are placed on a corporal. The corporal is folded in a special way so that any particle of the host that falls from a host can be folded up and not brushed to the ground. Whenever a vessel containing the Body or Blood of Christ is placed on the altar, it must be on a corporal.

PREPARATION OF THE GIFTS – TWO PREPARATIONS:

The preparation of the gifts serves a twofold purpose. First, the gifts of bread and wine are prepared for their consecration at the Eucharistic prayer. Second, through the prayers during this time, the priest and the people are prepared to take part in the Eucharistic prayer. The prayer said over the bread and the wine comes from the Jewish tradition of the Berakah prayer (“Blessed are you, O Lord”), prayers that give thanks for the bread and wine that are still said as part of the Jewish Friday night Sabbath meal blessing. In this prayer, the priest gives thanks for the gifts of bread and wine, recalling that these gifts will soon become the Body and Blood of Christ. To each of these prayers, the people respond “Blessed be God forever” when
there is no music, joining our thanksgiving to that of the priest.

Before the prayer over the wine, the deacon or priest mixes a little bit of water into the wine. This was a very common practice in the early times to dilute a very strong wine that otherwise might be too strong to drink. Today, this gesture has a spiritual significance. The deacon says, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ (wine), who humbled himself to share in our humanity (water).” We pray that just as the water and wine become one, that we also become one with Christ. At solemn Masses, incense is used during the preparation of the gifts. Remember from our earlier discussions that the church incenses holy objects to signify our prayers rising up to God. The gifts of bread and wine are incensed, then the altar, the crucifix, and the Paschal Candle (during the Easter season or at funerals).

Then, for the first time at the Mass, we incense people! The deacon or acolyte receives the incense from the priest and incenses him and the other clergy present, recognizing Christ’s presence in the priest as our head (in persona Christi capitis). Then the deacon comes to the front of the altar and incenses the people. Why does the deacon incense us? Christ is present in the assembly as the gathered body of Christ. We are holy people through our baptism, and we pray that through this Mass we continue to be made holy. Then the priest washes his hands. While this originally served as a practical cleansing (see last week’s article about the variety of gifts received), the priest also prays silently a prayer for spiritual cleanliness, “Lord, wash
away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.”

The Eucharistic prayer is the Church’s greatest prayer. (PartI):

The word Eucharist means Thanksgiving, and the Eucharistic prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving and petition to God. During the Eucharistic prayer, through the action of the Holy Spirit and the words of the priest, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ! The Eucharistic prayer begins with a dialogue between the priest and the people. This dialogue reminds us to lift up our hearts to the Lord and to give thanks to God. The dialogue reminds us that we must be spiritually
engaged in the Mass, not just physically present, as we go forward in the Mass.

This dialogue leads into the preface of the Eucharistic prayer. There are 90 prefaces to choose from in the current Sacramentary, each focusing on a different reason to give thanks to God. There are some seasons when the preface is fixed for that Sunday, while in other seasons the priest has the choice of one or more prefaces. The preface selected usually corresponds with the theme of the Mass or season that is taking place. The preface is said by the priest by himself, but we should listen to this prayer and reflect on God’s goodness in our lives. At the conclusion of the preface, we respond to the preface by singing or saying the “Holy, Holy” acclamation. This prayer is Scriptural, from the book of Isaiah (Isa 6:3) in the Old Testament, and Matthew (Mt 21:9) in the New Testament. The triple “holy” at the beginning of the prayer has its roots in the original Hebrew in Isaiah chapter 6. In many early languages like Hebrew, there was no way to say “most holy”, so
the convention became that three holy’s in succession meant “most holy”. The triple “Holy” at the beginning of the prayer recognizes that God is Most Holy, but also represents the holiness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– the Holy Trinity. This response should be sung with joy for all the good things God has done for us and continues to do for us!

Eucharistic Prayer (Part II):

After the congregation sings the “Holy, Holy” acclamation, everyone except for the priest, deacon and acolyte kneels, unless prevented from doing so because of a physical handicap or lack of space. Kneeling is a posture of adoration and deep reverence, and is a physical reminder for our minds to be focused on the action taking place at the altar. We have entered the most important part of the Mass: This is not a time for going to the restroom, fumbling with the Missal, or other distractions! Continuing the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest will continue his prayer of thanksgiving that was started in the preface. In some Eucharistic prayers, this thanksgiving may only be a sentence, while other Eucharistic Prayers will dive deeply into the life of Jesus. Regardless of its length, our hearts should be full of gratitude for God’s many gifts, especially the gift we are about to receive from the altar. The priest, who up to this point has held his hands outward in the orans position (hands extended upward, an ancient posture for prayers directed to God the Father) now extends his hands over the
bread and wine, palms down instead of up, asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine and make them holy. This part of the Eucharistic Prayer is called the epiclesis. The gesture of laying on hands has been used from the time of the apostles to call down the Holy Spirit; it is the same type of gesture the bishop uses at Confirmation or when conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders. At this point of the Mass the deacon (when physically able) will also kneel, signaling the importance of this point in the liturgy.

The priest then moves into the Institution Narrative. The priest recalls the words of Christ at the Last Supper, the first Mass. But this is no simple re-telling of the story of the Last Supper. When the priest takes the bread and says, “This is my Body,” the bread truly becomes the Body of Jesus Christ! In the same way, the priest takes the wine and says, “This is the cup of my Blood,” and the wine truly becomes the Blood of Jesus Christ! After the consecration of both the bread and wine, the Body and Blood are elevated for the people to see. The servers ring the bells to signal the people that something – or rather,
Someone, important is here! At solemn Masses, the Host and chalice may also be incensed during each elevation. All of these gestures of reverence direct us to what has taken place: Jesus Christ is with us, Body and Blood, completely and totally in our midst! Some people were taught to never look up during the Eucharistic Prayer. There is nothing farther from the truth! It is certainly a great time to adore the Blessed Sacrament now present in our midst! Others were taught to say silently certain short prayers, like “My Lord and My God” during the elevations. While these aren’t required, they can help you stay focused on Christ’s presence in the Eucharist!

After the consecration, the priest invites us to “proclaim the Mystery of Faith.” We respond with one of four acclamations focusing on the saving action of this sacrifice, the sacrifice of his death on the cross and his resurrection.

Eucharistic Prayer (Part III):

After the memorial acclamation is sung, the priest continues the Eucharistic Prayer with a remembrance, also called an anamnesis. The priest, on our behalf, recalls the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In calling this to
mind, we are reminded of Jesus’ saving work in the world and of his True Presence in what was consecrated. What we see with our eyes as bread and wine is not a symbol, but the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ who suffered, died, and
was raised from the dead for our redemption! The priest, again speaking on our behalf, then offers back to the Father the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ on our behalf. As the priest prays out loud, we should listen and pray silently that we too offer our lives, our words and good works with Christ back to the Father. The priest then petitions the Father on our behalf. He prays for the leaders of the church and all its members, for the peace and salvation of the world, for the needs of those present, and especially for those who have died.

As the priest prays for these needs, pray for the needs of those around you, confident that we are united in Christ, praying for and supporting one another! The Eucharistic prayer concludes with a prayer of praise to God called a doxology. This prayer reminds us that the entire Eucharistic Prayer has been offered to the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. No words can fully express the joy and excitement we should feel at this moment, so we express our acceptance and belief with joy: AMEN!

THE COMMUNION RITE (Part I):

After the Eucharistic Prayer is completed, everyone stands. The next series of prayers and actions are designed as one final preparation before we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Lord’s Prayer:

Praying the Our Father together as a community has been mandated in public prayer from the earliest centuries of the church. Pope St. Gregory the Great called this prayer the perfect prayer to say over the Lord’s Body and Blood, because it asks for the “Daily Bread” of the Eucharist as well as asking for forgiveness of sins and forgiveness of others. While this prayer used to be said by the priest alone at Mass, we are now able to take part in this beautiful prayer which Jesus gave us!
Towards the end of the prayer, the priest adds an extended response to the phrase “deliver us from evil” called an embolism (coming from the word “to embellish,” not the other kind of embolism!) In the embolism, the priest more explicitly asks for peace and forgiveness of sins as we prepare to receive the Eucharist. At the end of this embolism, the people respond “For the kingdom, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.”

The Rite of Peace:

The priest then says another prayer, recalling Christ’s gift of peace at the Last Supper (see John 14:27) and our continued prayer for peace and forgiveness of sins. To this prayer we respond “Amen.” The priest says to all “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” to which we respond, “And also with you.” The priest or deacon then invites us to extend to one another a sign of Christ’s peace. The peace that we extend to one another is not an individual wish, but the peace of Jesus Christ. By extending Christ’s peace to one another, we symbolize our reconciliation with one another before we come forward to receive Communion (see Matthew 5:24). It’s very easy during the sign of peace to fall into one of two extremes. Some treat the sign of peace like an intermission, a time for a quick conversation, or to shake as many hands as possible like you’re practicing for a presidential campaign. At the same time, one can overreact to such excess or to a desire not to spread
germs by folding ones arms and refusing to even look at the people around you. At the sign of peace, turn to those closest to you, extend a hand or an arm and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” or more simply,“Peace be with you.” If you’re uncomfortable extending a hand, you can still participate in the sign of peace by looking people in the eye while saying “Peace be with you.”

Communion Rite (Part II): FRACTION RITE:

After the sign of peace, the priest will break his Host into smaller pieces for himself and to distribute to the people. The breaking of the Host reminds us that Christ was broken and died for us, and sharing in the one Host is a reminder that we are united as one Body in Christ, just as Christ did at the Last Supper with His Apostles. The priest will also take a small piece of the host and place it in the chalice. This practice started at special Masses in Rome in the fifth century, when the priest would use a particle of the Host consecrated by the Pope at an earlier Mass to show that the priest’s Mass was united with the Pope. Spiritually, mingling the Host with the chalice is a reminder that the Body and Blood of Christ separated in death were brought to life in the Resurrection, and that we receive from the altar the living Body and Blood of Christ! While the fraction rite takes place, we sing the “Lamb of God,” a beautiful litany that prays once more for God’s mercy and peace. During or after the Lamb of God, the priest will say a short prayer asking that he be worthy to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

INVITATION:

The priest raises the Host and chalice for all to see and says, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the
world. Happy are we who have been called to His supper!” This statement quotes John 1:29 (John the Baptist’s first sighting of Jesus) and Revelation 19:9 (the song of the angels around Christ). We should be filled with joy and anticipation of receiving the Eucharist, but also humility at the incredible gift that we are about to receive. We pray together, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” quoting the words of the Roman Centurion when Jesus was coming to heal his paralyzed son (cf. Mt 8:8). We pray with the same humility to be healed and be united with Christ.

RECEIVING THE HOST:

When you come up to receive the Host, you have the option of receiving in the hand or on the tongue. If you choose to receive in the hand, remember to hold your hands to receive the Host instead of taking the Host out of the priest’s hands! St. Justin Martyr described receiving in the hand as “making a throne for the Lord,” your left hand over your right, so that you can then pick up the Host with your right hand to consume the Body of Christ. (If you’re left handed, you may want to reverse the order of the hands.) The priest or extraordinary minister holds the host in front of you and says, “The Body of Christ,” to which you will respond by bowing your head (not your full body) and saying “Amen.” No other gestures of reverence are necessary.

If you choose to receive on the tongue, the priest or extraordinary minister holds the host in front of you and says, “The Body of Christ,” to which you will respond by bowing your head (not your full body) and saying“Amen.” After saying “Amen,” immediately open your mouth wide enough for the priest or EM to place the Host on your tongue. Make sure that the priest’s or EM’s fingers are out of your mouth before closing your mouth – don’t bite the hand that feeds you!

RECEIVING THE PRECIOUS BLOOD:

At Masses where communion is also distributed from the cup, you have the option of receiving from the cup as well. Receiving from the cup is never required, as the complete Body and Blood of Christ is present in both the Host and the cup. When you receive from the cup, the deacon, acolyte, or extraordinary minister holds the cup in front of you and says, “The Blood of Christ,” to which you will respond by bowing your head (not your full body) and saying “Amen.” When consuming the Precious Blood, take only a sip, so that there is enough for all to receive. If you choose not to receive from the cup, you should stop and bow as you pass the cup out of reverence for the Precious Blood.

SINGING AND SILENCE:

Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is a powerful time for us. We sing a communion song, raising our voices in joy and thanksgiving for this gift that we are receiving in the Lord. We also take time for silence, to listen to Jesus and what he wants for us. We need both the singing and the silence to fully express our love for this gift we have just received from the Father – his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, now present within us!

RECEIVING THE HOST:

When you come up to receive the Host, you have the option of receiving in the hand or on the tongue. If you choose to receive in the hand, remember to hold your hands to receive the Host instead of taking the Host out of the priest’s hands! St. Justin Martyr described receiving in the hand as “making a throne for the Lord,” your left hand over your right, so that you can then pick up the Host with your right hand to consume the Body of Christ. (If you’re left handed, you may want to reverse the order of the hands.) The priest or extraordinary minister holds the host in front of you and says, “The Body of Christ,” to which you will respond by bowing your head (not your full body) and saying “Amen.” No other gestures of reverence are necessary.
If you choose to receive on the tongue, the priest or extraordinary minister holds the host in front of you and says, “The Body of Christ,” to which you will respond by bowing your head (not your full body) and saying“Amen.” After saying “Amen,” immediately open your mouth wide enough for the priest or EM to place the Host on your tongue. Make sure that the priest’s or EM’s fingers are out of your mouth before closing your mouth – don’t bite the hand that feeds you!

RECEIVING THE PRECIOUS BLOOD:

At Masses where communion is also distributed from the cup, you have the option of receiving from the cup as well. Receiving from the cup is never required, as the complete Body and Blood of Christ is present in both the Host and the cup. When you receive from the cup, the deacon, acolyte, or extraordinary minister holds the cup in front of you and says, “The Blood of Christ,” to which you will respond by bowing your head (not your full body) and saying “Amen.” When consuming the Precious Blood, take only a sip, so that there is enough for all to receive. If you choose not to receive from the cup, you should stop and bow as you pass the cup out of reverence for the Precious Blood.

SINGING AND SILENCE:

Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is a powerful time for us. We sing a communion song, raising our voices in joy and thanksgiving for this gift that we are receiving in the Lord. We also take time for silence, to listen to Jesus and what he wants for us. We need both the singing and the silence to fully express our love for this gift we have just received from the Father – his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, now present within
us!

AFTER COMMUNION:

After communion, the priest, deacon or acolyte will consolidate any remaining Hosts and place them in the tabernacle. The Hosts are placed in the tabernacle for bringing communion to the sick, and for times of private adoration of the Blessed Sacrament whenever the church is open. The ciboria that contained the Hosts and the cups containing the Precious Blood are then purified by the deacon or acolyte. Purifying the ciboria and cups ensures that every particle and drop of the Body and
Blood of Christ is reverently consumed before the vessels are washed. The priest will generally purify his own chalice, although he may ask the deacon to do this. While the vessels are purified, a song of thanksgiving is sung. After the vessels are purified, there is a period of silence to reflect and give thanks for Christ’s gift of His Body and Blood. After the purification has taken place, everyone stands while the priest prays the Prayer after Communion. This prayer is not a concluding prayer for the Mass! Instead, it is a prayer on our behalf that the communion we have received bring us spiritual strength and growth in holiness. At the end of the prayer, we all respond, “Amen.”

THE CONCLUDING RITES:

The concluding rite of the Mass is very short but is nonetheless important! The priest gives us God’s blessing before we are dismissed to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Both the blessing and dismissal are important! We are given the graces of God’s blessing that we will need as we live out our lives during the week. The dismissal reminds us that the Mass may be concluded, but our call to live out our Catholic identity goes with us to work, school, our family and friends! While we have been dismissed, it is a mark of respect to allow the p riest and assisting ministers to leave first.

MASS Q & A:

Q: What kind of bread is used at Mass?
A: The rubrics for the Mass indicate that the bread used for celebrating the Mass must be unleavened (without any yeast) and made only of wheat and water. Using other grains (rice, corn) or adding in other ingredients (milk, honey) are considered invalid matter for the Mass. The bread for the Mass should look like bread and should be able to be broken for sharing, at least with some of the people (e.g. the large hosts used by the priests that are broken). The Altar breads used at All Saints are made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. Our purchase of altar breads allows the sisters to cover their expenses and keep a cloistered way of life.

Q: I suffer from celiac sprue disease. How am I supposed to receive communion?
A: Celiac Sprue is a genetic condition that doesn’t allow people to digest the gluten in wheat, sometimes causing severe pain. For those with a minor case of celiac sprue, they are often able to receive the Host without incident. Those with more severe cases of celiac sprue are still able to receive from the cup.

Q: If all of the Hosts are consecrated on the corporal, why does the deacon or acolyte bring out more Hosts from the tabernacle at communion time? Are they consecrated?
A: Yes! The Hosts in the tabernacle were consecrated at a previous Mass. From the earliest centuries of the church, consecrated Hosts have been reserved for the adoration of the faithful and for bringing communion to the sick. Because we cannot always guess correctly the number of communicants at each Mass, there are usually hosts left over from other Masses (either that day or the day before) that are used to distribute communion.

Q: What kind of wine is used at Mass?
A: The wine used for celebrating Mass must be grape wine without any additives. There is no requirement for a specific alcohol concentration, and there is no requirement for the color of wine used (although red wine has a deep symbolic connection). Other fruit wines, grape juice, rice wine, other alcohols or wine coolers are considered invalid matter for the Mass. All Saints orders its altar wine from a company that makes altar wine in California that sells exclusively to Catholic churches.

Q: Can I buy a bottle of wine to take home?
A: State law prohibits us from re-selling the altar wine that we purchase for Mass.

Q: What kind of bread is used at Mass?
A: The rubrics for the Mass indicate that the bread used for celebrating the Mass must be unleavened (without any yeast) and made only of wheat and water. Using other grains (rice, corn) or adding in other ingredients (milk, honey) are considered invalid matter for the Mass. The bread for the Mass should look like bread and should be able to be broken for sharing, at least with some of the people (e.g. the large hosts used by the priests that are broken). The Altar breads used at All Saints are made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. Our purchase of altar breads allows the sisters to cover their expenses and keep a cloistered way of life.

Q: I suffer from celiac sprue disease. How am I supposed to receive communion?
A: Celiac Sprue is a genetic condition that doesn’t allow people to digest the gluten in wheat, sometimes causing severe pain. For those with a minor case of celiac sprue, they are often able to receive the Host without incident. Those with more severe cases of celiac sprue are still able to receive from the cup. Q: If all of the Hosts are consecrated on the corporal, why does the deacon or acolyte bring out more Hosts from the tabernacle at communion time? Are they consecrated? A: Yes! The Hosts in the tabernacle were consecrated at a previous Mass. From the earliest centuries of the church, consecrated Hosts have been reserved for the adoration of the faithful and for bringing communion to the sick. Because we cannot always guess correctly the number of communicants at each Mass, there are usually hosts left over from other Masses (either that day or the day before) that are used to distribute communion.

Q: What kind of wine is used at Mass?
A: The wine used for celebrating Mass must be grape wine without any additives. There is no requirement for a specific alcohol concentration, and there is no requirement for the color of wine used (although red wine has a deep symbolic connection). Other fruit wines, grape juice, rice wine, other alcohols or wine coolers are considered invalid matter for the Mass. All Saints orders its altar wine from a company that makes altar wine in California that sells exclusively to Catholic churches.

Q: Can I buy a bottle of wine to take home?
A: State law prohibits us from re-selling the altar wine that we purchase for
Mass.

 

CONCLUDING NOTES:

It has been our goal that this series will give you some more understanding into what takes place during the Mass so that each of us can enter more fully into the Mass each week. We encourage you to further your study of our faith through our adult education classes, and most importantly, through praying the Mass every time you attend. Compiled from various sources by Anthony Casey, Coordinator of Music and Liturgy Edited by Fr. Robert Caruso, Pastor, Dn. Gordon Aird, and Acolyte Steve Kohl, all members of All Saints Roman Catholic Church in East Mesa Arizona.

 

 

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