Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish is celebrating the Year of Catechesis from July 2022 – June 2023. The theme of the Year is: Journeying Together in Renewing our Faith. Each month, a new topic is addressed.
September 2022 Topic: The HOLY MASS EXPLAINED
The Second Vatican Council solemnly states that the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice should be the center and culmination of the whole life of the Christian community and of every faithful.
To achieve this goal, the Council continues, everyone should understand well the liturgy and ceremonies of the Mass. “The Church earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers, they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 48).
The intention of this booklet is to help us to understand better and to love more the sacrifice of the altar. For the Mass is the path by which each of us can become “another Christ,” reproducing in ourselves the sentiments which Christ had when offering himself in the sacrifice of the cross.
Definition of Mass
There are different ways in which we understand the Holy Mass;
- Mass as the last Supper: On the night before he died, Jesus instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and resurrection and a pledge of his love. In the context of the Passover, he took bread and wine and spoke of them, respectively, as his body being given up and his blood being poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus told his Disciples, “do this in Memory of me”. This means in Mass we relive and reenact the action of Christ during the last Supper.
- Mass as a Sacrifice: By means of the mystery of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the cross, which was once carried out on Calvary, is reenacted in wonderful fashion. It is constantly recalled in the Holy Mass, and its salvific power is applied for the forgiveness of sins we commit each day.
- Mass as communion: The Eucharist is the creative force and source of communion among the members of the Church; it unites each one of them with Christ himself: “Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another. ‘Because the bread is one, we, though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor 10:17).”
DIVISION OF MASS
Mass has two great parts;
- the Liturgy of the Word and
- the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Each of these parts has further subdivisions.
Liturgy of the Word
a. The Introductory Rites
The liturgy of the Word begins with entrance and goes all the way to the prayers of the faithful.
Entrance: The celebration of the Mass begins with the entrance of the priest and ministers. This procession toward the altar starts from the Sacristy. It symbolizes the journey of the pilgrim Church toward heaven. The standing attitude of the faithful manifests both respect for the priest, the minister of Christ, and the desire to participate in the celebration. In Masses with a congregation, the priest and ministers may go to the altar in this order:
- a server with a lighted thourible
- two servers with lighted candles
- and between them a server carrying the cross
- other ministers
- a Deacon with the Book of the Gospels
- the priest
During the procession to the altar the entrance song is sung. “Behold, the bridegroom is on his way; go out to meet him” (Mt 25:6). Like the wise virgins of the parable, we seem to hear that shout when the first notes or words of the entrance song reach our ears. It is time for us to get our lamps and go out to meet the One who is coming. Thus, we will not end up having to hear that fateful “I do not recognize you” (Mt 25:12).
Veneration of the Altar and Greeting of the Congregation: On reaching the altar, the priest and ministers make the proper reverence, i.e., a low bow or a genuflection, if there is a tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament. As a sign of veneration, the priest and deacon kiss the altar. When the occasion warrants, the priest may also incense the altar. The altar symbolizes the heart of the church. It is the Lord’s table and the center of the Eucharistic action. It has always been considered a symbol of Christ.
Now, by kissing, the priest signifies the union of the Spouse (Christ) with his Bride (the Church). And, indeed, what the priest is beginning to accomplish here is nothing other than to forge the union of the Church with her Master, of the soul with its Redeemer.
In the name of the Blessed Trinity: After the entrance song, and after having kissed the altar, the priest goes to the chair and with the whole assembly makes the sign of the cross, saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The sign of the cross signify that all we do is in the name of the Triune God.
The priest’s greeting to the entire Church: Through his greeting, the priest declares to us that the Lord is present. He accompanies his words with a gesture that may be seen as a delicately initiated embrace.
Sometimes the priest will greet us with a more elaborate formula, desiring that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. ( cf. 2 Cor 13:13). At other times, he will use a shorter greeting,
The Lord be with you.
It reminds us of the angel’s salutation to Mary (Lk 1:28), or St Paul’s to the Thessalonians (2 Thess 2:16)
Penitential Rite: The penitential rite makes us aware of our unworthiness. It is not an abstract reminder of guilt, but the actual realization and admission of our sins and weaknesses. We ask pardon for our sins.
The act of deep repentance, a mea culpa, when the hand strikes the breast, is an old biblical gesture. It brings consolation to the sinner in his racking sorrow; for is it not written that the humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds and that he shall be heard before the Most High? (Sirach 35:16-17)
The Kyrie (Lord have Mercy) and the Gloria: After having bridged the gap between God’s love and our feeble love through penance, we feel the need to again express our joy. The presence of Christ makes us break into praise with the Kyrie and the
Opening Prayer or Collect: The Opening Prayer is also called Collect because it sums up and gathers together all the intentions of the day’s sacrifice.
b. The Readings to the Prayer of the Faithful
Readings from Scripture and the chants between the readings form the main part of the liturgy of the word. These elements are arranged in the following order:
- First Reading
- Responsorial Psalm
- Second Reading (only on Sundays and greater celebrations)
- Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia or another chant)
And after these come the:
- Profession of Faith (Creed)
- General Intercessions (Prayer of the Faithful)
These elements develop the liturgy of the word and with them the first part of the Mass concludes.
In the readings from the Scripture, God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and nourishing their spirit. Christ is present to the faithful through his own word. These readings are explained and expanded with the homily. Through the chants, the people make God’s word their own; through the Profession of Faith, they affirm their adherence to it. Finally, having been nourished by this word, they make their petitions in the general intercessions for the needs of the Church and for the salvation of the whole world.
Liturgy of Eucharist
The liturgy of the Eucharist starts with the preparation of the gifts and goes all the way to the communion rites and the final dismissal of the faithful.
a. Offertory and Preparation of the Gifts
- Bread, Wine and other gifts: At the beginning of the liturgy of the Eucharist, the gifts, which will become Christ’s body and blood, (bread and wine) are brought to the altar. This includes also the gifts we have gotten from the works of our hands coming from God. “May the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you as holocausts of rams and bullocks, as thousands of fattened lambs: such let our sacrifice be to you today, and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly, since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed” (Dan 3:39-40).
The offertory song is like the smile that accompanies a gift and makes it more pleasing to the receiver. “God loves the cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). And our gift to Christ is the desire to participate with him in the sacrifice of the cross, overcoming the passions that tend to pull us down, especially the fear of giving ourselves in total self-surrender.
- Prayer over the Gifts: In the Prayer over the Gifts, we usually acknowledge our incapacity to offer to God gifts adequate to his goodness and power. We ask God to accept what we offer with sincerity. We ask some grace in connection with the mystery celebrated on that particular day, in return for the material gifts. We notice an ascending or upward-striving rhythm in the progress of the liturgical action. If we contrast this prayer with the Collect, we can perceive an increase in fervor and assurance. We know that our gifts to God will be returned to us multiplied a hundredfold.
b. The Eucharistic Prayer
The Eucharistic Prayer marks the summit of the Mass. This does not mean that the other parts of the Mass are less precious. They are important, too. But they find their center and climax in the Eucharistic Prayer.
Eucharist means thanksgiving. As the priest recites the Eucharistic Prayer, we should concentrate all our senses on the action—the mystery—taking place on the altar. We should join the priest and the entire Church in offering to God the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and give thanks for God’s goodness and glory.
The elements of the Eucharistic Prayer
The chief elements of the Eucharistic Prayer are:
- Thanksgiving (expressed especially in the Preface): In the name of the entire people of God, the priest praises the Father and gives thanks to him for the whole work of salvation or for some special aspect of it that corresponds to the day, feast, or season.
- Acclamation: Joining with the angels, the congregation sings or recites the Sanctus. This acclamation is an intrinsic part of the Eucharistic Prayer, and all the people join with the priest in singing or reciting it.
- Epiclesis (invocation): In special invocations, the Church calls on God’s power and asks that gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that they become Christ’s body and blood, and that the Victim to be received in Communion be the source of salvation for those who will partake of it.
- Narrative of the Institution and Consecration: In the words and actions of Christ, that sacrifice is celebrated which he himself instituted at the Last Supper, when he offered, under the appearances of bread and wine, his body and blood, gave them to his apostles to eat and drink, and then commanded that they re-enact this mystery.
- Anamnesis (memorial): In fulfilment of the command received from Christ through the apostles, the Church keeps his memorial by recalling especially his passion, resurrection, and ascension.
- Oblation: The oblation or offering of the victim is part of a sacrifice. In this memorial, the Church, and in particular the Church here and now assembled, offers the spotless Victim to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Church’s intention is that the faithful not only offer the Victim but also learn to offer themselves and so to surrender themselves, through Christ the Mediator, to an ever more complete union with the Father and with each other, so that at last God may be all in all.
- Intercessions: The intercessions make it clear that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the entire Church and all its members, living and dead, who are called to share in the salvation and redemption purchased by Christ’s body and blood. This part includes also the commemoration of the saints in whose glory we hope to share.
- Final Doxology: The praise of God is expressed in the doxology, to which the people’s acclamation is an assent and a conclusion.
c. Communion Rite
The Communion rite is ordained thus:
- Lord’s Prayer: The priest offers the invitation to pray, and all of us continue the prayer with him. The priest raises his hands. No special gesture is indicated for the people during this prayer.
- Rite of Peace: Before we share the same spiritual food, we implore peace and unity for the Church and for the whole human family and offer some sign of our love for one another.
- Breaking of the Bread, with the commingling, while the Agnus Dei is said or sung: As practiced before and now, the priest takes the host and breaks it over the paten. He places a small piece into the chalice while saying,
“May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.”
- Personal preparation of the priest: In the early ages of the Church, no special prayer was designated as a preparation for Communion. The Eucharistic Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer were sufficient. Our Mother the Church saw it fitting, nevertheless, to offer two prayers of preparation for the coming of the Lord to the temple which is our body. These prayers are of Gallican origin, dating from about the tenth century. They are full of fervor, rather subjective in tone, and suited for private piety, since they are intended as a personal preparation for the priest who recites one of them.
- In the first prayer, the priest begs Christ, Son of the living God, to grant salvation to his servant and to deliver him from all his sins and from every evil. “Keep me faithful to your teaching, and never let me be parted from you,” he ends.
- In the other, the priest declares his own unworthiness and his confidence in Christ’s mercy. He asks that the reception of the Eucharist may work not to his condemnation but to his own good.
- Invitation to the sacred banquet by showing the host to the faithful: The personal preparation of the priest gives us the opportunity to also prepare ourselves in silence, without the noise of words but with an abundance of acts of love. We feel unworthy as the moment for receiving our Lord approaches. But we decide to go on because we know he wants to remain in the consecrated species to be our nourishment and the cure for our weaknesses.
- We should never dare to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. To do so is to sacrilegiously abuse the mercy of God. Only a shallow and false love, based on mere sentimentality, can bring us to such a detestable course of action. This mistreatment of the sacrament is a grave offense against God.
- St Paul’s warning on this issue is quite clear: Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily towards the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation (1 Cor 11:27-29).
- Communion of the priest and the faithful: During the priest’s and the faithful’s reception of the sacrament, the Communion song is sung. Its function is to express outwardly the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to give evidence of the joy in their hearts, and to make the procession for the reception of Christ’s body more fully an act of the community. The song begins when the priest takes Communion and continues for as long as it seems appropriate while the faithful receive Christ’s body. But the Communion song should be ended in good time whenever there is to be a hymn after Communion.
- The faithful, whether religious or lay, who are authorized as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist can distribute Communion only when there is no priest, deacon or acolyte, when the priest is impeded by illness or advanced age, or when the number of the faithful going to Communion is so large as to make the celebration of Mass excessively long.
- Silent prayer, if opportune: After Communion, the priest returns to the altar and collects any remaining particles. Then, standing at the side of the altar or at a side table, he purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, and then the chalice itself.
Afterwards, the priest and the people may spend some time in silent prayer. If desired, a hymn, psalm, or a designated prayer may be said.
- Prayer after Communion: Standing at the altar or at the chair and facing the people, the priest, with hands outstretched, says, “Let us pray.” There may be a brief period of silence, unless this has been already observed immediately after Communion. The priest recites the Prayer after Communion, at the end of which the people respond, “Amen.”
d. Concluding Rite
The Concluding Rite is quite simple. It includes:
- The blessing.
- The dismissal.
- The kissing of and reverence to the altar.
Once the Prayer after Communion is concluded, the priest greets us in the usual manner, extending his hands. As he receives our answer, he blesses us with these words:
"May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
"Amen," we answer.
On certain days or occasions, a more solemn form of blessing or prayer over the people may be used.
Then the priest gives us the sign of dismissal:
"The Mass is ended, go in peace."
Or some other formula, like:
"Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."
We reply as always:
"Thanks be to God."
The priest kisses the altar as at the beginning. Then he makes the proper reverence (a low bow—or a genuflection, if the Blessed Sacrament is there) with the ministers and leaves.
i. Sacred vessels and liturgical items
- The altar is the table on which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. It must be covered with the altar cloths. There should be candles and a cross on the altar or somewhere not far from it.
- The sacred books used in the Mass are called the Lectionary, which contains all the readings, psalms, and Gospels, and the They are placed on the self-standing lectern for the readings or on a small folding book stand on the altar during the Mass respectfully.
- The tabernacle is a boxlike receptacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It should be solid, inviolable, and located always in a place that is truly prominent and conducive to prayer. Its name is derived from the word “tent.” It is covered with a tabernacle veil.
- The sanctuary lamp must be kept burning before the tabernacle.
- The chalice is a cup used at Mass to contain the precious blood of Christ.
- The paten is a shallow dish on which the host is placed.
- The ciborium is a covered cup in which the small consecrated hosts are kept. It is usually covered with a veil.
- The corporal is a linen cloth, twenty inches square, upon which the chalice and paten are placed. It is pleated in three folds overlapping inwardly so that no fragment of the consecrated host may be dropped. It is carried in a burse.
- The pall is a stiff cardboard, usually square, covered with linen. It is used as a cover for the chalice to protect it from dust and other foreign matter.
- The purificator is a small linen towel used to dry the priest’s fingers and the chalice at the end of the Mass.
- The altar bell is rung to alert those present at some moments of the Mass.
- The cruets are two small bottles or vessels containing the wine and water to be used for the Consecration and for the ablutions after Communion.
- A censer or thurible to burn incense is used in solemn Masses. The incense boat is a vessel in which incense is kept; a small spoon is used to transfer incense from the boat to the censer.
ii. Priestly vestments
- The amice is a rectangular piece of white linen, worn beneath the alb.
- The alb is a full-length white linen vestment. It symbolizes the garment in which Christ was clothed by Herod, and the purity of soul with which the sacrifice of the Mass should be offered.
- The cincture is a belt, girdle, or cord tied around the waist of the alb. It symbolizes chastity and mortification of the senses.
- The stole is a long, narrow band worn over the neck. It symbolizes the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ and the dignity of the ministerial priesthood.
- The chasuble is a sleeveless outer garment worn by the priest at Mass. It is worn over all the other vestments, and is made of silk or some other rich material usually decorated with symbols. It is patterned after the traveling cloak used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Originally, it was a large circle of cloth with an opening in the center for the head of the priest. It symbolizes charity, which must cover all our actions.
- At solemn Masses, the deacon wears a dalmatic. It is an outer liturgical vestment with short sleeves, open at the sides and made of the same material as the vestments of the celebrant.
The beauty of the vestments should derive from the materials and design rather than from lavish ornamentation. Representations on vestments should consist only of symbols, images, or pictures portraying the sacred. Anything not in keeping with the sacred is to be avoided.
To celebrate and to offer the Holy Mass with greater fruit, we should consider that:
The Mass is the most important event that happens to mankind each day.
The Mass is the center of Christian life. All the sacraments, prayers, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual communions, devotions, and mortifications offered to God have the Mass as their central point of reference. If the center were to disappear (e.g., if attendance at Mass were to be consciously abandoned), then the whole Christian life would collapse.
Even our concern for the others, our apostolate, should take its root in the Mass. The devotion to the divine Eucharist exerts a great influence upon the soul in the direction of fostering a ‘social’ love, in which we put the common good ahead of private good, take up the cause of the community, the parish, the universal Church, and extend our charity to the whole world because we know that there are members of Christ everywhere.
The Mass is the most pleasing offering we can make to God. Every member of the Mystical Body of Christ receives at baptism the right and duty of taking part in the sacrifice of the Head of that Body. Our Mother the Church wants us to attend Mass, not as strangers or as passive spectators, but as exerting effort to understand it better each time. We must participate in the Mass in a conscious, pious, and active manner, with the right dispositions and cooperating with divine grace. Our participation must be both internal and external.