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Understanding the Catholic Mass

Understanding the Catholic Mass

The Catholic  Mass: A True Sacrifice 

 A Catholic  Mass, which  is a liturgical  function,  can only be held in a church  or an oratory which  had been consecrated  or at least blessed. An oratory  is a structure other than a church, set aside by ecclesiastical authority  for prayer and the celebration  of Catholic Mass.

Silence is Golden

Attention  is the essence of prayer. If you arrive in church  early enough, it will give you time to calm your  mind and prepare for the sacrifice of the Mass. Of course, if you have children  in tow, keeping them quiet out of respect for the other worshipers  can be heroic.  Tum cell phones off or put on vibrate/silent.

Entering the  Church

You will usually find the font with  holy water at the entrance.  Upon entering we dip our fingers into the holy water. With  the dipped  hand we make a sign of the cross over ourselves as a reminder of our baptism. When we enter the church  or pass the tabernacle the normal gesture of reverence is to genuflect,  that is, to bend the right knee until  it reaches the ground.   Genuflecting,  of course can be quite an effort for those of us weakened  at the knees. So, for some of us, we bow  to express our reverence  to the Lord. (Genuflect  with both knees  on the ground during Exposition)

Entrance Procession

The Catholic  Mass begins with  the entrance  procession. The entrance hymn is first of the four proper  hymns sung during mass. The procession  leads with  the altar cross followed  by the candles,

the Book of Gospels, and lastly the priest. In certain solemn Catholic  Masses, the censer leads the way with  burning  incense. The cross must be present at or near the altar of the Sacrifice. The cross depicts the sacrifice of the cross and made present in the altar. Upon  reaching the altar, the servers, ministers and priest will make the reverential  bow  or genuflect  in front  of the tabernacle. The cross and the candles, if carried in the procession are placed in their holders near or on the altar. The priest then goes on to the altar and kisses it in reverence.  He proceeds  to sit and wait for the hymn to end.

Greetings

After  the hymn, with  us standing, the priest and the faithful  make the sign of the cross and the priest greets the faithful,  usually with  the traditional,  “The Lord be with you.”  At this point  the priest may also give a brief introduction   to the Catholic  Mass of the day.

The Penitential   Rite  in a Catholic  Mass

During  the penitential  rite, we reflect on our sins and ask God to forgive them. The most common  invocation  is, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,”  This is a general absolution  and cannot  replace going to the sacrament of confession. We cannot receive the Sacrament of Communion   if did not confess a mortal sin beforehand.  At this point  the priest may also perform  the blessing and sprinkling  of water,  to remind us of the actions and; promises of baptism.

Gloria

Gloria   in Excelsis is latin   meaning, “Glory in the highest.” this  is the  Angelic Hymn  or greater doxology  and is an ancient Christian hymn of thanks, praise and triumph for redemption.  Because of the joyful  nature of the Gloria, it is omitted  in more somber occasions, such as the Advent  or Lent. During  those seasons, the Catholic  Mass takes on a simpler and more penitent character.

Opening   Prayer

Originally  called the Collect, the priest now invites us to pray in silence.

Liturgy  of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word  is the sequence of readings that prepares us for the Sacrament of Sacrifice. The readings are not optional.  And not hearing the readings nor making any attempt  to hear them would  be to come unprepared  for communion,  just as we would  be if we miss the reading altogether.

The  Lectionary

The Lectionary specifies the readings that are read in a certain date. The modern  lectionary is arranged on a complicated  pattern with overlapping  cycles of years. With certain  exceptions,  the Sunday Lectionary of the Catholic  Mass repeats in a three-year cycle, whereas the Weekday Lectionary  of the Catholic Mass repeats in a two-year cycle. Both started in 1969. The three readings every  Sunday Catholic  Mass are the first reading, normally  from the Old Testament; the second from the  Epistles of the New Testament; and the third from the Gospels. A Lector or a reader normally reads the  first and second readings. The priest reads Gospel. The responsorial psalms are either read or  sung between  the readings. The first responsorial psalm is a varying antiphon  and the second the Alleluia. The faithful sits until the Alleluia, and then rises to greet the Gospel. Although  the first reading  is supposed to reflect the Gospel, sometimes the connection  may not be very obvious. The

second reading is not chosen with any reference to the other readings.

Homily

In the Homily,  or the Sermon, the priest is expected  to make sense of the 3 readings and the

psalm, and to do that in less than 10 minutes. That is quite a daunting  task! In reality, in the Catholic Mass, the priest is not expected to give a full explanation  of one of the readings, let alone the three. However,  the General Instruction  does recommend  that the homily reference some point  from the readings or of another text from the Ordinary  or from  the Proper of the Catholic  Mass of the day. The priest is also expected to take into account  the mystery being celebrated and the needs of the listeners.

How  to  Listen To the  Sermon

The Scripture can be overwhelming  for a lot of people. The best solution  in order  to understand  the Sermon is to prepare ourselves before going  to Catholic Mass. Get a Lectionary.  Read the readings for the Catholic  Mass and reflect on the meanings. This preparation  will  help LIS keep our minds in Church during the readings and through the Sermon.

Profession  of Faith

The Creed was added into  the Catholic  Mass about a thousand years ago in a desire to unite the people  in proclaiming  their loyalty to the faith before they begin to celebrate the Eucharist. Gradually  the Creed became a standard part of the Catholic  Mass. As a result of this intimate association with the liturgy  and teaching of the Church, the Apostles’ Creed has always been held to have the authority  of an ex cathedra utterance. It is commonly  taught that all points of doctrine contained  in it are part of the Catholic  Faith, and cannot be called in question under pain of heresy.

General   Intercessions

In the prayers of intercession we ask God for the needs of the Church; for public  authorities and the salvation of the world;  for those oppressed by any need; and for the local community. Typically the intentions are announced  in the lectern but introduced  by the priest. Also called the

Prayer of the Faithful, at one stage in the evolution  of the Catholic  Mass, the marked the beginning  of the “Mass of the FaithfuL” This was the secret ceremony  that only baptized  Catholics  of good standing could  attend. Strangers, catechumens and penitents were  expected to leave at this point.

Preparation  of the Gifts

The Liturgy of the Eucharist now begins, which  forms the central part of the liturgy due to its direct institution  by Christ. The Offertory  has always been considered  one the essential actions of the Catholic  Mass although  it looks like a passive and quiet moment. This is the rite by which  the bread and wine are presented (offered)  to God before they are consecrated.

Rite of Hand Washing

The Rite of Hand Washing, or Lavabo, before celebrating  the holy Liturgy originated  from the practical  precaution  of cleanness and later interpreted  also symbolically.

Prayer Over the Gifts

“Pray, Brethren” breaks the stillness and silence after the Lavabo, as invitation  to pray and claim ownership of the sacrifice.

Eucharistic   Prayer

The Preface

“The Lord be with you,” is the oldest set of text in the Mass and is exchanged  between  the priest and the congregation.  We are then invited to tum  to the Lord in prayer. The Preface is an introductory  prayer, which  gives a specific reason for our thanksgiving.

The Sanctus

The Sanctus is the last part of the Preface in the Catholic Mass, sung in practically  every rite by  the people (or choir), or if recited, it needs a firm and exalted tone. It is one of the oldest elements of the Catholic Mass liturgy. Like the prophet  Isaiah, we fall on our knees in awe, for we realize the presence of something greater than ourselves.

Epidesis

Epiclesis is an invocation  of God to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into

the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Specifically and unambiguously  God is called on to transform  the offering  of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Consecration

Here the elements are consecrated and transformed  into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is the key moment  of the Catholic Mass. During the consecration  the priest takes the bread and then the wine and repeats over them the words and action  of our Lord during the Last Supper.

Transubstantiation

During the epiclesis or invocation,  God is called upon to send the Holy Spirit and transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. During consecration,  when  the priest speaks, “This is my body,” the substance of the bread is transformed  into  the Body of Jesus Christ. The priest then shows the Host to the people and places the consecrated  Host on the paten. When  the priest speaks, “This is my blood,” the substance of the wine  is transformed  in the Blood of Jesus Christ. The priest shows the Chalice to the people and places the consecrated wine on the corporal.

Memorial  Acclamation

After the Chalice has been shown to the people  the priest invites the people  to proclaim  the Mystery  of Faith.

Remembrance

After the memorial  acclamation  the priest invites us to “Call to mind” or remember  the great events of our salvation, death, Resurrection and Ascension  of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Offering

In that memory  we offer the sacrifice, calling on God to offer the sacrifice in union with  all the sacrifices in the past. In the offering,  the miracle of transubstantiation  is applied  to our benefit when  we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Intercessions

The priest intercedes with the Father. We pray for those who  have departed and we pray “for us sinners.”

Final Doxology

The priest lifts the Host and the Chalice proclaiming  the doxology,  the words  of praise linking the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This concludes  the Eucharistic Prayer.

Communion   Rite

The Our  Father

The communion  rite begins with  the Our  Father.

Holding  Hands During  the Our  Father

While  there are no directions  as to the posture of the faithful, the rubrics clearly direct the priest and any concelebrants  to pray the Our  Father with  hands extended – so they at least should not hold hands. One  could argue that holding  hands expresses the family union of the Church. But our singing or reciting  the prayer in unison already expresses this element. The act of holding  hands usually emphasizes group or personal unity from  the human or physical point  of view and is thus more typical of the spontaneity  of small groups. Hence it does not always transfer well into the context  of larger gatherings where some people  feel uncomfortable   and a bit imposed  upon when doing so. The use of this practice during  the Our  Father could detract  and distract from  the prayer’s God-directed  sense of adoration  and petition,  as explained  in Nos. 2777-2865  of the Catechism  of the Catholic  Church,  in favor of a more horizontal  and merely human meaning. For all of these

reasons, no one should have any qualms about  not participating  in this gesture if disinclined  to do so.

They will be simply following  the universal customs of the Church, and should not be accused of being  a cause of disharmony. A different  case is the practice  in which  some people adopt  the “orantes” posture during the Our  Father, praying  like the priest, with  hands extended.  Despite appearances, this gesture is not, strictly speaking, a case of the laity trying to usurp priestly functions. The Our  Father is the prayer of the entire assembly and not a priestly or presidential prayer. In fact, it

is perhaps the only case when the rubrics direct  the priest to pray with  arms extended  in a prayer that

he does not say alone or only with other  priests. Therefore,  in the case of the Our  Father, the orantes posture expresses the prayer directed  to God by his children. This posture was, after all, the normal way Christians prayed ‘for a millennium.

Embolism

The priest picks up the last petition  to deliver us from every evil.

The Sign of Peace

The invitation  to share the sign of peace among  the congregation  the priest is not authorized to leave the sanctuary. This part almost jars the solemnity  of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Catholic Mass back to earth.

The Fraction

The Breaking of the Bread is the oldest  name for the Eucharistic liturgy, going back to the apostolic  days, following  Christ’s breaking  of the Bread at the Last supper.

The Commingling

When the priest breaks the Bread he also drops a small piece of the Host into the Chalice, which  is called Commingling.  There are two possible origins of this rite. It was customary  to reserve a fraction of the Host from each day’s Catholic  Mass and keep it until the next Catholic  Mass. Then it would  be brought to the altar and mingled with the newly consecrated Chalice. The other custom was practiced in Rome where  the pope would  send particles of the Host from his Catholic Mass to every church in the city so they could  be mingled with  the Blessed Sacrament in each church.

Agnus Dei

While  the priest is going about the breaking of the bread and commingling,  the congregation or choir sings the “lamb  of God.”

Communion

Communion  is the actual reception  of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is the Church doctrine  that Holy Communion  is morally necessary for salvation. Thus, without  this sacrament it would  be very difficult  to resist grave temptations  and avoid grievous sin. To receive you should bow your head in reverence.

Silence after Communion

After receiving communion  we meditate  and contemplate  on the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  When communion  has been distributed  the priest, deacons and the extra-ordinary ministers of the Eucharist return  the vessels to the altar. The remaining  Hosts are collected  into one ciborium.  If the Sacred Blood is used the remaining Species must be consumed. The paten, ciborium and chalice are then purified. Although  not dictated  by the General Instructions, it is a common practice  for the congregation  to kneel while the practical  necessity of clearing the Sacred Vessels is going on. It is customary to stay kneeling until either the priest sits or the ciboriurn  of the remaining Host is returned into the tabernacle.

Prayer after Communion

After the silence or song following  Communion  or after the purification  of the vessels, the priest then invites the faithful to pray, which closes the Communion  rite.

Concluding  Rite

Announcements

This brings to attention  certain announcements  from the parish.

Dismissal

For the last time the priest and the people  exchange greetings.

The Catholic Mass ends.

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