The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the fullest form of Catholic worship of God. Commonly known as the Mass, it is an act of praise, adoration and thanksgiving — and it’s where Catholics most abundantly encounter their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Mass consists of two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which fall in between the Introductory Rites and the Dismissal Rite.
The Mass begins with a procession symbolic of our earthly pilgrimage to the Heavenly Jerusalem, since the Mass is where heaven and earth unite. After arriving in the sanctuary, the priest kisses the altar and begins the Mass with the Sign of the Cross, calling to mind two central tenets of the faith: the Trinity and the cross. Having reflected and communally confessed our sins and sought God's mercy, the priest then proclaims the opening prayer. Right before this, on Sundays and solemnities, we sing or recite the Gloria, the ancient prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Liturgy of the Word
After the opening prayer, the Liturgy of the Word begins. On Sundays we hear a reading from the Old Testament, communally sing or recite a psalm, then hear from one of St. Paul's letters, which were addressed to the earliest Christian communities. After the Alleluia — the Church's expression of Resurrection praise in preparation for the Gospel — the priest or deacon proclaims a story or teaching in the life of Jesus. The priest or deacon then delivers a homily in which he reflects on the Scriptures just proclaimed and provides counsel on how to apply them to our lives. A profession of faith and prayers for the church and the world bring the Liturgy of the Word to a close.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Upon hearing the Word of God, the faithful are no longer the same because of the demands of faith heard in Scripture, so it responds by offering sacrifice to God. Gifts of bread and wine, work of human hands, are offered to the priest for transformation into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As the priest proclaims the Eucharistic Prayer, he takes the place Jesus himself and makes present the Last Supper at which Jesus sacramentally foretold of his coming passion, death and resurrection. Through the calling down of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine become Jesus' Body and Blood in a re-presentation of his Paschal Mystery. We join our lives and all that we are to the sacrifice of Jesus and become the Body of Christ. As a conclusion to the prayer, the community responds Amen as an expression of our assent to belief in the miracle of faith that just occurred.
After praying the Our Father that Jesus taught us, we share a sign of peace with those immediately around us. As we receive Christ’s sacred Body and precious Blood, we respond Amen expressing belief that we become what we receive. Following Communion, the priest then prays the Prayer after Communion during which we thank God for such an incredible gift and ask for its effects to be visible in our lives.
The brief concluding rites consist of the final blessing, calling down of the Holy Trinity upon those gathered before we are dismissed from the Mass. But the dismissal is actually rather significant because of the Latin words of the dismissal: Ite, missa est or Go, having been sent. We go to Mass giving thanks and praise to God for his goodness Then we are sent forth to proclaim the Good News.
Did you know?
Each Sunday (except for during Advent and Lent) we receive a taste of Christmas. When we recite or sing the Gloria, we recall the song of the angels to the shepherds on Christmas night, proclaiming the birth of Christ.
Liturgy of the Word
The Church doesn’t read from the Old Testament at Masses during the Easter season. Instead it reflects on the life and mission of the early Church as found in the Acts of the Apostles.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
There are currently 13 Eucharistic Prayers approved by the Vatican for use in America. But for nearly 400 years, between Council of Trent (1545-1563) and Vatican Council II (1962-1965), there was only one Eucharistic Prayer in use: the Roman Canon.
Distribution of the Blood of Christ from the chalice to the laity was revived following the liturgical reforms after Vatican Council II.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI offered three new dismissal formulas to the Mass in 2008. They have been used in America since 2011.