An eight-week series featuring lessons on the Mass.
Each week find correlating teachings in the Mass Leaflets, the bulletin and here on the web.
Thanks for joining us as we grow in faith together!
Week 8: The Eucharistic Prayer Continued
Our walk through the Eucharistic Prayer continues as we focus on what follows the institution narrative and consecration, anamnesis. This is a Greek word that is defined by the Catholic dictionary as “remembrance”. But this is more than a remembrance in the sense of an exercise in memory. For those who believe, our offering of this remembrance links us to these actions once again. We have just been asked to proclaim the mystery of faith and so we do. We recall what Christ did and claim that same amazing loving action for ourselves today and into the future, until he comes again. We are doing this offering and remembering in memory of Jesus, following his command. Anamnesis makes the effects of a historical event present once again. We are privileged to hear, see and feel the loving sacrifice of the Lord, until he comes again. It is an amazing moment and continues the idea that the Eucharist is a foretaste of heaven, here and now.
We recall what Christ did and claim that same amazing loving action for ourselves today and into the future, until he comes again.
The Vatican II document The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy says it this way: “ 8.In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle ; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory . http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html
For more on anamnesis from an academic point of view, see https://catholiccanada.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/a-theological-historical-and-social-study-of-anamnesis-in-christian-liturgy/
Week 7: Praying with the Eucharistic Prayer
Often the Preface goes by without us paying attention to its words. Offered here this week is one Preface and a link for you to find all of them from the 2011 version of the Roman Missal. http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english5/p03467.html Spend some time praying with these words, allowing them to penetrate heart and soul.
Preface VI for the Sundays of Ordinary Time
It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father,
almighty and eternal God.
For in you we live and move and have our being,
and while in this body
we not only experience the daily effects of your care,
but even now possess the pledge of life eternal.
For, having received the first fruits of the Spirit,
through whom you raised up Jesus from the dead,
we hope for an everlasting share in the Paschal Mystery.
And so, with all the Angels,
we praise you,
as in joyful celebration we acclaim:
Week 6: The Eucharistic Prayer
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describe the Eucharistic Prayer like this:
The priest offers the Eucharistic Prayer in the first person plural, for example, "Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you…" This "we" signifies that all the baptized present at the Eucharistic celebration make the sacrificial offering in union with Christ, and pray the Eucharistic Prayer in union with him. And what is most important, we do not offer Christ alone; we are called to offer ourselves, our lives, our individual efforts to grow more like Christ and our efforts as a community of believers to spread God's Word and to serve God's people, to the Father in union with Christ through the hands of the priest. Most wonderful of all, although our offering is in itself imperfect, joined with the offering of Christ it becomes perfect praise and thanksgiving to the Father.
Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.
While there are several Eucharistic Prayers (13 versions are approved for use in the US with three most commonly used), all follow a similar pattern: 1) We call upon God to make present to us again (remember in a theological sense) all the wonderful saving deeds of our history. 2) We recall the central event in our history, Jesus Christ, and in particular the memorial he left us on the night before he died. We recall his passion, death and resurrection. 3) After gratefully calling to mind all the wonderful saving acts God has done for us in the past, we petition God to continue those deeds of Christ in the present: We pray that we may become one body, one spirit in Christ. You will note again the importance of unity. Our participation in the Eucharistic prayer is the way in which we respond to God in gratitude, indicating our awareness that God has saved us as a people.
Week 5: Preparation of the Gifts
Once the table (altar) is prepared, the priest receives the gifts from the people and places the bread and wine, fruit of the earth and the work of human hands, on the altar.
"By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
-This prayer from the Mass is said quietly by the deacon or priest during the Preparation of the Gifts, while he prepares the chalice by pouring in some wine and then adding a few drops of water.
He then mixes water with the wine and washes his hands to help us think of the Last Supper. (Mixing water with wine to avoid the prohibition against strong drink and washing hands to maintain ritual purity are things all Jews did at meals in Jesus' day.) Finally, he invites us to pray that the sacrifice be acceptable to God. This prayer is a ritual dialogue to which we respond "Amen" (remember Amen is a Hebrew word that means “So be it” and has the connotation that says upon this idea or these ideas I will stake my life.) We then stand to participate in the central prayer of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer.
Week 4: Storytelling-The Liturgy of the Word
Keeping in mind that the general structure of the Mass is of a meal, the Liturgy of the Word is the part of the meal where the family, now assembled around the table, recalls and re-connects itself to its unifying story.
The storyteller at the Mass is the Lord Jesus himself, really present and speaking through the lector, the cantor and the deacon/priest.
We, His people, unite our minds and hearts, listening to Him speak to us today just as he did to the first apostles. The Lord Jesus reminds us of our identity, re-tells our story to us, and invites us to enter it anew, to be transformed by it just as the first apostles were. The Liturgy of the Word also includes our response to Jesus’ invitation in Creed and prayer.
Click below for more information on each part of the Liturgy of the Word:
Week 3: Gathering Rites
The Gathering Rites serve to welcome, orient and prepare the community to celebrate the Mass. To learn more about these rites, rituals and postures click on the elements of the Gathering Rites below.
Elements of the Gathering Rites:
Week 2: What is the Mass
It is a ritual prayer that brings us into the loving presence of the Lord’s Supper, his passion, death and resurrection. It bears the basic “shape” of a meal. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council brought together these three mysteries in a multifaceted description of the Mass: "At the Last Supper, on the night when he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the eucharistic sacrifice (eucharistic means having the characteristic of gratitude, and sacrifice is an action of making something holy, distinct, set apart for a special purpose). So Mass is a ritual action of gratitude that, through its celebration, reminds us that we are, gratefully, who we are, because of God.
The Mass then re-connects us to Jesus Christ who is really, sacramentally present, so that after this encounter with the Risen Lord, we might be Him in and for the world.
Jesus gave us this ritual time apart in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again. In this way He entrusts to his beloved Bride, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet 'in which Christ is eaten, the heart is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us'" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #42).
Week 1: The Mass as Ritual Prayer
Why do we Roman Catholics use ritual prayer? As was noted in the bulletin, it is one way to hold us together as one Body with Jesus Christ as our head. But there are other reasons. Sometimes the words from the past say it most eloquently: Because it is an invariable and irresistible impulse of man to surround the more solemn incidents of his life with stately observances, which are an outward expression of his thoughts and feelings; and what more solemn moment is there than when with his assembled fellows he is engaged in the worship of his Creator?
...it is an invariable and irresistible impulse of man to surround the more solemn incidents of his life with stately observances, which are an outward expression of his thoughts and feelings...
Why have rites and ceremonies at all? By admitting that some form of ceremonial is desirable and even necessary, would it not be better to leave it to the inspiration of the moment? Would it not thus be more spontaneous, more fresh and living, less a bit of formalism and routine? This might be so if all ministers of religion, together with their orders, received the gift of inspiration, and were endowed with perfect sanity and good taste. But things being as experience tells us they are and must be, it would be a dangerous experiment doomed to failure. No, the ritual observances of the Church are expressly intended to save us from the vagaries, the variations, the eccentricities, the extravagances of individuals, and to provide a decent and permanent order for the conduct of divine worship.”
THE PART OF RITUAL IN CATHOLIC WORSHIP. BY MGR. CANON JAMES CONNELLY. October 6, 1906.
For more go to this article from The Tablet.
Greeters: Many churches have those whose function is to greet the pilgrims as they arrive for Sunday Mass. It is the first step in uniting ourselves once again to each other. However, every person is actually a greeter, as all are called to welcome members of the Body, to gather everyone in and unite ourselves to the Lord. All the baptized are the hosts of this meal, and so tasked with greeting.
Use of water: One of the first things Catholics do when they enter the sanctuary is to dip their right hand in water and make the sign of the cross. This ritual is a reminder of our Baptism. We were baptized with water and signed with the cross. At every Mass we renew our baptismal promises and we recall that it is because of baptism that we are invited to this celebration.
Genuflection/bowing: In medieval Europe, it was a custom to go down on one knee (to genuflect) before a king or a person of rank. This secular mark of honor gradually entered the Church and people began to genuflect to honor the altar and the presence of Christ in the tabernacle. This was done before entering the pew. Today many people express their reverence with an even older custom and bow to the altar before entering their pew.
Posture: When Mass begins everyone stands. Standing is the traditional posture of a Christian at prayer. It expresses our attentiveness to the word of God and our readiness to carry it out. As part of the gathering rites, standing unites us as one Body, ready to welcome the Lord’s real sacramental presence in the sacred Word (which is why the Book of the Gospels is processed) and in the priest, who is for us the visible sign of the Lord’s Presence. By this point in our gathering rites, we have now honored three of the four ways Jesus is really present during the Mass: by greeting those assembling to pray, and by standing to honor the Word and the priest.
Song: Since the purpose of the gathering rites is to unite us, the entrance procession is most often accompanied by a song. What better way to gather than to unite our thoughts and our voices in common word, rhythm and melody. Keep in mind Jesus’ great prayer that His followers might be one. Participating in this movement during the gathering rites is a response to His prayer for us all, and is a practice for uniting with Him in eternity.
Greeting: Not to be confused with the greeting of the Body of Christ with each other when first assembling, this greeting is a ritual dialogue between the priest, now our visible sign of Christ’s promised presence with His people when two or three gather in his name. This greeting includes our unified beginning as one body signed with the cross, and the ritual dialogue. “The Lord be with you” is an ancient biblical greeting from Boaz, found in the Book of Ruth 2:4. Our response “And with your spirit” returns the hello, the good wishes and the statement of faith contained in the greeting. What does the priest mean when he says “The Lord be with you”? According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “By greeting the people with the words “The Lord be with you” the priest expresses his desire that the dynamic activity of God’s spirit be given to the people of God, enabling them to do the work of transforming the world God has entrusted to them.
What do the people mean when they respond “and with your spirit”? Again according to the USCCB: “The expression et cum spiritu tuo” is only addressed to an ordained minister. Some scholars have suggested that spiritu refers to the gift of the spirit he received at ordination. In their response, the people assure the priest of the same divine assistance of God’s spirit and, more specifically, help for the priest to use the charismatic gifts given to him in ordination and in so doing fulfill his prophetic function in the Church.
Penitential Rite: We assemble as both already redeemed and in need of forgiveness for the times since we were last in the Body of Christ that we have failed to live up to our baptismal promises to reject all that opposes God’s kingdom. In the penitential ritual, we acknowledge our need for forgiveness and we acclaim, three times, how great is God’s mercy! This sets our relationship aright: God is God. God is merciful and because of God’s great mercy, shown through Jesus Christ, we are now gathered, forgiven sinners. We acknowledge our sins, God’s great mercy and our intention to spend the next hour giving thanks and praise to God for this great love.
The Gloria: This ancient hymn of praise has been part of the Mass since the sixth century. It is best sung, and its text proclaims the greatness of God and God’s great love for us.
Opening Prayer: At the close of the gathering rites the priest will ask us to join our minds in prayer. It is with minds and hearts united that we come together as one Body in Christ, to listen to Him as he speaks to us today.
Three readings and a psalm: On Sundays there are four proclamations from the Bible. The first reading, proclaimed by a lector, will almost always be from the Hebrew Scriptures (what is commonly called the Old Testament). We recall the origins of our covenant. It will relate to the Gospel selection and will give background and an insight into the meaning of what Jesus will say and/or do in the Gospel. During the seven weeks of Easter, the first text draws from the Acts of the Apostles.
Then we will sing or recite a psalm—a song from God's own inspired hymnal, the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible. These same Psalms formed Jesus, just as they have the potential to form us. Most often during Sunday Mass this is done in responsorial fashion with a cantor singing verses and the assembly singing the refrain.
The second reading, often by a second lector, will usually be from one of the letters of Paul or another apostolic writing. It will often offer direction for Christian living.
The third reading, aways done by the deacon if he is vested for the liturgy, or by the priest in the absence of the deacon. It will be taken from one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The Lectionary organizes the gospels into three years, and during each of those years we hear a semi-cntinuous reading of one of the first three Gospels. Year A we hear Matthew. Year B we hear Mark (with a large portion of John during the summer months because Mark is the shortest Gospel). Year C we hear Luke. The Gospel and the first reading will have a thematic connection. A hint as to the Church’s intent in connecting these two texts can be found in the Opening Prayer for the Mass.
Some visitors to the Catholic Mass are surprised to find us reading from the Bible! The Mass has always been basically and fundamentally biblical. Even some Catholics might be surprised to learn how much of the Mass is taken from the Bible: Not only the three readings and the psalm, not only the obviously biblical prayers such as the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Lord's Prayer, but most of the words and phrases of the prayers of the Mass are taken from the Bible. (“Alleluia”, “Amen”, and “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” are some examples.)
Standing for the Gospel. Because of the unique presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel, it has long been the custom to stand in attentive reverence to hear these words. We believe that Christ "is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the church" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7). The cue to stand will be music that will invite the congregation to sing “Alleluia”. Alleluia derives from the Hebrew words for praise Yahweh, and is a word that proclaims great jubilation. In Catholic liturgy, that is conveyed through music and a robust participation in the repetitive singing of Alleluia, perhaps with a verse that proclaims our joy in Jesus sung by a cantor. During Lent, the sung acclamation before the Gospel will contain different texts as Alleluia is not sung during this penitential season.
Ritual Dialogue for the Gospel: The priest will again greet us with "The Lord be with you." And we respond, “And with your spirit.” He then introduces the Gospel reading while marking a small cross on his forehead, lips and heart with his thumb while praying silently that God will clean his mind and his heart so that his lips may worthily proclaim the Gospel. In many places, the congregation performs this ritual action along with the priest. (The prayer that accompanies this gesture is “May the Word of God be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart, bringing me to everlasting life.” The gesture is referred to as the threefold signing because the assembly makes a small sign of the cross on their forehead, lips and heart while reciting the prayer silently.) The Gospel reading concludes with the ritual formula "The Gospel of the Lord" and we respond, "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ," again proclaiming our faith in the presence of Christ in the word. Then we sit for the homily.
Homily. "Homily" (which replaced the word "sermon" for many) is a new word for Catholics. It means more than just a sermon or a talk about how we are to live or what we are to believe. It is an act of worship rooted in the texts of the Mass and especially in the readings from Scripture which have just been proclaimed. The homily takes that word and brings it to our life situation today. Just as a large piece of bread is broken to feed individual persons, the word of God must be broken open so it can be received and digested by the congregation. Only the ordained clergy (priest or deacon) break open the Word of God for the people, that all may be nourished by it.
Dismissal of Catechumens In those parishes where there are people over the age of seven preparing for baptism, this is the time when they are kindly dismissed from the Sunday assembly, to go with a catechist and continue to feast on the Word of the Lord. They belong to the Church and, like a mother, she continues to feed them from this table as they prepare to enter a permanent relationship with Christ and His Church through baptism. This action happens here because the Creed belongs to the already baptized, and a catechumen is not yet baptized. This dismissal is done by the priest. Often catechumens leave the assembly with their catechist as the congregation sings, surrounding them in blessing.
Creed. The homily is often followed by a few moments of silence during which we each thank God for the word we have heard and begin to apply the message of today's readings to our daily living. We then stand and together prayerfully say the creed. The creed is more than a list of things which we believe. It is a statement of our faith in the word we have heard proclaimed in the Scripture and the homily, and a profession of the faith that leads us to give our lives for one another as Christ gave his life for us. As one Body, we each individually proclaim the faith of the Church, in which we are ever more deeply united to one another and to the Lord Jesus.
General Intercessions. The Liturgy of the Word (our "story-telling" part of the Mass) comes to an end with the General Intercessions. Before you leave your home to go out to eat, you might take a look in a mirror to see if you look the way you want to look—hair in place, coat buttoned correctly—and perhaps make a few last-minute adjustments so that your mind's image of yourself matches that in the mirror.
Why do we have General Intercessions? The General Intercessions serve a similar purpose at Mass. We are the Body of Christ by Baptism. Now, as we prepare to approach the table for Eucharist, we look into the readings, like a mirror, and ask: Is that who we are? Does the Body of Christ present in this assembly resemble that Body of Christ pictured in the Scripture readings? Usually not! And so we make some adjustments; we pray that our assembly really come to look like the Body of Christ, a body at peace, with shelter for the homeless, healing for the sick, food for the hungry.
We pray for the Church, nations and their leaders, people in special need and the local needs of our parish—the petitions usually fall into these four categories. A minister will announce the petitions, to which we respond aloud with an invocation like "Lord, hear our prayer." Remember, we are praying that we will be the Body of Christ that undertakes this work with God’s help, direction and promised Holy Spirit. Weddings and funerals have different General Intercessions prescribed for them in the ritual books.