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Posts Tagged ‘Understanding the Catholic Mass’

Catholics are called to honour the Lord’s day by attending  Sunday Mass. Failing to do so, except where Mass is not available or due to a grave reason, is actually considered a sin according to the Catholic Catechism, because  God commanded us to observe the Sabbath.

But how much do we know about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Here is a brief overview of the holy Mass to guide those who would like to gain a better understanding of the Catholic worship, The Holy Mass:

The two main parts of the Mass are called the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Liturgy of the Word, God’s Word is read and preached. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is when the Eucharist is consecrated and Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful. These two parts make the core of the Mass, but there are other Rites that happen before and after them. Therefore,  the Mass is composed of a four-part structure: Introductory Rites, The Liturgy of the Word, The Liturgy of the Eucharist and Concluding Rites.

  1. Introductory Rites –  The purpose of this part is to prepare for the Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist. This tradition expresses the fact that the parish/community has come together to worship God and the we need to be purified for worship by remembering our sins and asking for forgiveness. In this part we also show that we want to give glory to God and ask Him to bless our worship. There are seven parts to the Introductory Rites:
  • Entrance (Introit – ‘He enters’ in Latin) : Mass begins when the priest who will celebrate it enters the Church and approaches the altar. He is often accompanied by the deacon, the altar servers and the lector. If there is a choir, at this point we usually sing.

  • Veneration of the Altar: When the priest arrives at the altar (or the Sacrificial Table) he kisses it as a sign of reverence to God for the place where Jesus will become present in the Eucharist. At certain occasions the priest incense the altar to symbolize prayer and reverence.
  • Greeting: The Priest greets the congregation, they all make the sign of the Cross as the Priest calls upon God ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’, to what all answer Amen. This is a reminder of baptism and help us consecrate our actions to God. The Priest then wish all God’s Grace by saying ‘The Lord be with you’, to which the Church responds ‘And also with you’.
  • Penitential Rite: The Priest exhorts people to prepare to worship God by recalling their sins, repent of them and ask for God’s mercy. There is a brief silence so people can think of their sins, and they pray together: « I confess to the Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault…» See full prayer here
  • Kyrie, Eleison – Lord, Have Mercy:  The acknowledgement of our sins is concluded by asking God for his forgiveness. At this point the people pray to the Lord Jesus, «Lord, have Mercy. Christ, have Mercy. Lord, have Mercy. We ask for Mercy three times in acknowledgement of the Holy Trinity, Three in One God. This can be either sung or said in Greek: ‘Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.’

  • Blessing and Sprinkling: At some masses the rite of Sprinkling is performed instead of the Penitential Rite. The Priest asks God to bless the water, which he sprinkles on the congregation. Again, this is a reminder of baptism, which washes us from our sins.
  • Gloria in Excelsis Deo – Glory to God in the Highest: After having purified our heart by recalling our sins and asking God’s mercy, it is a moment to praise God. The opening verse is the song of the angels at the birth of Jesus. (Luke 2:14) – « Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to his people on earth…»  This is the most commonly sung version of this ancient catholic hymn:

    Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to His people on earth. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, Heavenly King, O God, almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; You take away the sin of the world, receive our prayer; You are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One; you alone are the Lord. You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God, the Father. Amen –

  • Collect – Opening Prayer: The Priest brings the opening prayers to an end and invites all to pray: ‘Let us Pray’. There are different collects for different Masses and occasions. Collects to thank God, ask his blessings and so on. This often introduces the theme that will be part of the Mass that day. All respond ‘Amen’ and the Liturgy of the Word begins.

The Liturgy of the Word

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