The Major Parts of the Mass

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes that Christ left us with two important gifts to aid in our worship: the gift of His teachings and the gift of His Body. The Mass is designed to pay homage to both of these blessings, and so is divided into two parts: The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Both are required in order to accomplish the goal of the Church: To Know, Love and Serve Him in this Life and to Enjoy Him in the next.

Liturgy of the Word

Entrance - The Mass begins when the Priest and ministers process from the Sacristy to the Sanctuary and the Altar. All of the congregation stands and sings, not to honor the Priest, but to express our unity in Christ. As the Priest and ministers bow before approaching the Altar and the Priest and Deacon kiss it as a sign of adoration to Christ.

Greeting.jpg Greetings - The Priest extends the blessing of the sign of the cross † and the words "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" to the people, at which they respond "Amen" (Hebrew for "So be it" or "It is true".) It is followed by an invocation such as "The Lord be with you", to which the people respond "And also with you." The Priest then says a short greeting.



Blessing and Sprinkling of Holy Water - at solemn events this optional rite is included. The Priest calls the people to remind them of their baptism. After this, he says a prayer to bless the water (salt may also be mixed in), then is sprinkled over the people and other ministers. If this rite is used, the Penitential rite is omitted.

Penitential Rite - The Priest calls for silence and an examination of conscience. The Kyrie ("Lord Have Mercy/Christ Have Mercy/Lord Have Mercy") is said.

Gloria - This is a festive hymn glorifying God, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints. It may be said or sung. It is used on all Sundays outside of Lent and Advent.

Opening Prayer - The formula "Let us pray" is used. This invocation is repeated at several key points of the Mass in order to focus attention and worship. In the prayer, the people are exhorted to prepare themselves to hear and listen to the Word of God.

The Readings - The reading of Scripture is a custom thousands of years old and is reminiscent of our Jewish heritage. In the present Mass, the Readings take the following form:

Readings.jpg The First Reading - usually taken from the Old Testament (but not always, such as during the Easter season.)  The account read expresses emotions and experiences to which ordinary humans can relate (such as hopes, dreams, fears, anger) and how God has answered these down the ages. This reading is usually connected in some way to the Gospel. The Lector ends the reading with the words "The Word of the Lord" to which the people respond "Thanks be to God."

The Responsorial Psalm - almost always taken from the Old Testament Book of Psalms, although occasionally may come from songs or poems in other Old Testament books such as Daniel, Isaiah or Tobit, and on very rare occasions from the New Testament books . They are usually chanted or sung and the people respond with the antiphon at the end of each verse.

The Second Reading - usually taken from the New Testament Letters and books outside of the Gospels. A second reading is said on Sunday, Holy days of obligation and Feast days.

Gospel Acclamation - The Alleluia (Hebrew for "Praise God") is always sung. If not sung, it is omitted (General Instruction 39, Introduction to the Lectionary, 23). It is also omitted during the season of Lent.

The Gospel - Greek for "Good News", the people stand in reverence to theGospel.jpg word which is about to be proclaimed. If the Deacon is going to proclaim the Gospel, he asks for the Priest's blessing by quietly saying "Father, give me your blessing" at which the Priest responds "The Lord be in your heart and on your lips that you may worthily proclaim his gospel. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, † and of the Holy Spirit." The Deacon answers "Amen." If there is no Deacon, the Priest bows before the Altar and says quietly "Almighty God, cleanse my heart and my lips that I may worthily proclaim your gospel." The Priest or Deacon begins with the invocation "The Lord be with you" at which the people respond "And also with you." The proclaimer announces the gospel at which the people respond "Glory to you, Lord" and makes the sign of the cross on the book, and then on his forehead, lips and breast to signify obedience to His word within our minds, upon our lips and within our hearts. If incense is to be used, the proclaimer incenses the book. The gospel is then proclaimed. At its conclusion, the proclaimer says "The gospel of the Lord," to which the people respond "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ."

On Sundays, the gospel is proclaimed on a 3-year cycle. Cycle A concentrates on the Gospel according to Matthew. Cycle B concentrates on the Gospel according to Mark. Cycle C concentrates on the Gospel according to Luke. The Gospel according to John is used on various occasions (such as commemorations and the weeks leading up to Easter) throughout the year. During the week, the gospel takes on a 2-year rotation from the different gospels.

Homily.jpg The Homily - The Priest or Deacon explain the word that the people have just heard and how they should apply it to their lives. On Sundays and Holy Days a homily must be given; it is recommended for other days.

Profession of Faith - On Sundays and solemnities the congregation says the Creed. Within it are the basics of our Catholic faith: our belief in God, in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We also express our hope in the promises of our faith. There are two Creeds; the one normally used at Mass is the Nicene Creed and in Masses for Children the shorter and older Apostles' Creed is said (Directory for Masses with Children, 49.)

General Intercessions - Petitions that the people and the Church place before God and are usually said by the Deacon or other minister. They are petitions for the Church, for our own needs and for the needs of others. After each petition the people respond, such as "Lord, hear our prayer." After the petitions, the Priest says a short prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Presentation_of_the_Gifts.jpgPreparation of the Altar and the Gifts - The offertory song is sung. Meanwhile the ministers place the corporal and purificators (white cloths used during the offerings), the chalice and the Sacramentary on the Altar. It is encouraged that members of the congregation bring the gifts to the Priest in order to symbolize the mutual participation of the people in the sacrifice of the Mass.

The Priest blesses the bread with the following: "Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become the bread of life." The people respond "Blessed be God for ever." The Priest then says quietly (or Deacon, if he is preparing the gifts): "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." He pours a small amount of water into the chalice with the wine. One theory behind this is that early wines were very thick and water was used to make them more drinkable. Whatever the reason, the prayer and action emphasize the union of Christ with us in the mixing of water and wine.

The Priest blesses the chalice with the wine with: "Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer. Fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink." The people respond "Blessed be God for ever." The Priest then says quietly: "Lord God, we ask you receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts."

If incense is used, he now incenses the offerings and the Altar. Afterwards, the Deacon (if present) incenses the Priest and the people.

Next the priest stands at the side of the Altar and washes his hands, saying quietly: "Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me of my sins."

Standing at the center of the altar, the Priest says: "Pray, my dear people, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." The people respond: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and for the good of all His Church." The Priest says a prayer over the gifts, and the people respond "Amen."

Eucharistic Prayer - The prayer of Thanksgiving is composed of several parts:

Greetings - The invocation "The Lord be with you" is used, to which the people respond "And also with you." As at the beginning of Mass, this is used to focus the people's attention to the worship at hand.

Preface - We begin to give thanks with the following: Priest: "Lift up your hearts" People: "We lift them up to the Lord" Priest: "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God" People: "It is right to give him thanks and praise." The Priest then says a short prayer.

Acclamation - The "Holy, Holy, Holy" prayer comes from several sources:

"Holy, Holy, Holy, God of power and might" - Isaiah 6:3

"Hosanna in the Highest" - Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. John 12:13

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" - Psalm 118:26

The congregation kneels.

The Eucharistic Prayer - There are four primary forms of the prayer. Whichever form is used, the prayer is composed of several parts:

Epiclesis (Greek for "invocation") - invoking the Holy Spirit to come upon the gifts.

Anamnesis (Greek for "memory") - recollection of the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist by Christ in the Last Supper in the words: "Take this, all of you and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you." and "Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me." It is at this point that the mystery of transubstantiation (the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ while still retaining their physical form) takes place. The Memorial Acclamation is said or sung by the Priest ("Let us proclaim this mystery of faith",) and the people respond with an article of our faith.Consecration_of_the_Host.jpg        Consecration_of_the_Wine.jpg

Offering - the Priest offers the gifts of the consecrated host and chalice,  as well as ourselves, to the Lord.

Intercessions - prayer for the Pope, bishops, clergy and all the faithful.

Doxology - (Greek: doxa, "praise" and logos "word" ) The Priest says or chants "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever." The people respond "AMEN."

Communion Rite - (Greek: koinonia, "unity" or "sharing") We are now invited to share ourselves. First, with God as the Priest asks us to pray the "Our Father". Then, with each other by offering a sign of peace amongst the people. This ancient custom began by kissing a picture of Christ in the Passion, first by the Priest and then by the people. Larger congregations today have required a more practical substitution.

Fraction_Rite.jpgBreaking of the Bread - Now that we have shared with one another, we are invited to unite to receive Christ. The Priest begins the prayer "Lamb of God." While the people complete the prayer, the Priest takes the consecrated host and breaks it over the paten (also called the Fraction Rite.) He places a small piece in the chalice, saying quietly: "May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it." He then continues silently: "Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy I eat your body and drink your blood. Let it not bring me condemnation, but health in mind and body."

Communion.jpg Communion - The Priest genuflects. Taking the consecrated host, he raises it slightly over the paten and says: "This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to His supper." The people respond: "Lord, I am not ready to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." The Priest faces the Altar and the congregation and says quietly: "May the body of Christ bring me to everlasting life" and consumes the body of Christ. He then says quietly: "May the blood of Christ bring me to everlasting life" and drinks the blood of Christ. At this point, the Priest distributes communion to the Deacon and other ministers, and then to the people.

Communion may be received under either species, that is, under the form of bread, the form of wine, or both. When giving the host, the minister says, "The body of Christ." When giving the chalice, the minister says, "The blood of Christ." In either case, the communicant responds "Amen." Communion of only the blood of Christ is just as valid as communion of  only the body of Christ and may be necessary in circumstances where the person cannot receive solid foods. People are encouraged to receive communion under both forms where possible. Communion may be received either directly on the tongue or in the hand (although the Vatican II Council permitted reception in the hand, it is actually the older custom; reception on the tongue was started in the 9th century A.D.)

See "Guidelines for the Reception of Communion" for conditions under which communion may be received.

After communion has been distributed, the Priest, Deacon or acolyte purify the vessels used in communion at a side table from the Altar to remove any trace of the consecrated body or blood. While the vessels are being cleansed, the minister says silently: "Lord, may I receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and for ever."

Prayer After Communion - The Priest invites the people to stand. He says a short prayer which sums up the gift we have just received.

Concluding Rite - The Priest says: "The Lord be with you." to which the people respond "And also with you." Just as before, the congregation is invited to focus on their worship. The Priest may give some preliminary words of blessing. The Priest extends the blessing of the sign of the cross † and the words "May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" to the people, at which they respond "Amen." The Deacon sends each member of the congregation to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord with the words "The Mass is ended, go in peace" to which the people respond "Thanks be to God." The Priest and Deacon kiss the Altar as at the beginning. Bowing to the Altar, the Priest and ministers leave.

Guidelines for the Reception of Communion

1996 United States Catholic Conference

For Catholics As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (Code of Canon Law, canon 916.) A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

For our fellow Christians We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (John 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life and worship, member of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844, 4). Members of Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the disciplines of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844, 3).

For those not receiving Holy Communion All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

For non-Christians We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

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