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  • 29 SEP 2014

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What elements are essential to a Holy Mass?


Every Holy Mass (celebration of the Eucharist) unfolds in two main parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


In the Liturgy of the Word, we hear readings from the Old and New Testament and also the Gospel. Besides that there is an opportunity for preaching and general intercessory prayers. In the subsequent Liturgy of the Eucharist, bread and wine are offered, consecrated, and distributed to the faithful at Communion.


How is the Mass structured?


Holy Mass begins with the gathering of the faithful and the entrance of the priest and the others who serve the sanctuary (altar servers, lectors, cantors, and so on). After the greeting comes the Penitential Rite, which concludes with the Kyrie. On Sundays (outside of Advent and Lent) and feast days, the Gloria is then sung or recited. The prayer of the day introduces one of two readings from the Old and New Testament, followed by the responsorial psalm. Before the Gospel is read, there is an Alleluia, or acclamation. After the proclamation of the Gospel on Sundays and feast days, the priest or deacon gives a homily at least on Sundays and feast days. Then, again only on Sundays and feast days, the congregation professes its common faith in the Creed, followed by the intercessions. The second part of Holy Mass begins with the preparation of the gifts, which concludes with the Offertory prayer. The high point of the Eucharistic celebration is the Eucharistic Prayer, which is introduced by the Preface and the Sanctus. Now the gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharistic Prayer concludes, finally, in the Doxology, which makes the transition to the Lord’s Prayer. Next is the prayer for peace, the Agnus Dei, the breaking of the bread, and the distribution of the holy Gifts to the faithful, which often is done only under the form of the Body of Christ. Holy Mass ends with meditation, thanksgiving, a concluding prayer, and a blessing by the priest.


Who leads the celebration of the Eucharist?


Actually Christ himself acts in every celebration of the Eucharist. The bishop or the priest represents him.


It is the Church’s belief that the celebrant stands at the altar in persona Christi capitis (Latin = in the person of Christ, the Head). This means that the priests do not merely act in Christ’s place or at his command; rather, on the basis of their ordination, Christ himself, as Head of the Church, acts through them.




Christ is There

In what way is Christ there when the Eucharist is celebrated?


Christ is mysteriously but really present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. As often as the Church fulfills Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24), breaks the bread and offers the chalice, the same thing takes place today that happened then; Christ truly gives himself for us, and we truly gain a share in him. The unique and unrepeatable sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is made present on the altar; the work of our redemption is accomplished.


What happens in the Church when she celebrates the Eucharist?


Every time the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she stands before the source from which she herself constantly springs anew. By “eating” the Body of Christ, the Church becomes the Body of Christ, which is just another name for the Church. In the sacrifice of Christ, who gives himself to us, body and soul, there is room for our whole life. We can unite everything – our work and our sufferings, our joys – with Christ’s sacrifice. If we offer ourselves in this way, we are transformed: We become pleasing to God and like good, nourishing bread for our fellowmen.


Again and again we grumble about the Church, as though she were just an association of more or less good people. In reality the Church is what happens daily in a mysterious way at the altar. God gives himself to each one of us individually, and he wants to transform us through Communion with him. Once we are transformed, we are supposed to transform the world. Everything else that the Church is besides that is secondary.

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What is the right way to honor the Lord present in the bread and wine?


Because God is truly present in the consecrated species of bread and wind, we must preserve the sacred gifts with the greatest reverence and worship our Lord and Redeemer in the Most Blessed Sacrament.


If there are consecrated hosts left over after the celebration of Holy Eucharist, they are kept in sacred vessels in the tabernacle. Since the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in them, the tabernacle is one of the most venerable places in every church. We genuflect before any tabernacle. Certainly, anyone who is really following Christ will recognize him in the poorest of the poor and serve him in them. But he will also find time spend in adoration before the tabernacle and offer his love to our Eucharistic Lord.

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How often must a Catholic Christian participate in the celebration of the Eucharist?


A Catholic Christian is obliged to attend Holy Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation. Anyone who is really seeking Jesus’ friendship responds as often as possible to Jesus’ personal invitation to the feast.

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