Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mass Part 2: What goes on during Mass?

Structure of the present form of the Roman Rite of Mass

(For earlier forms, see
Pre-Tridentine Mass and Tridentine Mass.)
Within the fixed structure outlined below, the Scripture readings, the antiphons sung or recited during the entrance procession or communion, and the texts of the three prayers known as the collect, the prayer over the gifts, and the postcommunion prayer vary each day according to the liturgical season, the feast days of titles or events in the life of Christ, the feast days and commemorations of the saints, or for Masses for particular circumstances (e.g., funeral Masses, Masses for the celebration of Confirmation, Masses for peace, to begin the academic year, etc.).

Pre-Mass procedures
A bowl of
holy water is kept near each entrance to the church. As parishioners enter, they dip their fingers into the water and then make a sign of the cross. This action reminds participants that through baptism they have become members of the Church. Following this, it is customary to genuflect or bow by the side of a pew in the direction of the tabernacle holding the Blessed Sacrament (consecrated Eucharist) before sitting or kneeling, and taking time to recollect thoughts before entering into the sacred action of the Mass. If the Blessed Sacrament is not present in the sanctuary, it is not necessary or customary to genuflect.

Introductory rites
After an entrance hymn or the recitation of an antiphon, Mass begins with all making the large
Sign of the Cross (the fingertips of the right hand touch in sequence the forehead, breast, left shoulder and right shoulder), while the priest says the Trinitarian formula, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", to which the people answer: "Amen." Then the priest "signifies the presence of the Lord to the community gathered there by means of the Greeting. By this Greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 50). The greetings are derived from the beginnings of the Pauline epistles.

Then the priest invites those present to take part in the
Act of Penitence, of which the Missal proposes three forms, the first of which is the Confiteor. This is concluded with the priest's prayer of absolution, "which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance" (GIRM 51). "On Sundays, especially in the Season of Easter, in place of the customary Act of Penitence, from time to time the blessing and sprinkling of water to recall Baptism may take place" (GIRM 51).

"After the Act of Penitence, the
Kyrie is always begun, unless it has already been included as part of the Act of Penitence. Since it is a chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy, it is ordinarily done by all, that is, by the people and with the choir or cantor having a part in it" (GIRM 52).

Gloria in Excelsis Deo is a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. ... It is sung or said on Sundays outside the Seasons of Advent and Lent, on solemnities and feasts, and at special celebrations of a more solemn character" (GIRM 53). In accordance with that rule, the Gloria is omitted at funerals and is considered optional at weddings. It is also omitted for ordinary feast-days of saints, weekdays, and Votive Masses. It is also optional, in line with the perceived degree of solemnity of the occasion, at Ritual Masses such as those celebrated for Marriage("Nuptial Mass"), Confirmation or Religious Profession, at Masses on the Anniversary of Marriage or Religious Profession, and at Masses for Various Needs and Occasions.

"Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God’s presence and may formulate their petitions mentally. Then the priest says the prayer which is customarily known as the
Collect and through which the character of the celebration is expressed" (GIRM 54).

The Liturgy of the Word
On Sundays and solemnities, three Scripture readings are given. On other days there are only two. If there are three readings, the first, except during
Eastertide, is from the Old Testament (a term wider than Hebrew Scriptures, since it includes the Deuterocanonical Books), and the second is from the New Testament, reserving for the final reading a passage from one of the Gospels.

lector who proclaims the one or two readings that precede the Gospel reading begins each with the phrase "A reading from ..." (e.g. "A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians") and, if following the Roman Missal and a Lectionary that is faithful to it, concludes the reading with "This is the Word of the Lord." (Some Lectionaries give instead: "The Word of the Lord.") The congregation responds: "Thanks be to God."

The first reading is followed by a
Responsorial Psalm, a complete Psalm or a sizeable portion of one. A cantor, a choir or a lector leads, and the congregation sings or recites a refrain.

On certain occasions, a sequence is sung or recited, normally by a deacon, but in other cases by another appropriate minister. Then, before the Gospel reading, the congregation rises and sings the
Alleluia or, in Lent, a less joyful acclamation, such as "Praise and honor to you, Lord Jesus Christ", and remains standing during the Gospel procession (if there is one)and the reading of the Gospel. If the acclamation is not sung, it may be omitted, but most often it is in fact recited. The Gospel is read by a deacon or, if none is available, by a priest; never by a lay person. Before reading the Gospel, a deacon asks for the priest's blessing. A priest asks for the blessing of a bishop, if a bishop is celebrating the Mass; otherwise, he bows to the altar and says a silent preparatory prayer. Then the deacon or priest gives the liturgical greeting, "The Lord be with you", to which the people respond: "And also with you." The Gospel reading is then preceded by the phrase, "A reading from the Holy Gospel according to (the name of the evangelist)", to which the congregation responds: "Glory to you, Lord." At the same time, all trace a small cross on forehead, lips, and breast. If incense is used, the Book of the Gospels is then incensed. To conclude the Gospel reading, the priest or deacon proclaims: "This is the Gospel of the Lord" (again, Evangelaries not in harmony with the Missal give: "The Gospel of the Lord."), and the congregation responds: "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ." The priest or deacon then kisses the book, saying inaudibly: "May the words of the gospel wipe away our sins." If a bishop is the presider, the Gospel Book may be taken to the bishop to kiss, saying the same prayer. The bishop may then impart a blessing to the assembly with the book.

A bishop, priest or deacon may then give a homily, a
sermon that draws upon some aspect of the readings or the liturgy of the day. The homily is obligatory on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and is highly encouraged for other days.

On Sundays and solemnities, all then profess their Christian faith by reciting or singing a creed. Traditionally the
Nicene Creed is used at Mass, but since the promulgation of the 2002 edition of the Roman Missal, the Apostles' Creed may be used instead, especially, since it was originally a baptismal creed, during Eastertide. It is also common for the Apostles' Creed, which is the shorter of the two, to be used in Masses with a high proportion of children.

The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the General
Intercessions or "Prayers of the Faithful." The priest speaks a general introduction, then a deacon or someone else, even a lay person, presents some intentions for prayer, to which the congregation responds with a very short prayer such as: "Lord hear our prayer", and finally the priest says a concluding prayer.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Eucharistic Liturgy begins when bread and wine are brought to the
altar, either in a procession or simply from a nearby credence. The unleavened wheaten bread is placed on a paten, and the grape wine, mixed with a little water, is put in a chalice. A linen corporal is spread over the centre of the altar and, as the priest places, first the bread, and then the wine, on the corporal, he says a silent prayer over each individually. If this rite is unaccompanied by singing, he is permitted to say these two prayers aloud, in which case the congregation responds each time: "Blessed be God forever." Then the priest washes his hands, to signify the need for purity on the part of those approaching the central part of Mass.

The congregation, which has been seated during this preparatory rite, rises, and the priest gives an exhortation to pray: "Pray, brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father." The congregation responds: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church." The priest then pronounces the variable prayer over the gifts that have been set aside.

The Eucharistic Prayer then begins with a dialogue between priest and people. This dialogue opens with the normal liturgical greeting, but in view of the special solemnity of the rite now beginning, the priest then exhorts the people: "Lift up your hearts." The people respond with: "We lift them up to the Lord." The priest then introduces the great theme of the Eucharist, a word originating in the Greek word for giving thanks: "Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God," he says. The congregation joins in this sentiment, saying: "It is right to give him thanks and praise."

The priest then continues with one of many Eucharistic Prayer prefaces, which lead to the
Sanctus acclamation: "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of power and might, Heaven and Earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the Highest, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest."

In some countries, including the
United States, the people kneel immediately after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus. However, the general rule is that they kneel somewhat later, for the Consecration, when, according to Catholic faith, the underlying reality or substance of the bread and wine is converted into the body and blood of Christ (see Transubstantiation).

The Eucharistic Prayer includes the
Epiclesis, through which the Church implores the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts that have been set aside may become Christ's body and blood and that the Communion may be for the salvation of those who will partake of it.

The central part is the
Institution Narrative and Consecration, recalling the words and actions at his Last Supper, which he told his disciples to do in his memory, thus instituting the Mass.

Immediately after the
Consecration and the showing to the people of the consecrated elements, the priest invites the people to proclaim "the mystery of faith", and the congregation joins in reciting the Memorial Acclamation. The Roman Missal gives three forms for this acclamation. (A fourth, added in the 1973 English translation, is unlikely to be kept in the forthcoming revision of that translation.)

The Eucharistic Prayer also includes the
Anamnesis, expressions of offering, and intercessions for the living and dead.

It concludes with a
doxology, with the priest lifting up the paten with the host and the deacon (if there is one) the chalice, and the singing or recitation of the Amen by the people. The unofficial term "The Great Amen" is sometimes applied to this Amen.

The Communion Rite
All together recite or sing the "
Lord's Prayer" ("Pater Noster" or "Our Father"). The priest introduces it with a short phrase and follows it up with the prayer: "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." The people then add the doxology: "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever."

Next comes the
rite of peace (pax). After praying: "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: 'I leave you peace, my peace I give you.' Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever ", the priest wishes the people the peace of Christ: "The peace of the Lord be with you always." The deacon or, in his absence, the priest may then invite those present to offer each other the sign of peace. The form of the sign of peace varies according to local custom. A handshake is common in many countries, including the United States. In India a person will give the sign of peace by joining his or her hands and bowing to another. In the Philippines the sign of peace is usually a smile and a polite nod.

While the
"Lamb of God" ("Agnus Dei" in Latin) litany is sung or recited, the priest breaks the host and places a piece in the main chalice; this is known as the rite of fraction and commingling.

If extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are required, they may come forward at this time, but they are not allowed to go to the altar itself until after the priest has received Communion (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 162). The priest then presents the transubstantiated elements to the congregation, saying: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." Then all repeat: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." The priest then receives Communion and, with the help, if necessary, of extraordinary ministers, distributes Communion to the people, who generally approach in procession. Before receiving, each communicant is supposed to make a sign of reverence, such as a bow. The distributing minister says: "The body of Christ" or "The blood of Christ", according as the element distributed is the consecrated bread or the consecrated wine, or: "The body and blood of Christ", if both are distributed together (by
intinction). The communicant responds: "Amen." Catholic Eucharistic theology points out that, because Christ is not now divided, whoever receives only the bread that has become his body also receives his blood, together with his soul and divinity.

While Communion is distributed, an appropriate song is recommended. If that is not possible, a short
antiphon is recited before the distribution begins.

"The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, insofar as possible at the credence table" (GIRM 279). Then the priest concludes the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Prayer after Communion, for which the people are invited to stand.

Concluding rite
After the Prayer after Communion, announcements may be made. The Missal says these should be brief. The priest then gives the usual liturgical greeting and imparts his blessing. The liturgy concludes with a dialogue between the priest and congregation. The deacon, or in his absence, the priest himself then dismisses the people. The Latin formula is simply "
Ite, missa est", but the 1973 English Missal gives a choice of dismissal formulas. The congregation responds: "Thanks be to God." The priest and other ministers then leave, often to the accompaniment of a recessional hymn.