Mass (liturgy)

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Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) presiding at the 2005 Easter Vigil Mass in place of the dying Pope John Paul II.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) presiding at the 2005 Easter Vigil Mass in place of the dying Pope John Paul II.

Mass is the term used of the celebration of the Eucharist in the Latin rites of the Roman Catholic Church. The word itself is derived from the phrase with which the liturgical celebration concludes in Latin, Ite, missa est. In this phrase, the word missa is usually explained as late Latin for classical Latin missio, so that the phrase would be literally translated as: "Go, it is the sending"; in more polite parlance: "You may go, this is the dismissal."

For the celebration of the Eucharist in Eastern Churches, including those in full communion with Rome, other terms, such as "The Divine Liturgy", are normally used. Western Churches not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church also usually prefer terms other than "Mass", although it is used in some Anglican and Lutheran churches. For information on the theology of the Eucharist and on the eucharistic liturgy of other Christian Churches, the reader is referred to the article on the Eucharist.


The Mass in Roman Catholicism

The Council of Trent taught that the Mass is the unbloody renewal, or rather re-presentation, of the Sacrifice of Calvary upon the altar and the most perfect method the Church has to offer latria, or adoration, to God. Not that Christ is sacrificed again at each Mass, but Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is made present at every Mass. Catholics believe in transubstantiation, that is, that the offerings of wheaten bread and grape wine are truly substantially changed into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, retaining the accidents (i.e. the appearance and form) of bread and wine.

Texts used in the Roman rite of Mass

The Roman Missal contains the prayers and rubrics of the Mass. In the United States and Canada, the English translation of this book is at present called the Sacramentary.

The Lectionary presents passages from the Bible arranged in the order for reading at each day's Mass. Before the Second Vatican Council, the then far less numerous Scripture readings in use were included in the Roman Missal.

A Book of the Gospels is recommended for the reading from the Gospels, but the Lectionary may be used in its place.

Structure of the present-day Roman-rite Mass

Within the fixed structure outlined below, the Scripture readings and the text of the prayers varies each day.

Introductory rites

After an entrance hymn or the recitation of an antiphon, Mass begins with the large sign of the cross (touching forehead, breast and shoulders) to the accompaniment of a Trinitarian formula along the lines of: "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Then the priest and the congregation exchange a liturgical greeting. After an optional few words of introduction, the priest then begins one of three forms of the Penitential Rite, of which the Confiteor is the first, leading to a prayer for God’s forgiveness recited by the priest . This is followed by the Kyrie eleison (Greek for "Lord, have mercy"), recited or sung by the congregation. The third form of the Penitential Rite incorporates the Kyrie eleison, and so is not followed by another Kyrie.

On Sundays and the major feast days known as solemnities, the Gloria, the Church's ancient hymn of praise, is next sung or recited. It is omitted on Sundays of Advent and Lent.

Then the priest invites the congregation to pray, and "collects" their prayers in the Collect.

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.

The 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 concludes it with a phrase that appears in two slightly different English translations: "The Word of the Lord" or "This is 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.

Before the Gospel reading, the congregation rises and sings the Alleluia or, in Lent, a less joyful acclamation, and remains standing during 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, Dominus vobiscum (in English, "The Lord be with you"), to which the people respond: Et cum spiritu tuo (the English translation of which, in use since 1973 but due to be replaced by a more exact translation in perhaps 2007, is: "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",and the congregation responds: "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ."

A 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.

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, brethren, 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, followed first by the Sanctus acclamation: "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord ...", sung or recited, and then by the part of the Eucharistic Prayer that contains, among other elements, the narration of the central event of Christ’s Last Supper, of which the Mass is a reenactment in fulfilment of Jesus’ instruction to "Do this in memory of me." Since, according to Catholic faith, at the Words of Institution the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, it is the universal rule that the congregation should kneel at this point. In some countries, including the United States, the kneeling begins immediately after the Sanctus.

When this most solemn point of the Mass, referred to as the Consecration, has been concluded the priest invites the people to proclaim "the mystery of faith" and the congregation joins in reciting an acclamation known as the Memorial Acclamation, of which the Roman Missal gives three forms. (A fourth, added in the 1973 English translation, is unlikely to be kept in the forthcoming revision of that translation.)

The Eucharistic Prayer concludes with a doxology and the singing or recitation of the great Amen by the people.

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. 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 peace: "The peace of the Lord be with you always." He 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: in English-speaking countries a handshake is most common, but in countries like India a person will give the sign of peace by joining his or her hands and bowing to another.

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, 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.

After rearranging the altar and the altar vessels, the priest concludes the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Postcommunion Prayer, for which the people are invited to stand.

Concluding rite

After the Post-Communion Prayer, 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.

Time of celebration of Mass

Before the liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council, it was forbidden, except for Midnight Mass on Christmas night, to begin Mass more than one hour before dawn or more than one hour after midday. There are no longer any time limits. While Roman Catholics could previously fulfill their obligation to attend Sunday Mass only on the morning of Sunday itself, they may now do so on Saturday evening (generally taken to mean not before 4 p.m.) or at any time on Sunday. Most parish churches offer this possibility on Saturday evening, a much smaller number on Sunday evening.

Special Masses

Nuptial Mass and other Ritual Masses

A Nuptial Mass is simply a Mass within which the sacrament of Marriage is celebrated. Other sacraments too are celebrated within Mass. This is necessarily so for the sacrament of Orders, and is normal, though not obligatory, for the sacrament of Confirmation, as well as that of Marriage. Unless the date chosen is that of a major liturgical feast, the prayers are taken from the section of the Roman Missal headed "Ritual Masses". This section has special texts for the celebration within Mass of Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, Orders, and Marriage, leaving Confession (Penance or Reconciliation) as the only sacrament not celebrated within a celebration of the Eucharist. There are also texts for celebrating within Mass Religious Profession, the Dedication of a Church and several other rites.

If, of a couple being married in the Catholic Church, one is not a Catholic, the rite of Marriage outside Mass is to be followed. However, if the non-Catholic has been baptized in the name of all three persons of the Trinity (and not only in the name of, say, Jesus, as is the batismal practice in some branches of Christianity), then, in exceptional cases and provided the bishop of the diocese gives permission, it may be considered suitable to celebrate the Marriage within Mass, except that, according to the general law, Communion is not given to the non-Catholic (Rite of Marriage, 8).

See also

External links

Roman Catholic doctrine

Lutheran doctrine

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