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Understanding the Order of the Mass
At various times the people of God come together to celebrate His presence in the world. From the earliest days, the Christian community has come together to celebrate the Eucharist, or as we now often refer to it, the Holy Mass. The Acts of the Apostles, written in the years 70 to 80 AD, tell how the early Christians met regularly for the 'Teaching of the apostles and the breaking of bread'.

Prepared by Carol Teichler
©The Parish of the Resurrection


The Order of Mass divides Eucharistic celebrations into four parts:
  (1) Introductory Rites;
  (2) Liturgy of the Word;
  (3) Liturgy of the Eucharist; and
  (4) Concluding Rites.

In the introductory rites, Christ joins the Church to Himself and gathers her children to join their voices to His perfect hymn of praise. Thus the purpose of these rites is to establish community among the assembled faithful and to dispose them to hear the Word of God rightly and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.


1: INTRODUCTORY RITES

Entrance Procession
Mass begins with the priest and liturgical ministers processing from the rear of the church to the sanctuary. This procession expresses visibly the unity and fullness of the assembly. A suitable hymn is usually sung or an entrance antiphon is recited.

Use this time to enter into the spirit of the liturgy. Put aside your concerns and be completely present to the Lord for this moment. Let it be a sacred time for you as you join in prayer and song with other believers.

COMMENTATOR / READER / PROCLAIMER:
Please would you all stand for the Entrance Antiphon
-or-
Let us join together in the singing of the Entrance Hymn

Kissing the Altar
After a reverent genuflection to the tabernacle the priest and deacon kiss the altar. On more solemn occasions this reverence may be enhanced by the use of incense.

The church has traditionally viewed the altar as a symbol of Christ and the centre of the Church. Since the Middle Ages, with the increase in devotion to the martyrs, the custom developed of placing relics in the altar.

The kiss, therefore, is a special and solemn gesture of reverence for Christ, for the relics of His special followers enshrined in the altar, and for this holy place at which the sacred mysteries will soon be celebrated.

After the procession and the reverencing of the altar, the priest proceeds to the lectern. From there he greets the people and leads the opening rite.


Liturgical Vestments
The vestments worn by the priest can in many cases find their origins in the secular dress of the Graeco-Roman world. By their continued use at worship, however, these vestments have acquired sacred meaning and symbolism.

The amice is a white cloth which goes over the celebrant's neck and shoulders. It is meant to protect the outer garments and is now optional for the priest to wear.

The alb is a long white garment that is always worn by the celebrant. It symbolises the self denial and purity of soul necessary to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

The cincture is a cord tied around the waist over the alb. This symbolises the priest's consecration to Christ and his willingness to be led wherever Christ will lead him.

The stole is a long scarf like vestment worn by deacons, priests and bishops. Deacons wear the stole like a sash over the left shoulder, while priests and bishops wear it draped around the neck and over both shoulders. This is a symbol of deaconal and priestly orders and is worn when sacraments are administered. The stole is always in the colour of the liturgical season.

The chasuble is the sleeveless outer vestment slipped over the head, hanging down the shoulders and covering the stole and alb. This garment is worn specifically for liturgy and the colour reflects the liturgical season or feast.


Sign of the Cross
The Sign of the Cross is a simple gesture we use to profess our basic belief in a Trinitarian God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit together with our expression of faith in the Incarnation and Redemption of Jesus Christ.

Following the sign of the cross, the priest addresses all present with a formal greeting. These greetings follow the example of St Paul and are texts that he used in his various letters.

CELEBRANT:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

RESPONSE:
Amen

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And with your spirit.

Penitential Rite
Christ invited himself to celebrations with sinners and tax collectors and then, in turn, invited them to repentance. We are sinners, but the Lord invites himself into our company. The penitential rite invites us to pause, recall our shortcomings, and ask God's forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins, that we may prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,

striking the breast:
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

(Alternatives that include the Kyrie do exist in the Order of the Mass)

May Almighty God have mercy on us
and lead us, with our sins forgiven,
to eternal life.

Amen

Kyrie
The Kyrie is an ancient litany by which all present acclaim the Lord and plead for His mercy. It is by nature a chant and therefore normally sung.

Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleison)

Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleison)

Christ have mercy (Christe eleison)

Christ have mercy (Christe eleison)

Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleison)

Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleison)

Gloria
The Gloria is one of the Church's most ancient, solemn hymns. It is by nature a festive hymn and should be sung by the congregation. The community assembled in faith gives glory to the Father, to Jesus the Lamb of God, and to the Holy Spirit, while at the same time seeking forgiveness and a response to our petitions.

Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to people of good will.
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 sins of the world,
  have mercy on us;
you take away the sins 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.

Opening Prayer
The opening prayer or collect marks the conclusion of the Introductory Rite. The priest invites the congregation to pray in their hearts for their individualised intentions or concerns. After a period of silence the priest , with outstretched arms, collects our silent prayers and presents them to God in this short prayer.

The people's response - Amen - is a word from the Jewish tradition that expresses solemn ratification, or total agreement: 'Yes', 'So be it'

Let us pray

Amen


2: LITURGY OF THE WORD

With the conclusion of the Opening Prayer, the congregation sits down to hear the Word of God. This seated posture expresses and fosters an attitude of receptivity, attentiveness and respectful listening.

The faithful enter into the dialogue between God and the covenant people through the Liturgy of the Word that is proclaimed from the ambo.

In the early days of the Church the reader continued reading for as long as time allowed, but nowadays, we are invited to listen to carefully prepared readings, which are always in the following order:
(1) The first reading is generally from the Old Testament (although sometimes the New Testament is used);
(2) A psalm;
(3) The second reading is a New Testament passage from the writings of the Apostles;
(4) The Gospel Acclamation;
(5) The final reading is from the Gospel.
The Sunday texts are arranged according to a three-year cycle. They follow a pattern that is thematic, semi-continuous or relational. At the conclusion of the first and second readings our response, "Thanks be to God" reinforces our faith and gratitude in the inspired nature of the passages that have been proclaimed.

After the first reading:
The Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

Responsorial Psalm
We respond to the first reading with a psalm that fits the theme of the liturgy. The psalm enables us to respond to God's words with God's Word, since the psalms are inspired texts. The 150 psalms are songs and hymns of Israel and are normally sung.

The reader leads the responsorial psalm

After the second reading:
The Word of the Lord

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia, the Hebrew word meaning "Praise God", is an acclamation of Christ's presence in the Word of God and it is intended to be sung. Because the tone of Alleluia is joyful and triumphant, it is omitted during Lent.

The reader leads the Alleluia

Gospel
The proclamation of the Gospel is the high point of the Liturgy of the Word. Our standing posture indicates that we rejoice over the good news of Christ's victory for us and reverence the sacred words. Only a priest or deacon proclaims the Gospel.

The proclaimer of the Gospel greets the people with "The Lord be with you". While announcing the text, he makes the sign of the cross first on the book, then on his forehead, lips and breast. Those present also sign themselves in this way. This gesture denotes our desire to grasp the words of Christ with our minds, speak them with our lips, and believe them with our hearts.

Following the proclamation, the proclaimer kisses the book, a gesture of honour, respect, and reverence.

The Lord be with you.

And with your spirit.

A reading from the holy gospel according to N.

Glory to you, Lord

Homily
The sermon that goes on too long has always been a problem in the Church. We are told in Acts (20:7-12) for example, that one evening, when the Christians in Troas 'met to break bread,' Paul preached a sermon that went on till the middle of the night. As Paul went on and on, a young man called Eutychus (Utiekis), who was sitting on the window-sill, grew drowsy and fell to the ground three floors below. He was picked up dead! Happily, Paul brought the boy back to life!

It is a mistake to think of the homily as an instruction or a lecture - it is intended to make Jesus' words in the Gospel come alive. God the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the priest or deacon who takes the Word of God that we have heard, and applies it to concrete circumstances of life and to the particular needs of the congregation.

During the homily, ask yourself, "What is the Lord saying to me at this time? How can I become a better person by heeding the message that I hear?" Our attention may wander and our eyelids droop. But if you listen with open hearts, the Holy Spirit will use a word, a phrase, a concept, a story from the homily to speak to us, to touch us.

A period of silence following the homily is an appropriate time to take the Word of God to heart and respond to it in prayer.


Profession of Faith
As we stand to affirm together the truths of our Catholic tradition, we profess our faith through the Nicene Creed. This creed was formulated at the Council of Nicea in AD 325 and has been used since ancient times. The shorter Apostles Creed originates as the baptismal creed for early Christians.

When a baptism or confirmation is celebrated during the Mass, a question-and-answer format of the Apostles' Creed is followed.

Recite the creed with conviction; let it be a personal renewal of your faith and baptismal commitment.

I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
The Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God; begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father,
through Him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation,
He came down from heaven,

All bow for the following:
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the virgin Mary,
and became Main.

For our sake
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father
He will come again in glory,
to judge the living and the dead
and His kingdom will have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son together is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

And One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

General Intercessions
In Paul's letter to Timothy, he urges that prayers, intercessions and petitions are offered on behalf of everyone so that we may live peaceful lives with devotion. The prayers of the faithful are the intercessions of the community at worship commending the needs of the community and those of the whole Church and the world to the Lord's mercy and care.

The customary intentions thus are for the needs of the church, for those burdened in one way or another, for public authorities and the needs of the world and the local community, particularly those who are sick or who have died.

In the silence of your heart, bring your personal intentions and concerns before the Lord during this time.

After a prayer or intercession:
Lord hear us.

Lord graciously hear us.


3: LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST

Presentation of gifts and collection
The locale of the Mass now moves from the ambo to the altar.

At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the gifts that will become the Lord's Body and Blood are brought to the altar. In the early church food and material goods were brought to the altar to be shared with the less fortunate. Today, we likewise share and support the church and the poor through the collection. The procession with the gifts is a powerful expression of the participation of all present in the Eucharist and in the social mission of the Church.

As the gifts are brought up, ask yourself what gifts you have to offer the Lord at this time. Offer your talents, work, endeavours, friends and family as well as your cares and concerns.

Preparation of the gifts
The priest offers to God the bread and the wine into which he has mixed a few drops of water. This action signifies the union of Christ with His Church.

The priest prays the words of blessing as he offers the bread and wine to God. These prayers originate in our Jewish roots. We praise God for everything in creation, including the human talents that can transform crushed wheat and pressed grapes into bread and wine.

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation,
For through Your goodness, we have received the bread we offer you,
fruit of the earth and work of human hands:
It will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed be God forever.

A little water and wine is poured into a chalice while the celebrant quietly says:
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.

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer You,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands:
It will become our spiritual drink.

Blessed be God forever.

The priest then washes his hands. This action was well known in early Christianity as in Judaism as a symbolic expression of the need for inner purity at the beginning of a religious action. Words from Psalm 51 are said quietly.

Said quietly: Lord wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.

Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

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 Holy Church.

Eucharistic Prayer
The high point of our celebration reflects that the Christian life is primarily a life of praise, of gratitude to God. Eucharist is derived from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving.

The introductory dialogue makes the theme explicit

The Lord be with you

And with your spirit

Lift up your hearts

We lift them up to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right and just.

We recall how great and wonderful are God's saving events through the ancient people and through Jesus' coming to earth in the words of the Preface. This prayer varies with the seasons and feasts and concludes in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
the Preface continues

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of host
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

The congregation kneel from this point until the conclusion of the doxology. Kneeling can signify various attitudes including submission before the Lord, adoration of an awesome God, humility and reverence in the presence of the sacred.

Just before the narrative of the institution, or the Consecration, the priest calls on the Father to send the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine to transform them into Christ's body and blood. This prayer is known by the Greek word 'Epiclesis', which means invocation. As the priest extends his hands over the offerings we should remember that it is Christ's Spirit that makes us into 'one Body, one Spirit in Christ', and that without invoking His power now, we could never give true thanks and praise to the Father 'through Christ our Lord.'

Based on the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, the Eucharistic Prayer always notes and repeats Jesus' thanksgiving actions and words. Although the priest speaks the words of the consecration, at no other point in the Mass is his own personality more obscured. When he says: "This is my Body", he is emphasising our belief that Christ is at work among us. Through the words of consecration the bread and wine on the altar are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The appearance of bread and wine remain, but the reality beneath those appearances changes. The reality is no longer bread and wine, but Christ's Body and Blood. The host and chalice are raised for silent adoration and prayer.

In reverent awe and praise, become aware of Jesus now present on the altar. Just as the bread and wine have been transformed into a sacred reality; pray that the Lord may transform us to be His presence in the world.

Memorial acclamation
The 'mystery of faith' is reflected in the core truths of the Christian tradition: the paschal mystery of Jesus' entrance into this world, His death, His rising, His coming again, and His presence among us. This response varies and is recited or sung.

The mystery of Faith

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again

-or-

We proclaim Your death, O Lord,
and profess Your Resurrection
until You come again

-or-

When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup,
we proclaim Your death, O Lord,
until You come again

-or-

Save us, Saviour of the world,
for by Your Cross and Resurrection
You have set us free

Anamnesis and offering
Following our expression of faith there is a recalling of the redemptive work of Christ on our behalf, through His death and resurrection, exaltation and coming again in glory. We remember Mary, the mother of God, the saints and angels, our beloved dead, the Church throughout the world, and our community gathered in worship.

Doxology
At the close of the Eucharistic prayer, the priest elevates the host and the chalice. The priest offers the body and blood of Christ to God in threefold praise. The response with the great Amen, expresses the congregation's assent and affirmation to what has been said and done.

Through him, and with Him, and in Him,
To You, O God, almighty Father,
In unity of the Holy Spirit
is all honour and glory
for ever and ever.

Amen

Communion Rite
The Lord's prayer is fittingly placed after the Eucharistic prayer as a preparation for Communion. Given to us by Jesus himself, the Our Father is a powerful sign of our unity with Christ and with one another. It contains the basic elements of a true Christian prayer: we praise and thank God, we forgive one another, and we pray for needs in this life and the world to come. The doxology at the end of the prayer: 'For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever', is the revival of an ancient Christian custom.

Many people have taken to the custom of lifting their hands during this prayer, with the priest, symbolising their giving and receiving.

At the Saviour's command and formed by Divine Teaching, we dare to say:

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil:

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, sustained by the help of your mercy,
we may be always free from sin
and safe from distress,
as we await the blessed hope,
and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

For the kingdom,
the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever

Sign of peace
We read about a ritual kiss of peace in the earliest Christian writings and in scriptures. St Paul urged the Romans to 'greet one another with a holy kiss'. The sign of peace we share before Communion expresses our reconciliation with one another before daring to become one with each other through receiving the same body and blood of Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ,
who said to Your Apostles,
Peace I leave You, my peace I give You,
look not on our sins,
but on the faith of your Church,
and graciously grant her peace and unity
in accordance with Your will.
Who live and reign for ever and ever.

Amen

The peace of the Lord be with you always.

And with your spirit.

Let us offer each other the sign of peace.
All present exchange the sign of peace

Breaking of Bread
While the priest breaks the large host as a sign that we are one by sharing in the one bread, the assembly recites the words uttered by John the Baptist when he saw Jesus: 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world'. The image of the lamb represents Jesus as the new Passover; through the shedding of His blood, he has saved us.

When the priest breaks the host in half we see represented in a symbolic way, that moment when Christ broke the bread at the Last Supper. And, like those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we recognise the presence of our Risen Lord in the very act of breaking bread. Luke records 'Then they told their story and how they had recognised him in the breaking of the bread.'

A tiny piece of the host is placed into the chalice. This gesture symbolises the actions of the Holy Father in ancient times where he broke off several particles and sent them to neighbouring churches. The receiving priests then placed the piece into their own chalice symbolising the bond of unity between the pope and his pastors. Also it can be considered to symbolise the reunion of Jesus' body and blood in the Resurrection.

Some of the pieces of the large host are distributed to the faithful in Holy Communion.

Lamb of God,
You take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
You take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,
You take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

Communion preparation
Before we receive Christ in the bread and wine, the priest invites the assembly to join in a common preparation prayer. The response is the words of the centurion in the gospel when he asked Jesus to heal his son. His faith, humility, and confidence are a model for all those baptised waiting to come forward to receive their Lord and Lamb in Holy Communion and to experience His healing power.

Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Reception of communion
Jesus commanded us to come together to eat His Body and drink His Blood. It is when we receive him in Holy Communion that the Liturgy of the Mass reaches its completion. The communicant's Amen should come to mean a great deal for each of us. It is our way of expressing our faith in the presence of Christ who binds us closely to one another and is the only way to the Father.

St Cyril of Jerusalem from the 4th century confirms how this statement of Faith in the unifying presence of Christ has always been at the centre of our Catholic life.

In his Catechesis he states: 'When you approach, do not go stretching out your open hands or having your fingers spread out, but make the left hand into a throne for the right which shall receive the King, and then cup your open hand and take the Body of Christ, reciting the AMEN. Then sanctify with all care your eyes by touching the Sacred Body, and receive it. But be careful no particles fall, for what you lose would be to you as if you lost some of your members ...'

Facing the altar, the priest quietly says
May the body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life
He reverently consumes the Body of Christ.

He then takes the chalice and quietly says
May the blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life
He reverently consumes the Blood of Christ.

Distribution of Holy Communion

The Body of Christ

Amen

If the Blood of Christ is administered
The Blood of Christ

Amen

Prayer after Communion
The final prayer after communion asks that the gifts received in Holy Communion, will exert their positive effects upon all who have received them.


4: CONCLUDING RITES

Parish Notices
Parish notices, if any, are read

Dismissal
The Latin word 'Missa', which means 'dismissal,' gave us the word 'Mass' and it is a good word! It reminds us of Christ's very purpose in coming among us and within us. He is a treasure to be shared. It is only in the dismissal that Christ's purpose of coming into the world to save ALL people can be fulfilled. For the time we remain in the church building, Christ's body remains like the dormant seed in the earth! It is only when we walk out of the church into our homes and places of work that Christ's body, into which we have been formed, begins to penetrate the world and to grow. At last, the Mass brings life into the world! That is why Christ came into the world; that 'we may have life and have it to the full'. (John 10 : 10)

The Lord be with you.

And with your spirit

May almighty God bless you:
the Father, and the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

Thanks be to God

References:
Champlin, J.M., The Mystery and Meaning of the Mass. 2005. The Crossroad Publishing Company
Pastoral Introduction to The order of Mass. Dept for Christian Formation and Liturgy of the SACBC. 2004
Altemose, C. MSC. What you should know about the Mass. 1992. Liguori Publications USA.
Fr Vincent Pienaar , Commentary on the Mass.