The publication of the new Roman Missal means it’s time to review the Mass . . .
The Mass is a spiritual banquet, best appreciated as you read the menu ahead of time and anticipate the flow of the courses. The Mass splits into two balanced halves: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In the Introductory Rites we prepare to meet God. They consist of the Entrance Song (Introit), the Greeting, the Penitential Rite and the Opening Prayer. Now we are prepared to enter into the heart of the Mass.
God speaks to us in the Liturgy of the Word. Only Scripture is read, and we find ourselves exhorted, rebuked, consoled, encouraged, challenged and instructed. The first reading is usually taken from the Old Testament or Acts. Then comes a Psalm response, followed by the second reading, usually taken from the epistles or the Book of Revelation. The Gospel has pride of place among the readings. The homily applies the Word to everyday life and the liturgical year.
Then follows the Profession of Faith (the Creed). If one cannot say the Creed with confidence, he is not ready to enter into full communion with Christ. After the General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful), the priest concludes the Liturgy of the Word with a prayer, making us ready for the greatest mystery: the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Word made flesh.
Just as the Liturgy of the Word was preceded by a period of preparation, so too the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The preparation of the altar and the gifts and the presentation of and prayer over the gifts (the Offertory) precede the Eucharistic Prayer, which begins with the priest and people wishing that the Lord be with one another’s spirit. The Preface, the Sanctus and the Benedictus build anticipation of the Lord’s coming. Next the Holy Spirit is invoked (the Epiclesis) to transform the gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ. Christ’s Words of Institution (the Consecration) follow. The people then offer the Memorial Acclamation, followed by prayers for the Church and her leaders.
Next comes the Communion Rite, which includes the Lord’s Prayer, the Sign of Peace, the breaking of the bread, the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei), and Communion. The prayer after Communion and the cleansing of the sacred vessels conclude the Communion Rite and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Concluding Rite, we are dismissed to go forth as God’s ambassadors, transforming the world into the kingdom of God.
This column is reprinted with permission from the book “Why Do Catholics Genuflect?” by Al Kresta, CEO of Ave Maria Communications and host of Kresta in the Afternoon on Ave Maria Radio.