General Structure of
At Mass or the Lord's Supper,
the people of God are called together, with a priest presiding
and acting in the person of Christ, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord or eucharistic
sacrifice. For this reason Christ's promise applies supremely to such a local gathering
together of the Church: "Where two or three come together in My name, there am I in
their midst" (Matthew 18:20). For at the celebration of Mass, which perpetuates the
sacrifice of the cross, Christ is really present to the assembly gathered in His name; He
is present in the person of the minister, in His own word, and indeed substantially and
permanently under the eucharistic elements.
The Mass is made up as it were of the liturgy
of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist, two parts so closely connected that they form but one single act of
worship. For in the Mass the table of God's word and of Christ's body is laid for the
people of God to receive from it instruction and food. There are also certain rites to
open and conclude the celebration.
Different Elements of
Explaining the Word of God
When the Scriptures are read in the Church, God Himself is
speaking to His people; and Christ, present in His own word, is proclaiming the Gospel.
The readings must therefore be listened to by all with reverence; they make up a principal
element of the liturgy. In the biblical readings God's word addresses all people of every
era and is understandable to them, but a living commentary on the word, that is, the
homily, as an integral part of the liturgy,
increases the word's effectiveness.
(2)Prayers and other Parts Assigned to the Priest
Among the parts assigned to the priest, the Eucharistic prayer is
preeminent; it is the high point of the entire celebration. Next are the prayers: the
opening prayer or collect, the prayer over the gifts, and the prayer after communion. The
priest, presiding over the assembly in the person of Christ, addresses these prayers to
God in the name of the entire holy people and all present. But the priest does not only
pray in the name of the whole community as its president, he also prays at times in his
own name, that he may exercise his ministry with attention and devotion. Such prayers are
Individual Parts of
|(1) Introductory Rites
(2) Liturgy of the Word
(3) Liturgy of the Eucharist
The six parts preceding the liturgy of the word, namely, the entrance song,
greeting, penitential rite, <Kyrie>, <Gloria>, and opening prayer or collect, have the character of a beginning, introduction, and
preparation. The purpose of these rites is that the faithful coming together take on the
form of a community and prepare themselves to listen to God's word and celebrate the
(a)Entrance Song: After the people have assembled, the entrance song begins as the priest
and the ministers come in. The purpose of this song is to open the celebration, intensify
the unity of the gathered people, lead their thoughts to the mystery of the season or
feast, and accompany the procession of priest and ministers. If there is no singing for
the entrance, the antiphon in the Missal is recited by the faithful.
When the priest and the ministers enter the sanctuary, they
reverence the altar. As a sign of veneration, the priest and deacon kiss the altar
(b)Greeting: After the entrance song, the priest and the whole assembly make the sign
of the cross. Then through his greeting the priest declares to the assembled community
that the Lord is present. This greeting and the congregation's response express the
mystery of the gathered Church.
(c)Penitential Rite: After greeting the congregation, the priest may very
briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day. Then the priest invites them to
take part in the penitential rite, which the entire community carries out through a
communal confession and which the priest's absolution brings to an end.
(d)Kyrie Eleison: Then the <Kyrie> begins, unless it has already been included as part
of the penitential rite. Since it is a song by which the faithful praise the Lord and
implore his mercy, it is ordinarily prayed by all, that is, alternately by the
congregation and the choir or cantor. As a rule each of the acclamations is said twice.
(e)Gloria: The <Gloria> is an ancient hymn in which the Church, assembled in
the Holy Spirit, praises and entreats the Father and the Lamb. It is sung by the
congregation, or by the congregation alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If
not sung, it is to be recited either by all together or in alternation.
(f)Opening Prayer or Collect: Next the priest invites the people to pray, and together
with him they observe a brief silence so that they may realize they are in God's presence
and may call their petitions to mind. The priest then says the opening prayer, which
custom has named the "collect." This expresses the theme of the celebration and the
priest's words address a petition to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.
The people make the prayer their own and give their assent by the acclamation,
(2) Liturgy of the Word
Readings from Scripture and the chants between the readings form the main
part of the liturgy of the word. The homily, profession of
faith, and general intercessions or prayer of the faithful
expand and complete this part of the Mass. In the readings, explained by the homily, God is speaking to His people,
opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and nourishing their spirit;
Christ is present to the faithful through His own word. Through the chants the people make God's word their own
and through the profession of faith affirm their adherence to it. Finally, having been fed by this word, they
make their petitions in the general intercessions for the needs of the Church and for the salvation of the whole world.
(a) Scripture Readings: The
readings lay the table of God's word for the faithful and open up the riches of the Bible
to them. Since by tradition the reading of the Scriptures is a ministerial, not a
presidential function, it is proper that as a rule a deacon or, in his absence, a priest
other than the one presiding read the gospel. A reader proclaims the other readings. In
the absence of a deacon or another priest, the celebrant reads the gospel.
The liturgy itself inculcates the great reverence to be shown toward the reading of the
gospel, setting it off from the other readings by special marks of honor. A special
minister is appointed to proclaim it and prepares himself by a blessing or prayer. The
people, who by their acclamations acknowledge and confess Christ present, and speaking to
them, stand as they listen to it. Marks of reverence are given to the Book of the Gospels
(b) Chants Between The Readings:
After the first reading comes the responsorial psalm or gradual, an integral part of the
liturgy of the word. The psalm, as a rule, is drawn from the Lectionary because the
individual psalm texts are directly connected with the individual readings: the choice of
psalm depends therefore on the readings. Nevertheless, in order that the people may be
able to join in the responsorial psalm more readily, some texts of responses and psalms
have been chosen, according to the different seasons of the year and classes of saints,
for optional use, whenever the psalm is sung, in place of the text corresponding to the
(c) Homily: The homily is an
integral part of the liturgy and is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It
develops some point of the readings or of another text from the Ordinary or from the
Proper of the Mass of the day, and takes into account the mystery being celebrated and the
needs proper to the listeners.
(d) Profession of Faith: The
symbol or profession of faith in the celebration of Mass serves as a way for the people to
respond and to give their assent to the word of God heard in the readings and through the
homily, and for them to call to mind the truths of faith before they begin to celebrate
(e) General Intercessions: In
the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful, the people, exercising their priestly
function, intercede for all humanity. It is appropriate that this prayer be included in
all Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the
Church, for civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all people, and
for the salvation of the world.
of the Eucharist
(a) Preparation of the Gifts; (b) Eucharistic Prayer; (c)
Communion Rite; (d) Concluding Rite
At the last supper
Christ instituted the sacrifice and paschal meal that make the sacrifice of the cross to
be continuously present in the Church, when the priest, representing Christ the Lord,
carries out what the Lord did and handed over to his disciples to do in His memory.
Christ took the bread and the cup and gave thanks; He broke
the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: "Take and eat, this is My body."
Giving the cup, He said: "Take and drink, this is the cup of My blood. Do this in
memory of Me." Accordingly, the Church has planned the celebration of the Eucharistic
liturgy around the parts corresponding to these words and actions of Christ:
In the preparation of the gifts, the bread and the wine with water are brought to the altar, that is, the
same elements that Christ used.
In the Eucharistic prayer thanks
is given to God for the whole work of salvation, and the gifts of bread and wine become
the body and blood of Christ.
Through the breaking of the one bread the unity of the faithful is expressed and through
communion they receive the Lord's body and
blood in the same way the apostles received them from Christ's own hands.
(a) Preparation of the Gifts: At
the beginning of the liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts, which will become Christ's body
and blood, are brought to the altar.
First the altar, the Lord's table, which is the center of the whole Eucharistic liturgy,
is prepared: the corporal, purificator, missal, and chalice are placed on it.
The gifts are then brought forward. It is desirable for the faithful to present the bread
and wine, which are accepted by the priest or deacon at a convenient place. The gifts are
placed on the altar to the accompaniment of the prescribed texts. Even though the faithful
no longer, as in the past, bring the bread and wine for the liturgy from their homes, the
rite of carrying up the gifts retains the same spiritual value and meaning.
This is also the time to receive money or other gifts for the church or the poor brought
by the faithful or collected at the Mass. These are to be put in a suitable place, but not
on the altar.
The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the presentation song, which continues
at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar.
The priest then washes his hands as an expression of his desire to be cleansed within.
Once the gifts have been placed on the altar and the accompanying rites completed, the
preparation of the gifts comes to an end through the invitation to pray with the priest
and the prayer over the gifts, which are a preparation for the Eucharistic prayer.
(b) Eucharistic Prayer: Now the
center and summit of the entire celebration begins: the Eucharistic prayer, a prayer of
thanksgiving and sanctification. The priest invites the people to lift up their hearts to
the Lord in prayer and thanks; he unites them with himself in the prayer he addresses in
their name to the Father, through Jesus Christ. The meaning of the prayer is that the
entire congregation joins itself to Christ in acknowledging the great things God has done,
and in offering the sacrifice.
The chief elements making up the Eucharistic prayer are these:
Thanksgiving (expressed especially in the preface): in the
the entire people of God, the priest praises the Father and gives thanks to Him for the
whole work of salvation or for some special aspect of it that corresponds to the day,
feast, or season.
Acclamation: joining with the angels, the congregation sings
or recites the <Sanctus> This acclamation is an intrinsic part of the Eucharistic
prayer and all the people join with the priest in singing or reciting it.
Epiclesis: in special invocations the Church calls on God's
power and asks that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that is, become
Christ's body and blood, and that the victim to be received in communion be the source of
salvation for those who will partake.
Institution narrative and consecration: in the words and
actions of Christ, that sacrifice is celebrated which He himself instituted at the Last
Supper, when, under the appearances of bread and wine, He offered His body and blood, gave
them to His apostles to eat and drink, then commanded that they carry on this mystery.
Anamnesis: in fulfillment of the command received from
Christ through the apostles, the Church keeps His memorial by recalling especially His
passion, resurrection, and ascension.
Offering: in this memorial, the Church-and in particular the
Church here and now assembled-offers the spotless victim to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
The Church's intention is that the faithful not only offer this victim but also learn to
offer themselves and so to surrender themselves, through Christ the Mediator, to an ever
more complete union with the Father and with each other, so that at last God may be all in
Intercessions: the intercessions make it clear that the
Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the entire Church of heaven and earth and that
the offering is made for the Church and all its members, living and dead, who are called
to share in the salvation and redemption purchased by Christ's body and blood.
Final doxology: the praise of God is expressed in the
doxology, to which the people's acclamation is an assent and a conclusion.
eucharistic prayer calls for
all to listen in silent reverence, but also to take part through the acclamations for
which the rite makes provision.
(c) Communion Rite
Since the Eucharistic celebration is the paschal meal, it is right that the faithful who
are properly disposed receive the Lord's body and blood as spiritual food as He commanded.
This is the purpose of the breaking of bread and the other preparatory rites that lead
directly to the communion of the people:
Lord's Prayer: this is a petition both for daily food, which
for Christians means also the Eucharistic bread, and for the forgiveness of sin, so that
what is holy may be given to those who are holy. The priest offers the invitation to pray,
but all the faithful say the prayer with him; he alone adds the embolism, <Deliver
us>, which the people conclude with a doxology. The embolism, developing the last
petition of the Lord's Prayer, begs on behalf of the entire community of the faithful
deliverance from the power of evil. The invitation, the prayer itself, the embolism, and
the people's doxology are sung or are recited aloud.
Rite of peace: before they share in the same bread, the
faithful implore peace and unity for the Church and for the whole human family and offer
some sign of their love for one another.
The form the sign of peace should take is left to the conference of bishops to determine,
in accord with the culture and customs of the people.
Breaking of the bread: in apostolic times this gesture of
Christ at the last supper gave the entire eucharistic action its name. This rite is not
simply functional, but is a sign that in sharing in the one bread of life which is Christ
we who are many are made one body (see 1 Cor 10:17).
Commingling: the celebrant drops a part of the host into the
<Agnus Dei>: during the breaking of the bread and the
commingling, the <Agnus Dei> is as a rule sung by the choir or cantor with the
congregation responding; otherwise it is recited aloud. This invocation may be repeated as
often as necessary to accompany the breaking of the bread. The final reprise concludes
with the words, <grant us peace>.
Personal preparation of the priest: the priest prepares
the prayer, said softly, that he may receive Christ's body and blood to good effect. The
faithful do the same by silent prayer.
The priest then shows the Eucharistic bread for communion to
faithful and with them recites the prayer of humility in words from the Gospels.
It is most desirable that the faithful receive the Lord's
body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the instances when it is
permitted, they share in the chalice. Then even through the signs, communion will stand
out more clearly as a sharing in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.
During the priest's and the faithful's reception of the
sacrament the communion song is sung. Its function is to express outwardly the
communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to give evidence of
joy of heart, and to make the procession to receive Christ's body more fully an act of
If there is no singing, the communion antiphon in the Missal is recited either by the
people, by some of them, or by a reader. Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has
received communion and before he gives communion to the faithful.
After communion, the priest and people may spend some time
in silent prayer.
In the prayer after communion, the priest petitions for the
effects of the mystery just celebrated, and by their acclamation, Amen, the people make
the prayer their own.
(D) Concluding Rite
The concluding rite consists of:
The priest's greeting and blessing, which on certain days
and occasions is expanded and expressed in the prayer over the people or another more
The dismissal of the assembly, which sends each member back
to doing good works, while praising and blessing the Lord.