THE STRUCTURE AND MEANING OF THE MASS (PART II)-Source: USCCB, Submitted by Fr Ed Fialkowski, Pastor
Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the preparation of the gifts and the altar. As the ministers prepare the altar, representatives of the people bring forward the bread and wine that will become the Body and Blood of Christ. The celebrant blesses and praises God for these gifts and places them on the altar. In addition to the bread and wine, monetary gifts for the support of the Church and the care of the poor may be brought forward.
After the gifts and altar are prepared, the Eucharistic Prayer begins. This prayer of thanksgiving is the heart of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In this prayer, the celebrant acts in the person of Christ as head of his body, the Church. He gathers not only the bread and the wine, but the substance of our lives and joins them to Christ’s perfect sacrifice, offering them to the Father.
After a brief introductory dialogue, the celebrant begins the Preface. The Preface tells of the wonderful actions of God, both throughout history and in our lives, giving thanks to God for all these things. The Preface concludes with the Sanctus in which the whole assembly joins the song of the angels giving praise to the Father in heaven (cf. Is 6:3). The next major part of the Eucharistic Prayer is the epiclesis. In the epiclesis, the priest asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit on the gifts of bread and wine so that, through the power of the Spirit, they may become the Body and Blood of Christ. This same Spirit will transform those attending the liturgy that they may grow in their unity with each other, with the whole Church, and with Christ.
The prayer continues with the institution narrative and consecration. This part of the prayer recalls the action of Jesus Christ on the night before his death. He gathered with his closest disciples to share a final meal. In the course of this meal, he took the simple bread and wine, blessed them, and gave them to his friends as his Body and Blood. In our Eucharistic celebration, through the words of the priest and the action of the Holy Spirit, simple bread and wine once again become the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Eucharistic Prayer continues with the anamnesis, literally, the “not forgetting.” The people proclaim the memorial acclamation, recalling the saving death and resurrection of the Lord. The prayer continues as the celebrant recalls the saving actions of God in Christ.
The next part of the prayer is the offering. In this part of the prayer, the priest joins the offering of this Mass to the perfect sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. The priest offers this sacrifice back to God the Father in thanksgiving for God’s abundant gifts, particularly the gift of salvation in Christ. The priest also prays that the Holy Spirit may come upon the faithful and by receiving the body and blood of Christ, they themselves may become a living offering to God.
The intercessions follow. Confident in God’s loving care, the gathered assembly makes this sacrifice on behalf of the living and the dead, for the leaders of the Church and for all the faithful.
The Eucharistic Prayer concludes with the Final Doxology. The celebrant makes the prayer through, in, and with Jesus, in union with the Holy Spirit, and presents it to God the Father. The people respond with the Great Amen a joyous affirma-tion of their faith and participation in this great sacrifice of praise.
The Communion Rite follows the Eucharistic Prayer, leading the faithful to the Eucharistic table.
The rite begins with the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples when they asked how to pray (cf. Mt 6:9-13, Lk 11:2-4). In this prayer, the people join their voices to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom and to ask God to pro-vide for our needs, forgive our sins, and bring us to the joy of heaven.
(continued next week with the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Concluding Rites)