THE STRUCTURE AND MEANING OF THE MASS (PART III)-Source: USCCB, Submitted by Father Ed Fialkowski, Pastor
Liturgy of the Eucharist (continued)
The Rite of Peace follows. The celebrant prays that the peace of Christ will fill our hearts, our families, our Church, our communities, and our world. As a sign of hope, the people extend to those around them a sign of peace, typically by shaking hands.
In the Fraction Rite, the celebrant breaks the consecrated bread as the people sing the Agnus Dei or “Lamb of God.” John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). The action of breaking the bread recalls the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he broke the bread before giving it to his disciples. One of the earliest names for the Eucharistic celebration is the breaking of the bread.
Before receiving Communion, the celebrant and assembly acknowledge that we are unworthy to receive so great a gift. The celebrant receives Communion first and then the people come forward.
Those who receive Communion should be prepared to receive so great a gift. They should fast (except for medicines) for one hour before receiving the Eucharist and should not be conscious of having committed serious sin.
Because sharing at the Eucharistic Table is a sign of unity in the Body of Christ, only Catholics may receive Communion. To invite all present to receive Communion implies a unity which does not exist. Those who do not receive Communion still participate in this rite by praying for unity with Christ and with each other.
The people approach the altar and, bowing with reverence, receive Communion. People may receive the Body of Christ either on the tongue or in the hand. The priest or other minister offers the Eucharist to each person saying, “The Body of Christ. The person receiving responds by saying, “Amen,” a Hebrew word meaning , “So be it” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2856).
As the people receive Communion, the communion song is sung. The unity of voices echoes the unity the Eucharist brings. All may spend some time in silent prayer of thanksgiving as well.
The Communion Rite ends with the Prayer after Communion which asks that the benefits of the Eucharist will remain active in our daily lives.
When it is necessary, announcements may be made. The celebrant then blesses the people assembled. Sometimes, the blessing is very simple. On special days, the blessing may be more extensive. In every case, the blessing always concludes “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It is in the triune God and in the sign of the cross that we find our blessing.
After the blessing, the deacon dismisses the people. In fact, the dismissal gives the liturgy its name. The word “Mass” comes from the Latin word, “Missa.” At one time, the people were dismissed with the words “lte, missa est,” meaning “Go, you are sent. The word “Missa” comes from the word “missio,” the root of the English word “mission”. The liturgy does not simply come to an end. Those assembled are sent forth to bring the fruits of the Eucharist to the world.