THE HOLY MASS: CELEBRATING WHAT WE BELIEVE (CONCLUDING PART)
THE HOLY MASS: CELEBRATING WHAT WE BELIEVE (CONCLUDING PART)
3. Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Presentation of the Gifts and Preparing the Altar:
The Eucharist begins with the presentation of the bread and wine, which preferably should be done by the faithful. For the support of the clergy, the church or other people in need as practiced by the church in Ghana, the faithful include contributions in a form of assorted foodstuff as they present the bread and wine to the altar.
The gesture is a spiritual representation of the faithful offering themselves together with their gifts in the Eucharist celebration. Their faith and interior surrender of themselves is in harmony with the self-giving of the Lord, who sacrifices himself for us (Jn 10:11, 17).
The priest or deacon receives the gifts of bread and wine, and prepares the altar (corporal, purificators, chalice, ciborium, missal are needed). The priest lifts high the bread on the paten and prays the prayer of thanksgiving “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation…. the bread of life.” (1 Chr 29:10, Ps 89:53, Rom 9:5).
The faithful show their participation by responding “blessed be God forever” (Ps 68:36). Water is mixed with the wine while the priest prays silently “by the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in your divinity who humble himself to share in our humanity.”
Customarily, the mixing of the water and wine has its root in the custom of the classical idea of the world not to drink wine with water. From the liturgical and theological perspective, it is in reference to the blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of Christ (John 19:34). The event has been explained as symbolizing the birth of the church and the sacraments. The priest raises the wine and offers the prayer of thanksgiving too.
The priest invites the faithful into the Eucharistic prayer in these words; “Pray brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father (Heb 12: 28). He then prays the prayer over the gift and the preface for which the Sanctus is sang. Then he continues with the Eucharistic prayer for which he has four options to choose.
The Sanctus & Eucharistic Prayers:
The Sanctus is a song of God’s glory which the people of God gathered at prayer, sing in fellowship with the countless choirs of angels. It has two section both related to scripture: Isaiah’s vision of God surrounded by the Seraphim with six wings singing; Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Host…Is 6:3, Rev 4:8. The second part adopts the shout of praise during Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem “Hosanna to the son of David, Blessed is he who comes…” (Matt 21:9, Mk 11:9-10). The coming of the Lord becomes a saving presence for us in the Eucharist.
The priest continues with the epiclesis, which is the invocation of the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This is theologically called Transubstantiation. Symbolically, the priest extends his hands over the gifts and blesses them with the sign of the cross while he chants the prayers. He continues with the institution narrative.
All the four Eucharistic prayers have the institution narrative: “take this all of you and eat it…take this all of you and drink it…” (Luke 22:19). The acclamation of faith, offertory prayer, second epiclesis (the epiclesis asking for the fruit of communion) also follows.
The second epiclesis especially in the Eucharistic Prayer IV, petitions God that the reception of the changed gift will also transform the participants that they become more closely united to Christ and therefore salvation.
The Our Father & Doxology:
The intercession and concluding doxology then follow. The doxology is a praise of the Trinity: “through him, and with him, and in him (Rom 11:36), O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3), all glory and honor is yours (Eph 3:20-21; Rev 4:11), for ever and ever. Amen.
In the earthly life of Christ, He glorified the Father in all his undertakings. He shows that in the priestly prayer in the Gospel John: “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you game me to do” (John 17:4).
The climax of Jesus’ works of glorification culminated in the sacrifice on the cross and that is exactly what the church celebrates in the Holy Eucharist (thanksgiving).
Like the church’s doxology, we too glorify God and praise him through the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The whole community then prays the “Our Father” (Mt 6:9-13), a prayer that give praise to God, acknowledging His might, then pleading for our daily bread and deliverance from every occasion of temptation.
Lamb of God & sign of Peace:
Then the peace that proceeds from Christ is shared among the faithful at prayer (John 14:27) The sign of peace is offered to one another (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12), a symbol to show our oneness in Christ Jesus. The community petition the Lamb of God (John 1:29,36) for mercy from which they proceed to dine with the Lord in the reception of the body and blood of Christ. Song that express Christ giving himself as food and drink for the salvation of the world accompany the distribution of the Holy Eucharist.
Go in Peace:
The Mass concludes after the post-communion and the blessing and dismissal in peace have been said. The “ite missa est” is in the imperative case which means that the faithful, as they leave the church are to begin their mission of transforming the world through what they have received.
By the reception of the gift of the Word and the Sacrament, it is imperative that they radiate the divine gifts in the world through their secular lives. They give back what they have received in the celebration to the outside world by proclamation and a worthy way of life.
There is no point denying the fact that many people have stayed in the church for years, participated in almost all the sacraments and celebrations but there are many elements and gestures which still confuse them.
A re-visitation of the mass through a comprehensive and gradual catechesis will clear many doubts of our faithful to also stand the challenge and criticism of other religions.
Table of Individual Parts of the Mass
GENERAL STRUCTURE MEANING INDIVIDUAL PART
1. Introduction Rites Prepares the people of God gathered through penitence and prayer
Veneration (kissing) of the Altar; Incensation, Sign of the Cross and Greeting, Penitential Rites, Kyrie, Gloria, Opening Prayer.
2. Liturgy of the Word Proclamation of the word of God, meditation and response of the congregation First Reading and Responsorial Psalm. Second Reading; Gospel Acclamation, (sequence) Gospel and Homily, Creed; Intercessions.
3. Liturgy of the Eucharistic
Preparation of the gifts, prayers of thanks over the bread and wine; act of offering one’s self Offertory Procession, Prayer of Preparation, Incensation; Washing of the Hands; Prayer over the Gifts
B. Eucharistic prayer; thanksgiving for God’s saving acts; change of the Bread and wine Preface;
Sanctus; Epiclesis asking for the change of the gifts; Institution Narrative; Acclamation; Anamnesis;
Prayer of Presentation; Epiclesis asking for the fruits of communion; Intercession and Doxology
C. Communion; union with Christ in the sacred meal
Pater Noster, Embolism; Acclamation; Rite of Peace;
Breaking of Bread; Commingling; Agnus Dei, Prayer of Preparation; Reception of Communion, Giving thanks; Concluding Prayer
4. Concluding Rite Blessing and Dismissal
Pastoral Announcements; Blessing; Dismissal; Kissing of Altar and Recession