HOW TO PRAY THE (ORDER OF) MASS
Commentator: All the words in plain type which follow this underlined indicator are spoken by the commentator. [Brackets indicate options.]
Words in italic type are rubrics.
Words in Bold are to be spoken by the priest or the deacon as indicated.
WORDS IN BOLD ALL CAPS ARE SUBHEADS, INDICATING THE PARTS OF THE MASS.
Notes: The responsorial psalm of the day must be sung.
No singing or music should be scheduled for the preparation of the gifts
or after communion. Use Preface.
Commentator: As explained last week, today’s [this afternoon’s, tonight’s] Mass is designed to help each of us to learn how to pray the Mass as the most important prayer Catholics pray. From time to time this commentator will break into the flow of Mass. As a consequence we estimate that this Mass will be ten minutes longer than usual.
As explained last week, your homework was to prayerfully fill out this chart [show chart] of prayers / works / joys / sufferings. Take a moment now to remind yourself of what you wrote down. If you weren’t here last week and don’t know what we’re doing, relax; it will all be explained to you as we go along.
During Mass time and space are changed, bread and wine are changed, and every part of our lives can be changed. All the centuries between this moment and The Last Supper, all the years between this moment and Jesus’ death on the Cross, all the hours between this moment and Jesus’ rising from the dead, and all the minutes between this moment and Jesus’ sending of the Holy Spirit—all time disappears. All the miles between us and Jerusalem disappear and we are there and there is here.
And, for a moment, all the time between now and our death, all the time between now and when we see Jesus and Mary and all of the saints and all of our beloved dead, all the time between now and when we take our seat beside Jesus at the heavenly banquet —that time too disappears.
We call this miracle—when past and future come into the present, when heaven is wedded to earth—the real presence. God has chosen to become really present to us now and we have the choice to become really present to God.
During Mass every part of our lives can be changed. All that we do, everything and everyone we care about, everything that gives us joy and everything that makes us suffer—we can put it all on the altar and offer it and ourselves to God through Jesus and receive the Spirit’s light and comfort and strength. If we are in serious, grave sin, we receive the call and grace to go to the sacrament of reconciliation; all other sins of omission and commission can be forgiven by hearing the gospel, praying the Our Father, and by receiving Holy Communion.
To accomplish this astounding miracle of presence, forgiveness, and promise, God has given the Church the Mass. Every Mass has four parts, two big parts and two smaller parts. The big parts are the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The gateway to the Mass are the Introductory Rites and the gateway from the Mass are the Concluding Rites. The hinge of the Mass is the General Intercessions or the Prayer of the Faithful. The climax of the Introductory Rites is the Opening Prayer; for us lay people the climax of the Liturgy of the Word is the General Intercessions; for us lay people the climax of the Liturgy of the Eucharist is receiving communion, and the climax of the Concluding Rites is getting our marching orders and the blessing for the week ahead.
In the Introductory Rites which we are about to experience, the two most important parts are the Entrance Song and the Opening Prayer.
So, choose to be present, NOW. Join with all of your fellow Catholics here and around the world and all the choirs of angels and saints; pick up the hymnal; and lift up your voice (the worse the better—it will force everyone around you to sing louder). Choose to be present, NOW.
VENERATION OF THE ALTAR
Commentator: Our priest [and the deacon] has [/have] just purified himself [themselves] by kissing the altar, the chief symbol of Jesus in any Catholic church. Now our priest is ready to sign himself. He will invite us to sign ourselves with the sign of the cross which unites heaven and earth, past and future, north and south, east and west.
He will greet us with the dialogue prayer for the Holy Spirit for the first of four times during the Mass. The priest invites us to rekindle the gift given us in our baptism. And our priest receives from us our prayer that the Spirit given him at ordination will enable him to lead us at this Mass.
GREETING OF THE CONGREGATION
The priest says: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit.
The people answer: Amen.
Then the priest, facing the people, extends his hands and greets all present:
The Lord be with you.
The people answer: And with your spirit.
After the introduction to the day’s Mass, the priest invites the people to recall their sins and to repent of them in silence.
A pause for silent reflection follows. After the silence, the priest leads one of the forms of the penitential rite, ending with the absolution:
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. The people answer: Amen.
OPENING PRAYER OR COLLECT
Commentator: We have reached the climax of the Introductory Rites.
The priest is about to lead us into the first of the three ancient silences in the Mass, the silence when we are to bring to mind the reasons why we came to Mass. God is here, bending low to hear the prayers we need to pray, especially the intentions we wrote out last week on the chart of prayers / works / joys / sufferings which we distributed at the end of this Mass last week. Our priest cannot go on until we have prayed in the silence of our hearts. Our priest cannot go on until we give our assent with our Amen.
The priest says: Let us pray. He allows a generous time of silence for the silent prayer of all. He then continues with the opening prayer.
The people make the prayer their own and give their assent by the acclamation, Amen.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
Commentator: We are now in the first major part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word.
We humans do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. God now speaks to us and tells us the ways in which he wants to be present us and the ways he wants us to be present to him and to each other. God is revealing to us the meaning of his name Yahweh, I shall be with you, I shall be there for you, as who I am shall I be with you. He renews his promise to be present. He is true to his name.
The theme of the Liturgy of the Word, the golden thread which ties all the readings together, can always be found in the responsorial psalm, especially in the antiphon which we usually get to sing.
Notice that the gospel reading is so important that is accompanied by a special procession with a special book, the deacon bows to receive the priest’s blessing or the priest bows to receive the altar’s blessing, and we sometimes use incense.
The ordained greets us for the second of the four times during the Mass with the prayer for the Holy Spirit and he receives from us our prayer that the Spirit given him at ordination will enable him to worthily proclaim the gospel. As he begins, he “picks up” the whole text of the gospel reading with his thumb, and prints it on his head, on his lips, and on his heart. We do the same. At the end he kisses the book and says a private prayer, “May the words of the Gospel wipe away our sins.”
Our Church encourages our priests to invite us to listen deeply to the Word of God and to begin to think about asking God on behalf of the whole world for the good things mentioned in the readings.
SCRIPTURE READINGS and CHANTS BETWEEN THE READINGS
Commentator: We have arrived at the climax of the Liturgy of the Word and the hinge of the Mass, the General Intercessions or the Prayer of the Faithful. In the opening prayer of Mass we had the chance to pray for our own intentions. Now we broaden our intentions to include all of our sisters and brothers around the world. In our Baptism we were given the privilege of interceding for all humanity. Our Church encourages our priests to stir this prayer up in us with their introduction and to gather all of our petitions together in a common prayer at the end.
The intercessions proceed as usual.
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
PREPARATION OF THE GIFTS
Commentator: It is time for us to prepare to offer our works, our joys, and sufferings at this Mass.
Our money is the symbol of what we do for a living. We give our money to God as a sign of our gratitude to him for everything he has given us. We give our money to the Church so that God’s work on earth can continue. God receives our tithes and enriches our work.
We offer food and drink—humble, unleavened bread, a sign of all of our sufferings, and wine, a sign of our joys. Ordinary food and drink sustains our life here on earth. Our bodies turn them into the energy we need for life—but ordinary food and drink cannot rescue us from aging, sickness, and death.
Bread and wine are the very gifts Jesus took into his own hands the night before he died. When the Holy Spirit makes them Jesus’ body and blood during the Eucharistic prayer, this food and drink has the ability to transform us, to so renew our bodies that, on the other side of death, our bodies will live forever, ageless, healthy, and full of life. When the Holy Spirit makes them Jesus’ body and blood during the Eucharistic prayer, this food and drink has the power to make us one—one with God and one with each other—the very intention Jesus spoke at the Last Supper.
Bread and wine become the appetizers of the heavenly banquet, the down payment on the wedding feast that begins here and goes into full swing when, at the end of human history, all of us arrive at the table. Sometimes you will see the gifts on the altar and the altar itself and then the ordained and all of baptized incensed during the preparation of the gifts. This is a symbol of the Church’s offering and prayer going up to God.
At the climax of the preparation of the gifts the priest leads us into the second of the three ancient silences in the Mass, the silence when we offer our works, joys, and sufferings to God. Don’t fail to have your works, joys, and sufferings ready to offer to God.
PLEASE PRAY ALOUD THE BLESSINGS OVER THE BREAD AND WINE
Standing at the center of the altar, facing the people, he extends and then joins his hands, saying: Pray, . . . , that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
The people respond: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.
PRAYER OVER THE GIFTS
With hands extended, the priest sings or says the prayer over the gifts, at the end of which the people respond: Amen.
Commentator: In the next minute the priest will greet us for the third of four times during the Mass with the prayer for the Holy Spirit and receives from us our prayer that the Spirit given him at ordination will enable him to lead us in the Eucharistic prayer.
Then he will ask us to lift up our hearts. The key to getting more out of Mass is to keep lifting up your heart all during the Eucharistic prayer. The meaning of the Eucharistic prayer is that all of us are choosing to join ourselves to Christ in acknowledging the great things God has done and in offering the sacrifice. During this prayer, time and distance drop out: the upper room, the cross, the empty tomb are here.
There is so much happening during the Eucharistic prayer that it is difficult to single out any words and gestures for special attention. However, one of the most important things the priest does is to ask the Father twice to send the Holy Spirit, once to do the easy thing (to make the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ) and a second time to do the harder thing (to make us one body, one spirit in Christ). Watch as the priest joins his hands and, holding them outstretched over the offerings, says: “Make Holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Later, he extends his hands and says: “ . . . Humbly we pray that, partaking of the body and blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.”
By the time the priest sings or says “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever,” we are in heaven and can therefore sing Amen with all the choirs of angels and saints, and to say the words that Jesus himself taught us.
The priest begins the Eucharistic prayer: The Lord be with you.
The people answer: And with your spirit.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER WITH ITS OWN PREFACE
LORD’S PRAYER and DOXOLOGY
SIGN OF PEACE
BREAKING OF THE BREAD
Commentator: In the time of the apostles the breaking of the bread—a gesture of Christ at the last supper—gave the entire Eucharistic action its name. This rite is a sign that in sharing in the one bread of life which is Christ, we who are many are made one body. Using words from St. John the Baptist, we call out to the Lamb of God to free the world from sin. During the priest’s silent prayer, we prepare ourselves for communion by praying that we may receive Christ’s body and blood to good effect.
Commentator: The priest now shows us the Eucharistic bread and wine
and we recite together the prayer of humility in the words of the Roman
soldier from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
The priest genuflects. Taking the host, he raises it slightly over the paten and, facing the people, says aloud: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the Lamb.
He adds, once only, with the people: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
Commentator: The official teaching of the Church says that the purpose of the communion song is “to express outwardly [our] union in spirit by means of the unity of [our] voices, to give evidence of joy of heart, and to make the procession to receive Christ’s body more fully an act of community.” In the Liturgy of the Word God promised to be present to us. In communion God delivers on that promise to us and prepares us to deliver his presence to others. Let us take up our hymnals and sing of our joy at his presence.
Communion and singing as usual.
PERIOD OF SILENCE
Commentator: During this time of silent prayer the priest leads us into the third and last of the three ancient silences in the Mass, the silence when we reach out to be in communion with Jesus and with everyone to whom he leads us. You are now seated beside Jesus. What is he saying to you? What have you to say to him? Is our Lord calling you to serve him in a special way by reaching out in active, loving service of any particular person or group? Is he inviting you to enjoy the vocation he has already given you—to be a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a neighbor, a co-worker? Is he calling you to be single, to be married, to be a parent, a priest, a deacon, a religious sister or brother? Is he leading you to someone whom you have hurt or who has hurt you? You are now close to the saints and all our beloved dead; tell them of your love and receive theirs. Listen to Jesus comfort you in your suffering. Listen to him reveal himself as the ultimate source of your joy. Hear him give you strength for your work. Hear him answer your prayer. In the prayer after communion, the priest petitions for the effects of the mystery just celebrated and by our acclamation, Amen, we make the prayer our own.
The priest says: Let us pray.
Priest and people pray in silence for a while, unless a period of silence has already been observed. Then the priest extends his hands and sings or says the prayer after communion, at the end of which the people respond: Amen.
Commentator: We have reached the concluding rites when God gives us our marching orders for the week ahead and blesses us. If there are any brief announcements, they are made at this time.
Commentator: The Church tells our priest and deacon to send each of us to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord. As we leave, the priest [and the deacon] kiss[es] the Altar of Sacrifice and we reverence Jesus as well.
Now, for the fourth and last time, the priest prays the Spirit-greeting and receives from us our prayer that the Spirit will enable him to bless us. As we receive this blessing, let us imagine that Jesus is laying hands on each one of us and is breathing the Holy Spirit upon us to strengthen us for our week. If it seems appropriate, we might put a hand on the shoulder of (or an arm around) our spouse, our children, our friends. Even if nobody is near us, all the angels and all the generations of the saints are near us; our beloved dead are near us. Receive their blessing and the blessing God is giving you right now.
Facing the people, the priest extends his hands and sings or says:
The Lord be with you.
The people answer: And with your spirit.
The priest blesses the people with these words: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit. The people answer: Amen.
The deacon (or the priest), with hands joined, sings or says: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
The people answer: Thanks be to God.