The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

HOLY Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the New Testament in which the Body
and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, are offered to God under the
appearance of bread and wine. The mass in the Old Roman Catholic Church is
humbly offered in the traditional Latin or in the vernacular of the country where
the mass is held.

Humanity's redemption was accomplished when Christ bowed His head in death
on the Cross. The Holy Mass is the sacrament of the sacrifice of Redemp­tion,
through which more abundantly than through any other means (Council of
Trent) the merits of Christ’s redeeming death are applied to souls. The Mass is
not a mere symbol recalling the sacrifice of the Cross. It is a sacrament, a symbol
that does what it signifies. Through the separate consecration of the bread and
wine, Christ our Lord, speaking through His priests, portrays the shedding of His
Blood and His dying on Calvary, and becomes really present under symbols that
show Him to be in a state of victimhood. In accomplishing this act, Christ
presents once more before His Father His immolation on the Cross, with all that
it involves of love and obedience, of adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation and
petition. Thus, St. Cyp­rian writing to the Christians of the 3rd century de­clared:
The sacrifice which we offer to God is the Passion of our Lord Himself.

Besides being the sacramental renewal of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, the
Mass is also our sacrifice. Holy Baptism grafted us in Christ, the true Vine. We
are members of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church. Christ our Head is the priest
and the victim of every Mass. The Sacred Ministers act in the person not only of
our Savior, but of the whole Mystical Body and of everyone of the faithful. Christ
offers not only Himself as Head of the Church, but in Himself His mystical
members as well. (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei.) In every Mass, therefore, we are
associated with the complete consecration, the obedience unto death of Christ
our Head. Attendance at Mass should be for us the renewal of our Baptismal
promises, a sincere dedication to Christian living, to the following of Christ, to
doing the Will of God.

                           THE PRINCIPAL PARTS OF THE MASS
THE Holy Mass really consists of two services. The First Part, from the Prayers at
the foot of the Altar to the Creed inclusively, is a service of prayer and in­struction
called Mass of the Catechumens, because, during the early centuries of
Christianity, people under instruction, but not yet baptized (Catechumens), were
permitted to be present at this service, but were ex­cluded from the Eucharistic
sacrifice. The Second Part called Mass of the Faithful, because only the bap­tized
were permitted to assist, is the Eucharistic sacri­fice. This part begins with the
Offertory Verse and continues until the end of Mass.

                                     I. MASS OF THE CATECHUMENS
The purpose of this service of prayer and instruc­tion is to prepare us for the
proper celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. We approach God in prayer; God
speaks to us in the inspired words of the Epistle and Gospel and, through the lips
of His priest, in the sermon.

1. PRAYERS AT THE FOOT OF THE ALTAR: The priest and the server (in
the name of all present) recite part of Psalm 42, a hymn written by a Jewish
priest or levite under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, about eight hundred years
before the birth of Christ. This hymn, in which the inspired author speaks his
yearning to worship on the holy hill of Jerusalem, ex­presses beautifully the
sentiments that fill our hearts as we approach the altar for the Eucharistic
sacrifice: consciousness of our sinfulness and weakness, confi­dence in God Who
has saved us through Christ's sacrifice.

Then the priest and server, speaking for all present, recite in turn the Confiteor, a
general confession of sinfulness and a poignant plea for God’s forgiveness.

Every altar contains an altar stone or antimension which contains the relics of
some martyr-saint, reminiscent of the early Christian practice of celebrating
Mass over the tombs of the martyrs. Kiss­ing the altar the priest says: By the
merits of Your Saints, whose relics lie here, and of all the Saints: deign in Your
mercy to pardon me all my sins.

2. INTROIT: Going to the Missal the priest reads a few verses usually taken
from a Psalm. This prayer is called the Introit, from the Latin Introitus, mean­ing
entrance, because it used to be sung, and at Solemn Mass is still sung as the
sacred ministers enter the sanctuary.

3. KYRIE ELEISON These are Greek words, the only Greek in our Roman
Mass, meaning, Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleison), Christ have mercy (Christe
eleison).

4. GLORIA: This hymn of praise, adoration and thanksgiving begins with the
words the angels sang at Jesus birth: Glory to God in the highest and on earth
peace to men of good will. It is omitted during peni­tential seasons, in Masses of
the dead and in ferial and votive Masses, e.g. in Nuptial Masses.

5. PRAYER (or COLLECT): Returning to the Missal the priest reads the
Prayer of Petition, called the Collect, because it is a petition made in the name of
all the people collected, gathered together in church. This prayer, which is
different for every Mass, is al­ways a prayer of petition.

6. EPISTLE (or LESSON): God inclines toward us to instruct us. The priest
reads a passage from the Bible, called the Epistle, because it is usually taken from
the inspired letters of the Apostles.

7. GRADUAL: The verses, usually from a Psalm, re­cited after the Epistle are
called the Gradual (from the Latin gradus, a step), because they used to be in­
toned by a cantor standing on the steps of the pulpit or altar.

8. ALLELUIA: A Hebrew expression meaning Praise the Lord! In the Roman
Rite, AIIeIuia is regarded as an expression of joy, and consequently is omitted
dur­ing penitential seasons and in Requiem Masses.

9. TRACT: A Psalm, or verses of a Psalm, recited in place of the Alleluia during
penitential seasons.

10. GOSPEL: The climax of the prayer and instruc­tion service. God speaks to us
through the words of His Incarnate Son, as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John.

11. CREED: With this profession of faith we express our acceptance of Gods
revelation and instruction. The First Part of Mass began on a note of humility
con­scious of our sinfulness we begged Gods mercy. It closes with a note of
confidence; faith in the reward God has promised us as the fruit of Christ’s
sacrifice: I believe in . . . life everlasting. Amen.


II. MASS OF THE FAITHFUL
The Second Part of Mass, from the Offertory Verse to the end, is the service of
sacrifice, the unbloody sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, the sacra­mental
renewal of His sacrifice on Calvary. This part of Mass consists of three actions:
(a) The Offering, (b) The Consecration, (c) The Communion.

A. THE OFFERING
1. OFFERTORY: In the name of the whole Church the priest offers to God
the bread and wine, mixed with a few drops of water, which will be changed
into the Body and Blood of Christ. In ancient days the people gave the priest
the bread and wine for the Holy Sacri­fice. Today, for reasons of practicality,
a money collec­tion has been substituted for this ancient custom. With the
offering of the host and the chalice we should make a complete offering of
ourselves to God, accept­ing from the divine good pleasure the chalice that
His Wisdom wills to mix for us, be it suffering or joy, good fortune or bad
fortune. For He wills all for our ulti­mate happiness.

2. LAVABO: Washing of the Hands. Originally the priest washed his
hands because they had become soiled by handling the bread and flasks of
wine presented by the people at the Offertory. Now this act is a symbol of
the inner purity with which priest and faithful should approach the Sacrifice
of the Lord with unsoiled hands.

3. SECRET.: This prayer is so called because it is said by the priest
inaudibly. The Secret is always a petition to God to receive favorably the
offering of the Church and to sanctify the faithful.

B. THE CONSECRATION
The second act of the Eucharistic sacrifice begins with the Preface and concludes
with the words, World without end. Amen (just before the Pater Noster). This
part of Mass is, strictly speaking, the Canon, although the Roman Missal uses
this term for the parts of the Missal immediately following the Sanctus.

1. PREFACE: The solemn introduction to the Canon of the Mass, to the
Consecratory or Sacrificial Act. The Preface is always a hymn of thanksgiving,
because Jesus giving thanks instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the
Last Supper. The Preface concludes with the jubilant cry of adoration of the
Seraphim of Isaias vision (Isa. 6, 3), called the Sanctus.

2. TE IGITUR: These words, Therefore, most gra­cious Father, we humbly
beg, introduce a great inter­cession in which the priest implores Gods good
favor for the Pope, the Bishop of the diocese, all the faithful, especially those
present, and those for whom he is offering Mass or whom he wishes to
remember in the Holy Sacrifice.

3. COMMUNICANTES: Naming our Blessed Mother, the Apostles, some
of the ancient Popes and Martyrs, the priest begs that in view of their merits
and prayers and the intercession of all the saints, we may all be protected by
God's Providence and grace, and brought to the glory of the saints.

4. CONSECRATION: Speaking through His priest our Blessed Lord
changes the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Through the separate consecration of the bread and wine, which portrays the
shedding of His Blood, He shows forth His death, renewing sacramentally
the sacrifice He made of Himself on Calvary.

5. OFFERING OF THE VICTIM TO GOD: Recalling the Sacrifice of our
Lord on Calvary and the Resurrection and Ascension by which God
manifested His accept­ance of Christ's bloody sacrifice, the priest begs, with
absolute assurance that the Eucharistic sacrifice is pleasing to God, that all
who partake of this sacrifice in Holy Communion may be filled with grace
and heavenly blessing.

6. COMMEMORATION OF THE DEAD: The priest prays for all the
faithful departed and in particular for those whom he wishes to remember.

7. THE MINOR ELEVATION: For us sinners also the priest beseeches a
share in the joy of the glorified martyrs and saints. The Consecration Act, the
Canon properly so-called, concludes with a beautiful doxology (a prayer of
praise of the Holy Trinity). Through Him and with Him and in Him (Christ
our Lord), is to You God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.


C. THE COMMUNION
In Communion our Blessed Lord gives Himself to His faithful to develop and
strengthen the life of grace they received in Baptism, just as food nourishes
physical life.

1. PATER NOSTER: In preparation for Holy Communion the priest
recites aloud the Our Father, the prayer taught us by our Lord Himself. The
daily bread we beg for is, more than anything else, the living bread the Holy
Eucharist, which preserves us for eternal life and guarantees the
resurrection of our bodies.

2. THE BREAKING OF THE SACRED HOST: In imita­tion of our
Blessed Lord, Who at the Last Supper broke bread, the priest breaks the
Consecrated Host. The Christians of the Apostolic times called the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass, The Breaking of the Bread.

3. AGNUS DEI: A petition for mercy to Christ, the Lamb of God, Who
redeemed us by the Sacrifice of the Cross and Who applies the benefits of
that Sacri­fice to our souls through the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

4. COMMUNION: Originally this antiphon and psalm were sung while
Holy Communion was being dis­tributed to the faithful. Now the short
Communion antiphon is recited after Holy Communion.

5. POSTCOMMUNION: The Church's prayer of thanks­giving is short. An
earnest endeavor to live a better Christian life is the thanksgiving she wants
the faith­ful to offer God for the graces they have received through the Holy
Sacrifice and in Holy Communion. Those who have received Holy
Communion, however, are urged by the Church to spend some time in
fervent thanksgiving.

        The Sacred Vessels Needed for Mass
The CHALICE: A cup of precious metal (the in­side must be gold or gold-
plated), that holds the wine consecrated at Mass.

The PATEN: A small plate of precious metal that holds the Sacred Host.

The CIBORIUM: A large cup of precious metal with a cover of the same
material, that contains the hosts consecrated for distribution to the Faith­ful in
Holy Communion.

The PURIFICATOR: A small linen cloth used by the priest to dry his fingers
and the chalice, when he has washed and purified them after Com­munion.

The CORPORAL: The linen cloth spread by the priest on the altar at the
beginning of Mass. The chalice and host rest upon this cloth.

The PALL: A small square of stiffened linen, or of cardboard covered with linen,
used to cover the chalice.

The CHALICE VEIL: A cloth covering, of the same color as the Chasuble, that
conceals the chalice and paten up to the Offertory and after the Communion.

The BURSE: A flat, square con­tainer of cloth, the same color as the vestments,
in which the corporal is carried to and from the altar. It is placed over the veil on
top of the chalice.

                                            High and Low Mass
From the viewpoint of external ceremony, we speak of High Mass and Low Mass.
A High Mass is sung. A Low Mass is read. A High Mass is called Solemn Mass
when it is sung with the help of Deacon and Sub­deacon. A High Mass sung by a
priest, without the as­sistance of those Sacred Ministers is known as a Missa Cant
àta.

Low Mass is one in which the priest, assisted by one server, recites in a speaking
tone the parts that are sung in a High Mass. It is in fact the abridgement of the
Solemn Mass which, in ancient days, was the normal way of celebrating the Holy
Sacrifice. Low Mass was evidently introduced on account of the difficulty of in
many parishes se­curing the help of Deacon and Subdeacon.

The Classification of Feasts
According to their liturgical rank, feasts are graded, Double 1st Class, Double 2nd
Class, Double Major, Double, and Simple. When two or more feasts happen to
fall on the same day, the feast of the higher grade will take precedence. The
Mass, consequently, will be of that feast. The lesser feast may be transferred to a
later date, or, more usually, it will receive a commemo­ration, i.e., its Prayer,
Secret, and Postcommunion will be recited in the Mass of the preferred feast.