The Mass – Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion
When we celebrate Mass the risen Jesus speaks to us, his disciples today, just as he spoke to the first disciples 2,000 years ago. As the gospel is proclaimed we hear Jesus speaking his words afresh to us, teaching, guiding and inspiring us to be his body – the Church. At the heart of the service we exchange the peace, greeting one another and the risen Jesus who is present in the lives of our sisters and brothers by virtue of their Christian Baptism.
At communion we receive the bread of Jesus’s body and the wine of his blood through which Jesus feeds us with his own risen life. At the end of Mass we are sent out in Christ’s name to be his body in the world today. Come along and join us for Parish Mass next Sunday at 10.00am!
At Parish Mass on Sundays at 10.00am, the bell is rung and we stand to sing our first hymn. Have you ever given thought as to why we stand at the beginning of Mass? Is it so that we can fill our lungs with air and sing better? Is it a mark of respect by the congregation for the altar party, just like we used to stand up at school when a teacher came into the classroom? We stand as the gospel book – the symbol of the risen Jesus and his living word – is carried in procession for all to see. We stand to greet the risen Jesus who will be speaking his life giving words to us. We stand, the procession enters, the priest kisses the altar, and the altar is censed.
That altar is a place of profound encounter. It is the place where the ordinary things of life will become the extraordinary things of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the place where we meet the risen Christ, as he shares his risen life with us.
The priest then calls the community together by reminding us that we believe in God, who reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A greeting is exchanged between the priest and the people. After words of welcome, we offer prayers of penitence. This is the first thing we do as we gather together as the people of God; we confess our sins and we are forgiven in God’s name, as the priest makes the sign of the cross over the people.
In response to God’s ever-forgiving grace, we stand to sing the great song of praise – the Gloria in Excelsis – echoing the song of the angels on that first Christmas Day.
The Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy of the Word follows with readings from the Old Testament, the book of Psalms, one of the Epistles or letters of the New Testament. We then stand to sing an Alleluia – which means “praise the Lord’ as the gospel book is carried high from the altar to the centre of the church. Here the priest greets the people, blesses the gospel book by making the sign of the cross over the text of the reading and then makes a sign of the cross on their head, their lips and their heart – echoing a prayer said privately before the altar as the gospel book is collected – “may the Lord be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart, that I may worthily proclaim his holy gospel.’ The gospel book is then honoured with incense and read aloud, and at the end of the reading the priest reverences the gospel book with a kiss. This echoes the way our Jewish forebears would kiss the scroll of the Torah as it was passed around after being read in the Temple. The gospel book is kissed by the priest because the words of Jesus spoken to his disciples 2,000 year ago are his living words for us, which we hear afresh as his disciples today. A fanfare follows the gospel reading as the procession returns.
A sermon is then preached – in which the preacher breaks open the gospel reading for us. That is why the gospel book is taken into the pulpit – to make a visible connection between what has been proclaimed – the living words of Jesus Christ, and how we are to apply them in our lives today.
Following the sermon, we stand to affirm our faith, using the Creed, or another authorised statement of Christian belief.
We then offer intercessions, during which we pray for the needs of the Church, the Word and our local community. We also pray for the sick, the faithful departed and those whose Year’s Mind falls in the coming week.
The Ministry of the Sacrament
Before the sacred ministers move to the altar, we share in the Kiss of Peace.
At the end of his epistles, St Paul would remind those to whom he was writing of the close family nature of the Christian Church, referring to his fellow Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ and he often instructed his readers to greet one another with the kiss of peace. We often think of the peace being about ‘kissing and making up’ but it is something far more profound. The kiss of peace is about recognising the presence of the risen Jesus in the lives of one other , recognising our common baptismal dignity, through which Christ has made his home in each one of us. When we greet each other, we are not just greeting each other, but Christ who lives in the life of our brother or sister!
As the peace draws to a close, the offertory hymn is sung. At the offertory we give back to God from what God has already given us – bread, wine and our own offering in the collection. On the altar not just the bread and wine is being offered, it is the whole of our lives. As the priests speaks the words ‘Lift up your hearts’ she/he is offering the whole of lives to God in the Eucharistic Prayer. As the priest lays the altar, note that water is poured into the chalice with the wine – not to water it down and save money, but reminding us of the water and blood form the side of Jesus at his crucifixion. Once the gifts have been placed on the altar, they are censed with incense to remind us that ordinary things are to be made holy through the power of the Spirit and then the people are censed to remind us of the offering of the whole of our lives to God.
In the Eucharistic Prayer – the great prayer of thanksgiving, the priest praises God for God’s mighty acts, after which we sing the Sanctus and Benedictus the former based on words from Revelation and Isaiah when the angels surrounding God’s throne cry Holy, Holy, Holy and the latter reminding us of the shouts of the crowd on the first Palm Sunday.
The priest then calls the Holy Spirit down over the gifts on the altar and recalls the words and actions of Jesus at the last supper. It’s as though we are present in the upper room with Jesus as we recall what he did and said. With the great AMEN at the end of the prayer Christ is is present in the here and now in the bread of his body and the wine of his blood, the only response to the great Amen is a time of reflective silence – lost in wonder, love and praise at the great gift that has been made present in our midst.
After a short period of silence, we say together the Lord’s Prayer, break the bread and share it, in the same manner as Jesus at the Last Supper. When we make our communion, we receive in our hands, in our hearts and in our lives the risen life of Jesus Christ in the bread of his body and the wine of his blood. When everyone has made their communion the priest reverently consumes the remaining sacrament and a period of silent reflection follows. After the the post-communion prayer, we sit down for any notices or banns of marriage after which we stand to say the Angelus – the Memorial of the Incarnation and then receive God’s blessing. The service ends with the dismissal at the church door, when, having encountered the risen Jesus in the living word of his gospel, in our fellowship with each other and having received within ourselves the risen life of Jesus shared in the bread of his body and the wine of his blood, we are sent out to be his body in the world today. We are sent out to share the good news of God’s love for humanity.