A Brief Stroll through the Mass [We’ll only hit the highlights]
Another I AM a Catholic Lesson
by Patrick Miron
It is easy to fall into a sense of routine when attending Mass; to be there in body; but perhaps not fully engaged in mind and spirit. If and when we permit to happen to us we miss a most privileged encounter with our God. Our God who has been patiently awaiting our return.
This lesson aims to renew our understanding and to quicken our heats desire so as not to be caught unaware; or worse; not truly caring where we are; and why we are here at Mass. The Mass; like God Himself exist for our benefit, not our God’s.
Do we regularly recall at the beginning of Mass just why we make the “sign of the Cross?” What it means; and what it ought to bring to mind; and why we begin the Mass this way? Or that making the sign of the Cross with holy water has graces attached to it; and exactly what and why we do this?
When we first enter Church; we are confronted with a Holy Water font: most us [myself at times included] mindlessly dip our fingers; “cross ourselves” and quick look to see if OUR spot has been taken by someone else [heaven forbid]. In doing so we miss a “graced opportunity”. Holy Water is a “sacramental”; a source of grace when we use it consciously. And even more importantly we have missed our clue to “enter into the very Sacrifice on the Cross” that Jesus Died on. We also missed a reminder that the Early Church too had a “cross-themselves” tradition. We ought to be mindful that ours is the Faith; ours is the Church and the Mass is Christ Gift of remembrance; the tie that binds us in Tradition & in practice to our 2,000 year old past. Historically by the year 150 A D the Mass had already taken much of its current form. [CCC 1345] PAUSE momentary when you enter Church; and THANK God for this Blessing.
The Mass is always a RE-presentation of the one-original Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. That means that the very sacrifice of Jesus is made present to US; time and time again until time immortal. But now in an unbloodied manner: [CCC 1382] and by signing ourselves with The Cross we are personally & collectively entering into that very original Sacrifice of Jesus Dying for us on His Cross.
Do we understand the New language of the Mass & it’s all too common responses?
Priest: The Lord be with YOU
People: “And with YOUR Spirit”. We use to reply “and with you.” … Why the difference?
This is not a casual; Hi! How are you doing? No; these words are intended to convey that GOD is in our midst! [Mt. 18:20] Our priest [God’s chosen emissary] here is modeling Almighty God’s greeting to the early Fathers like Abraham, Moses, and David; and later, also to Mary and Joseph. We are to be mindful of our Family Tree; our connection to them through our God whose presence we have now entered into. God is always first-seeking a relationship with us; long before we in turn seek a relationship with Him.
By intoning “And with YOUR Spirit”. We acknowledge the Holy Spirit being in our midst AND the essential Role of the Holy Spirit acting through His priest at Mass.
Do we actively engage in praying with the priest AND the community of believers: “I CONFESS ……. “
This prayer and it’s placement at the beginning of Mass [when we are without unconfessed / unforgiven Mortal sins], prepares our minds, hearts and our very Souls for an intimate and soon sublime-union with our God. This prayer beckons us to reflect and seek forgiveness for our past infidelities; perhaps minor to us, but not so for our God. We beg forgiveness for what we have done against God; and also what we have failed to do For God. This prayer has the effect of remitting our Venial sins and thus “making ready the Way of the Lord.” [Mt. 3:3]
Do we actually mean it; are we conscience of what we’re saying & praying? The term “Mercy” here means unmerited forgiveness.”
Priest: Lord have Mercy
People: Lord have Mercy
Priest: Christ have Mercy
People: Christ have Mercy
Priest: Lord have Mercy
People: Lord have Mercy
Here we invoke the Blessed Trinity: God the Father; God the Son & God the Holy Spirit to take pity upon us. And they will; and they DO!
Do we get the connection here; especially as it relates to the Son of God; The Gift of the Father BY the Holy Spirit? This prayer; especially when it is sung; makes evident a primary difference in Sunday “Worship” when compared to Sunday meetings or gatherings of our Protestant Brethren. GOD alone is worthy of Worship. We venerate Mary and the Saints; but give heartfelt Divine Worship to God; so we ask again: Do WE? Make this evident? Do we actively participate? Do we?
Isaiah 9: 1-2; 6-7  “But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. …  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” [“GLORY TO GOD IN THEE HIGHEST; AND ON EARTH [HIS] PEACE! TO all people of “goodwill” [Which means Obedience”]
Do we prepare to encounter the two forms of our One God?
Do we understand that each of us individually must answer the Jesus Question for ourselves? C S Lewis in his book: Mere Christianity poses the question. Cf. either he is the Son of God [& therefore God] or he is a lunatic. You can shut him up as a fool-madman or something worse or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God…”
If God is not Real; if the Real Presence isn’t THEE Real Presence; then there is no reason for man to exist.
God’s Word is God as much as the Eucharist is Jesus! These are the two “inseperatable-parts” of the One same Reality
John.1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…” John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”
An interesting FACT about the “readings” is that in the Church’s three-year-cycle; were one Blessed to be able to attend daily Mass, the teachings of the entire bible would be laid open to us. What a Blessing.
Weekday Mass usually has two reading; normally one OT & one NT reading, with the NT reading from the Gospels being the most critical for the teaching and learning of our Faith. Sunday’s and Holyday’s usually have three. Most often an OT reading; then an NT Epistle [means “letter] reading followed by the Gospel [“the Good News.”] This then is followed by a homily; [by an Ordained minister] where the reading are further tied together and explained with greater detail and depth; making application to our lives. This is a time where the Holy Spirit desires to be let into our minds and into our hearts. God is speaking to us; we’d better listen.
Being in God’s Presence; it is a good idea to say a short prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant us fuller insights and memory recall. Active participation at the Readings; means to be actively engaged in both listening carefully to the readings and likewise to the homily. Which can be challenge overcome with God’s assistance.
2nd. Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” … Matthew 4: 4 “But Jesus answered, “It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.”
In a sense; the Readings are begging us to actually KNOW God; and not settle for just knowing “about Him.” … These reading and the homily are intended to prepare us for meeting our God in a manner not even granted to the Angels…. COMING SOOM TO YOU IN PERSON: GOD the Son of the Father! You have heard his WORD; now prepare to confront Him in Person.
Do we understand just why we pray our Creed each week?
Our Catholics Creeds [The Apostles Creed & or the Nicene Creed] are summaries of our Catholic Beliefs. The Apostles Creed is thought to have originated either from the Apostles themselves; or perhaps by others in that time period who knew the Apostles. The Nicene Creed dates from the Church Council at Nicea in 325 A. D.
This prayer too takes us back to our past, then brings us into the present and even extends into the future. It affirms OUR Faith; it articulates our core-beliefs; and we are to understand that each time we recite this prayer; we are part of the Universal Church [Mt. 28:18-19] that Jesus desired and instituted. That we do recognize these beliefs; that we accept them as true and that we agree to live and to share them as God presents us with the opportunity to do so. Each time we recite this prayer we personally are reaffirming our personal-relationship with our God through His Church. Amen!
Do we know our role in the “Prayers of the Faithful?”
This could also be termed “the unity prayer.” That my friends is its focus. It’s the Church’s way to get us “out of ourselves” and connect with the worldwide Catholic Church; those at a distance and those surrounding us at Mass. Then it even goes a step further; and it presents a window of opportunity to each of us to make an offering of all that we have [as it all comes from God] as a faithful and faith-filled recognition that God is, as God ought to be; in charge of our lives. We therefore offer back to God all that we are and all that he has given to us; to be used as he would have us use it.
Do we know WHY the gifts of bread & wine; and our tithings are brought from the back of church to the altar?
This act dates at least as far back to St Justin Martyr in 155 A. D.; where todays Mass had largely already taken its form. [CCC #1345].
This act is closely tied into the prayer of the faithful for a reason. Once again we are given the opportunity to “give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Due to our God”. [Mt 22:21] The “first fruits” of our labors; always with a grateful heart knowing that God rewards a cheerful giver; and that God’s generosity cannot be outdone. Critical here is understanding that these gifts represent “works from our labor.” Labor imposed in Divine Justice yes; but also a gift from God, to be able to work for a living.
Do we know just how we are intimately connected to the preparation of the gifts?
In the Old Testament bread was far more than a side-dish. It was seen as a necessity in order to sustain life itself. And it was through this very fact that God tested them to “give back” a portion of the bread as a sacrifice to God demonstrating both our faith in God AND tour reliance on God. So too wine was associated with the meal. A sustenance that stemmed from “the work of their hands”; BUT as any farmer will quickly attest; one that is only possible from God’s providence.
This sacred Tradition dates back to Father Abram [even before God changed his name to Abraham]; some 4,000 years in our past.
Gen. 14: 19-24 “ And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth;  and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”  And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”  But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, maker of heaven and earth,  that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, `I have made Abram rich.’  I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me; let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.” And God using priest dates to this same event: Ps.110: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz’edek.” [Also Heb. 5:6 & 7: 3, 17, 21]. It is highly signifient that so much of our history is contained in Our Mass.
Then God providing both bread [manna & flesh: doves] for the people in exile of course leads to the sum; and the very Summit of Catholic Beliefs. Exo. 16: 31-33 “ Now the house of Israel called its name manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.  And Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: `Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'”  And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD, to be kept throughout your generations.” Numbers 11: 18 “And say to the people, `Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat.”
The fact that both bread and wine require “sweat labor” and must also have God’s weather and soil blessings is too relevant. It is at the same time a sign of God’s love and our acknowledgment that we are truly the “work of His hand.” Psalm 18: 2 the heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands.”
Do we my friends understand the mixing of water & wine and its significance?
In Sacred Tradition it dates back to common Jewish practice to weaken the alcoholic effects normally associated with wine consumption. But it has great significance to us Catholics [and Orthodox as well] to the miracle at Canna where to forego embarrassment to the new Bride and Groom; and at the request of his Mother who; BTW, Jesus Address as “women”; NOT “mother” [also a sign of future events when on the Cross Jesus gives His mother to all of humanity so that she can aid them in their relationship with Christ her Son. [John 19:25-27] “So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Then there is also the correlation with this miracle of demonstrated Godly control over the very substance of “things” and the later Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist.
In this Sacred Tradition God is represented by the wine and we; each of us is represented by the water. There is a highly signifient “co-mingling” of the water and wine; representing both God’s desire to unified within us, AND we in Him. This is often graphically presented by some priest [a personal option] by just adding a drop or two of water to the wine he has already poured into the chalice for the soon to be Traunsbstanuation. The miraculous transformation of what WAS real wine; and has now become really Christ Blood; the Blood of His Glorified Body. God IN us; and we IN our God!
Listen carefully, actively and attentively to the words the priest say’s out loud; so that we cannot but marvel at how much; and how evidently God does love us. This begins a period where we need to show great gratitude & true Worship for so humble of a God; that He would stoop so low just to be united in and with us.
Do we understand that our priest who will soon become in front of our very eyes: an “alter-Christi”; that is, literally for the instants of the Traunsbstanuation; “another Christ?” And that he is about to enter into the commemoration of the Old Testament “HOLY OF HOLIES” represented by the washing of his hands; bringing to our minds the OT ritual washings of the High priest before entering into such a Holy space?
Do we understand that we too are called to have an ACTIVE roll in being; not merely spectators; but active participants in what is about to take place: the priest says “pray brethren, that MY sacrifice AND YOUR’S may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.” And we then affirm this reality with our own invocation:
“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 Holy Church?”
And here friends is precisely why this is of critical importance to each of us:
Isaiah 43 verses 7 & 21  “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” &  the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
What is taking before our very eyes is the opportunity to fulfill the very reason for our existence! We ought to make the most of this grace.
There is a theological sense of unity; of active participation here.
De we understand the Sacred Tradition of the “Eucharistic Prayer?”
It is rooted in Jewish “table prayers” recited at every meal. What an intimate connection this brings us to with our history and our past.
This prayer has four separate elements:
The  Preface: The Lord be with you; Lift up your hearts; & Let us give thanks to our God. Our replies are: And with your spirit; we lift them up to the Lord & it is right and just.
Each petition begs our participation and awareness of what in unfolding before our very eyes.
Next we are requested to Glorify our God though  the Sanctus: Holy; Holy, Holy is our GOD! Like Moses at the burning bush, we are in a very real manner; now in the Presence of our God.
Then we hear  the Epiclesis [meaning the invocation upon] where the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit to make Jesus present to us.
The Eucharist is:
FROM God the Father
OF God the Son
BY God the Holy Spirit
This beckoning of the Holy Spirit then leads us to The Words of Institution & Consecration [the Traunsbstanuation] which though the actions of the priest and the intercession of the Holy Spirit makes Jesus present to us. This reality is the sum and the summit of our Catholic Faith. Our priest who at the instants of Consecration become “alter Christi”; literally another “Christ”. We are witnessing not one’ but two miracles in this sequence of prayers. Now what was unleavened bread become for us the “entire Christ.” And the chalice of wine is now the Sacred Blood of the Glorified Christ.
We should understand that what we witness is the “RE-presentation”; that is to say; the making present at every Mass the one and original [same] Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; time and time again until the End Times. This then is the third miracle that we witness at every Mass. Not as some would suggest; a mere sign, or only a symbol of remembrance; NO! This dear friend is Jesus; “Really; Truly & Substanually made present to us: the “Entire Jesus” in his “Glorified Body; Soul and Divinity.”
The Priest then prays  the anamnesis [offering-prayer] which can take several forms:
Eucharistic prayer III: “We offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice”
“TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU AND EAT OF IT; FOR THIS IS MY Body
Which is given up for you….
Take this all of you, and drink from it;
For this is the chalice of MY Blood,
The Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant,
Which will be poured out for you and for many
For the Forgiveness of sins [venial, but not mortal sins In its effects]
Do THIS is Remembrance [in memory] of Me”
From St John Gospel: Chapter 6:
 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. … This verse expresses precisely what takes place in Catholic Holy Communion. GOD in us; and we IN our God.
And from the “13th Apostle: St Paul [a convert]
1st. Corinthians 11: 23-30
 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.[Which is to say Condemns themselves]  that is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. [Speaking here of a spiritual death: Hell] … “Amen” [I Believe!]
Our Catechism: #1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” [Our Sacrifice]
Do we friend, permit ourselves to become distracted by what happens now; before Holy Communion? We must resist this tendency with prayer.
Before Holy Communion;
The priest makes intercessory prayers on his and our behalf. This is followed by the “Great Amen” [I BELIEVE!]
Next is the prayer Jesus taught us: Lord’s Prayer…
“Hallowed be THY name …..” [In other words: GLORY to God]
“THY Will BE done” [who’s in charge of your life? … you or God? It cannot be a shared responsibility: YOU or God.]
“Forgive us our trespasses’” [BUT only to the same degree that I forgive everyone else]
…… AMEN! Is telling God: that we understand; we accept & we believe. Do WE?
Do we dear friends understand the “to do’s” and NOT “to do’s” in the Rite of Peace
This practice too dates back to at least 155 A D, and was a common practice whenever Catholic-Christians met [and no Romans are other persecutors were evident]. Like the Sign of the cross it identified the Christian community.
The correct manner of doing this is to:
Limit it to ONLY those in very-close proximity to you; be as BRIEF and non-disturbing as possible; do not leave your location to greet others not near you. You need not share the sign with the ENTIRE church and all those present. While this remains an important sharing; it ought NOT to distract from the Divine Presence: Jesus/ our-GOD in our midst.
Do we actively and consciously participate in the “Lamb of God?”
Next is the “Agnus Dei” … The “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: have Mercy on us”; which is repeated three times [for the Father; Son & Holy Spirit] with the third response being “Grant US [your] peace.”
This prayer, often sung is a three-times repeated: Lord have Mercy on me a sinner. Nothing we could ever do; or have ever done can make us TRULY- worthy of what God now invites us with contrite expectations to participate in. We are invited to the “Supper of the Lamb.”
While this prayer is taking place the priest “fractures” the large Host. This is where the Sacred Tradition of “Breaking the Bread-churches” comes from.
In the very early Church; before the theological term of “Eucharist” came into being; this Miracle of all Miracles was termed “the Breaking of the Bread” [Act of the Apostles 2:42] “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
A very early Church practice was to have the Bishops actually break the bread they Consecrated and send a small portion of it to all of his diocese –churches as a sign of unity / Brotherhood. In our time if we are paying attention as we ought; we will take notice of the priest breaking a small portion of the large host and place it in his Chalice of Consecrated “Wine” [the Blood of Christ]; following a similar sign of unity with the Universal Catholic Church.
The priest holds up the “fractured” Host and proclaims:
“BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD
BEHOLD HIM WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD
BLESSED ARE THOSE CALLED TO THE SUPPER OF THE LAMB” ….
“LORD I AM NOT WORTHY THAT YOU SHOULD ENTER UNDER MY ROOF”
Following are the essential conditions of receiving Catholic Holy Communion
- One Must be a believing Catholic in the “state of God’s grace” [no unconfessed or unforgiven mortal sins]
- Unless excused by age [60 or older] and in “good health” we ARE expected [commanded] to fast from all solid food and drink [except water] for 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion.
Holy Communion/ Jesus may be received either on the tongue [Receiving Jesus] OR in one’s hand [taking Jesus]. BOTH are acceptable. However receiving our God on our tongues is a more humble and is often a more respectful manner to do so.
BEFORE receiving Jesus we are to make a sign of both humility and Glorification before our God. One can choose to genuflect [bending the knee to the ground WHILE the person in front of you receives;] OR opt for a “PROFOUND Bow.” A bow from the waist; NOT simply nodding one’s head casually. THIS IS OUR GOD WE ARE RECEIVING. Even the Angels in heaven are NOT grated this Gift; this Grace. Again a genuflection is the more humble of the two choices IF one is able to do so.
Our demeanor; our thoughts both in going up for Holy Communion; and even more-so having received Jesus into our body must reflect our BELIEF that we are now in the most astounding and intimate UNION with our God possible! This TRULY is a foretaste of Heaven on Earth. Like the Apostle John shares in chapter 6:  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” We are in God and God is in us. Amen!
The time immediately following our invitation of Jesus into our very minds; hearts and Souls is a time of enormous benefit to:
Thank God profusely for this unearned; unmerited Gift of Himself
This is the time to lay-open our hearts and our needs and wants [AFTER having given sincere thanks]
This is the time to pray for family and friends and all of our special needs.
Never is God closer or more attuned to hearing us than these moments following inviting God into our very selves.
As a FYI: GOD remains in us for about one hour after having received Him. Act accordingly.
THEN we have the Final Blessing; say our personal “good by” to Jesus and are sent forth to SHARE the good-news; BY our actions; even more so than our words.
Do we dear friends know that GOD was satisfied with our knowing and active participation at His Mass?
So Do We?
Pray much my friends; pray very much!
God Bless you and yours,