Category Archives: Holy Mass Explained

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Holy Mass Explained – Part 20

Active Participation

The phrase “active participation” was conceived by the saintly Pope Pius X. He explained: If you wish to participate in the Mass actively, you must follow with your eye, heart, and mouth all that happens on the altar… You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings … and in this manner, you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way you have prayed the Holy Mass.”

Active participation entails participation of mind and heart expressed through bodily gestures, sacred signs, praying, singing in union with the whole assembly. During the Mass we take different postures like standing, sitting and kneeling down; Kneeling is an expression of our submission before the majesty of God and a sign of our adoration. It is by singing and responding to the priest’s prayers, we are taking active participation.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council promulgated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on Dec. 4, 1963. It explains: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation… such a participation is their right and duty by reason of their baptism…”

While celebrating the Holy Mass, the priest acts in the person of Christ, as the head of the assembly, present in the Church. While the priest performs the celebration, the assembled faithful are expected to be present as conscious and active participants, rather than mere observers. In other words, they should not be like silent spectators, on the contrary, they should involve themselves by praying, singing and consciously being present in the celebration.

With this column, I bring to an end my explanation about the significance of the Holy Mass. I hope that you have gained a greater understanding of what we celebrate. My earnest appeal to you, now, is that you take active participation from the beginning until the end of the Mass.

May God bless you

Fr. Arul Joseph V

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Holy Mass Explained Part 19

Closing Rite

The distribution of the Holy Communion during Mass is like an act of a lover meeting with the beloved. When we receive the Eucharist, we are welcoming Christ into our hearts and so it is an important moment. The priest and Deacon are the ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Lay Eucharistic Ministers are the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, authorized by the Church-authorities. Some have scrupulous thought that it is better to receive the Body of Christ only from the priest or deacon. Such people must believe that the Lay Eucharistic Ministers distribute the same Body of Christ as the Priest or Deacon.

At the end of the distribution of the Holy Communion, the remaining Consecrated Hosts are taken to the Tabernacle for private adoration and for the use of the sick and the homebound, who are unable to participate in the Mass with the community. After receiving the Communion, there is a time for meditation whether silent or singing a song.

Is it right to leave the Church immediately after receiving Communion? It is not right. Some people receive Communion and go straight to the parking lot. If someone would leave the party, before saying goodbye to the host and the fellow guests, would this be appreciated? I am sure it won’t be appreciated; rather it would distress the host. Just so would such people distress God, who has provided the spiritual meal.

After the concluding prayer, the priest concludes the Mass with the prayer and the final blessing in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. At this point, the priest or the deacon greets the people that the Mass is ended and the assembly may go in peace. With the response, “Thanks be to God”, the assembly goes out singing joyfully, empowered to serve in the outer world.

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Holy Mass Explained Part 18

The purpose of the responsorial psalm and Alleluia

Someone asked me, why we sing the Psalm and Alleluia in between the Readings. We Catholics are accustomed to hearing the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation sung or recited between the Readings. These were instituted by the Second Vatican Council, in order to foster the meditation on the Word of God.

Following the first reading, we raise our mind and heart reciting or singing the Responsorial Psalm taken from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Since the early centuries of the Church, what was known as the Graduale and the Sequence were sung between the readings. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Responsorial Psalm forms an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and the Psalm should correspond to the first Reading (cf. GIRM #61). In fact, it has a thematic relationship to the first Reading and it is people’s response to God’s Word. In the current lectionary, the Responsorial Psalm comes with antiphon which enables the assembly to sing after every verse sung by the cantor.

There is also an option of using seasonal Psalm, namely, a psalm that fits with the mood of the Church Season. This allows the assembly to reflect on the meaning of that season.

Gospel Acclamation/ Alleluia:

The Gospel Acclamation is a song of praise, with a verse from the Gospel. Except during the season of Lent, we sing “Alleluia”. It is usually sung by everybody, standing and is led by the cantor. The verse is sung by the cantor. We stand while singing this song of praise because this posture would help the assembly to welcome and greet The Lord, who is going to speak to us in the Gospel.

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Holy Mass Explained Part 17

Meaning of the word “Amen” in the Mass

The word “Amen” is not a strange word for any Catholic, because it is used as a concluding response to all the prayers we recite. It is also used during the Holy Mass as people’s response to the prayers offered by the priest as the president of the assembly. What does this word mean? What is its significance?

Etymologically, the word “Amen” is a Hebrew term. It signifies trustworthiness and faithfulness. Hence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church inculcates that this Hebrew word expresses both God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in him (cf. CCC 1062). It is also used to affirm, approve and emphasize something that is said. Jesus uses this word often, in order to affirm his statements: “Amen, amen, I say to you…” This Hebrew word would also mean “truly”. Thus, the double “Amen” Jesus uses is sometimes translated as “truly, truly” or “verily, verily”. The statement “Amen, amen, I say to you…” is used, in order to emphasize the trustworthiness of his teaching and his authority founded on God’s truth (cf. CCC 1063).

When we say “Amen”, in response to a prayer, it affirms the content of the prayer as an expression of faith that God will hear and act on the prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “… after the prayer is over you say ‘Amen’, which means ‘So be it’, thus ratifying with our ‘Amen’ what is contained in the prayer…” (CCC 2856).

When we receive the Holy Communion, our response to the statement “The Body of Christ” implies God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in Him (cf. CCC 1062). Thus, it is an act of our faith in God’s trustworthiness and our trust in His love. The word “Amen” precisely means that we believe in the reality of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

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Holy Mass Explained Part 16

How Many Times May a Person Receive Holy Communion?

Some of our parishioners have asked me, whether one can receive Holy Communion more than once in a day. Let me clarify, how often in a day one can receive Holy Communion.

The Church law, namely, the Code of Canon Law stipulates:

Canon 917: “A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the Eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of Can. 921, §2.”

Canon 921, §2: “Even if they have been nourished by holy communion on the same day, however, those in danger of death are strongly urged to receive communion again.”

Based on the above two Canons, we can conclude that a person can receive Holy Communion twice a day by participating in the Mass; nevertheless, a person in danger of death can receive Holy Communion again the same day, even outside the Mass.

The rationale for such a concession is that the participation in the Mass and the reception of the Holy Communion are intrinsically connected. In other words, the two parts of the Mass: The Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist are two parts of the one whole celebration.  Full participation in the Mass entails that one has to be present from the beginning until the end of the Mass and receive Holy Communion. Unfortunately, a few individuals come for Mass in the middle, receive Holy Communion and leave before the Mass concludes. One has to participate in the whole Mass and more precisely, one has to thank The Lord for His gift after receiving the Holy Communion.

According to Canon 921 §2, even if a person has already received Holy Communion twice in a day, he/she can receive Holy Communion again, in a special circumstance like danger of death.

God bless you,

Fr. Arul Joseph V

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Guidelines For The Reception Of the Holy Communion,

Given by US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB)

On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of Communion.


As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.


We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).


We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.

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Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist: Table of The Lord

Communion is the word, we use, when we participate at the table of The Lord. This word is derived from two Latin words: com (which means “with, together”) + unus (which means “oneness, union”). The Latin root of Communion is communionem, meaning “fellowship, mutual participation or sharing”.

Meaning of Communion:

Literally, it means “sharing”. The Lord is sharing himself with us and we all share our fellowship with one another at the table of The Lord. As St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, when speaking of sharing the bread as the body of Christ, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1Corinthians 10:16 17).

Thanks to St. Paul, the word “Communion” has been in use from 57 A.D., when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. He calls each member of the community at Corinth to self-examine before partaking of The Lord’s Supper: “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1Corinthians 11:28). What remains absolutely central is the concept of Communion in the coming together as one body to share in the one bread, overcoming all distinctions and barriers.

Communion is not merely coming together in unity. Jesus gathers his people together at his table and then he sends us out to feed and clothe and comfort others: “I was hungry and you gave me food… as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35-40).

To be continued

Fr. Arul Joseph V.

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“Lamb of God…” is a prayer of humble petition and invocation to Jesus Christ to purify the soul from every sin. It is also an immediate preparation before approaching the table of The Lord.

Then follows the invitation for the people, who are prepared, to come and take part in the banquet of The Lord. The priest, raising the consecrated host so as to be seen by the people, invites with the words: “Behold the Lamb of God … blessed are those who are called to the supper of The Lord”.

Everyone, who would like to participate in the supper of The Lord, responds saying: “Lord! I am not worthy to receive you ….” It is possible that we may not realize the significance of this response, because we recite this during every Mass, which we participate in. We may be led to say this prayer as a habitual act. Let us remember that it is exactly the words which the centurion, a Roman military officer, pronounced to Jesus, before receiving him into his home to heal one of his servants, who was sick. Imagine, how humbly this officer has invited The Lord, in spite of his power and authority! What are we, after all! Let us welcome The Lord with the same feeling and attitude of this officer. Since God comes into our soul with immense love, let us actually receive him into our soul with love and joy.

At the same time, since God comes into our soul, it is very important that we keep our soul pure. We must never receive unworthily with a mortal sin. If one is stained with a mortal sin, and there is no opportunity to go for Confession, then he/ she should sincerely feel sorry and ask internally for forgiveness from The Lord, before going to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord into his/her soul. Nevertheless, at the next opportunity, it is better to go for Confession and be cleansed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

For those who think, why one should go for the Mass and receive the Body & Blood of The Lord, let me remind what Jesus has declared: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). “… he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V

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Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist:

With the prayer of glory and doxology, “Through Him, with Him and in Him…” the Eucharistic prayer comes to an end. Now we begin our immediate preparation to receive the nourishing spiritual food, the Body and Blood of Christ.

Communion Rite:

Step one: As a first step of our preparation, we pray as Our Lord has taught his disciples to pray. Taught by him, we dare to call God, who is almighty and who created heaven and earth, as our Father. The prayer “Our Father” contains, first, three praising petitions directed towards God:

  • Our Father hallowed be thy name;
  • Thy kingdom come;
  • Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This is followed by four petitions related to our various needs:

  • Give us this day our daily bread;
  • Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
  • Lead us not into temptation;
  • But deliver us from evil.

Step two: We continue to pray that we may be freed from every evil and that Jesus may consider favorably our faith, rather than our sinfulness and fill us with his peace, which he imparted to his disciples, after his resurrection. Prayer for peace is important at this juncture, because the word “Communion” means “union with” God and with one another. Having prayed for peace, as a sign and gesture of our union, we offer the sign of peace with each other.

Step three: Since by receiving of the Eucharist, we are going to receive Jesus Christ, we invoke Jesus to purify our soul by praying “Lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…”

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.

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Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist:

Following the response of the assembly to the invitation of the priest to proclaim the Mystery of Faith saying, “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again”, the priest continues to pray as the presider of the assembly.

Prayer for unity and intercession:

This is the moment of the Mass, we are to put our heart and soul into acts of faith, love and adoration, because Jesus Christ is substantially present on the altar. Yes, Jesus Christ, with his divinity and humanity, is really present, just as he was present and offered himself for us on the cross. We should love to be beside him, just as Our Blessed Mother and St. John were present beside the cross on Calvary.

The Holy Mass is never a private action, even if a very few people or even if only one person or not even one person is present. It is a celebration of the entire Church. The prayer brings to our mind the presence of the communion of saints, which includes the angels and the saints.

We also pray that we may be gathered into one Body and Spirit by the Holy Spirit. We pray for the Pope, for the bishop of the local diocese, we pray for the living and deceased members. We pray especially for ourselves that through the intercession of the saints, we may one day arrive at the heavenly table, of which this table is only a foretaste.

In conclusion, we look forward to the glorious day raising our voices with those of angels and saints saying: “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”. Our “Amen” to this prayer of glory and doxology acclaims our assent.

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.