The Holy Mass Explained

  • As Catholics, we know that the Holy Mass is the center of our faith and the source of divine life. Hence, the Church teaches us to participate in the Holy Mass regularly on Sundays and on Holydays of obligation and also on weekdays, whenever possible. If we understand the value of the Mass, we would certainly participate in it actively and regularly. I feel that a simple explanation on each part of the Mass may help you to recognize the value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. With this consideration, I am going to explain every part of the Mass in the forthcoming bulletins, hoping that you would read and profit by it.

    Jesus offers Himself:

    The Holy Mass is, first of all, a holy celebration, because it is Christ who acts in the person of a priest. Jesus Christ offers himself for us, as he offered on the Cross. Hence, we say that Mass is the same sacrifice of Jesus Christ, offered on the altar in an unbloody manner. Just like Jesus offered his body and blood on the Cross, he offers for us on the altar. The difference is that Jesus offered himself visibly on the Cross but on our altar, He offers himself invisibly and in an unbloody manner, hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.

    Faith matters:

    A Catholic, who says that he/she loves Christ would not fail to love the Mass. To love the Mass does not mean just being present and nothing more; it means to be present with faith and devotion and to take part actively in the Mass realizing that it is the Sacrifice of the Cross being renewed on the altar. Participation in the Mass involves basically our faith. Without faith, all that one would see on the altar is just bread and wine; just gestures, symbols and nothing more. It is only through faith, we acknowledge that at the consecration of the bread and wine, they are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If one would come for Mass without faith, the person would easily feel bored or get distracted. Without faith, one would fail to understand what Christ’s death on the Cross would mean for us. Hence Faith is the most required disposition when we come to participate in the Mass.

    To be continued

    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • On June 4th, Pentecost Sunday, I started explaining the Holy Mass for your benefit and for the benefit of your children. Through my simple effort, I would like that you may be enlightened so as to understand the value of the Holy Mass. This week I want to explain to you about the purposes of the Mass.

     

    The purposes of the Mass are similar to the purposes for which Jesus offered Himself on the Cross. They are:

    • to give glory to God
    • to thank him
    • to make up for the sins
    • to pray for favor to fulfill our intentions.

     

    The first purpose is to give glory to God, our creator, on whom we depend for everything. Acknowledging Him as The Lord, God, we need to praise and glorify Him.

     

    What we have, what we do and what we are everything is because of God’s immense love, mercy, and kindness: our life, family, all the spiritual gifts for our eternal life, namely, sanctifying grace, faith, the sacraments and the gift of his mother. Therefore, it is good to thank God for all the natural and supernatural gifts. The person who is too proud to say “thank you” is not only ungrateful but is bound to end up being unhappy.

     

    The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ, though he was without sin, he died like a sinner because he took upon himself our sins and made reparation for them on the Cross.

     

    Hence, the third purpose of the Mass is to make up for our sins and those of the deceased. When we come to Mass with real sorrow for our personal sins, we

    can draw strength from the love of God.

     

    The fourth purpose is to make petitions for our needs. God is the giver of all gifts. Being the most loving Father, he gives us the best. Just as Jesus has taught us to ask, so that we will receive, we make prayerful petition for our various needs.

     

    God bless you

    Fr. Arul Joseph V

  • The Holy Mass could be described as the ritual celebration of what Jesus fulfilled only once in history: The Last Supper on Holy Thursday, His Death on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The celebration of the Mass can be divided into four parts:

    1. Gathering rites
    2. Liturgy of the Word of God
    3. Liturgy of the Eucharist or Meal sharing
    4. Rite of Commissioning: sending out to live our experienced in the Mass.

    Part 1: Gathering Rites:

    The purpose of this part is to assemble or gather together, in order to bring the people of God into one body, to listen to His Word and to share the Body of Christ together.

    Greeters/Ushers: When we usually gather for any celebration or when friends gather together for a meal, they are greeted at the door and welcomed into the house.  The Ushers, who are also called greeters are our volunteers, who do this great job in the vestibule, as you enter the Church.

    Use of Holy Water: One of the first things, Catholics do when they enter the Church, is to dip their right hand in the Holy water and make the sign of the Cross. This ritual is a reminder of your Baptism; we were baptized with water and signed with the cross.

    Genuflection: It has been a custom in the medieval time to go down on one knee or genuflect before a king or a person of high rank. This secular practice of honor has gradually entered the Catholic Church, in order to honor the presence of Jesus Christ present in the Tabernacle.  Today many people express their reverence by bowing as an accepted practice.

    Entrance song: When the Mass begins, everyone stands up and sings. Standing is a sign of readiness to begin and much more a sign of welcoming with respect the priest/s, who is/are going to celebrate the Mass. Singing an entrance song helps us to unite our thoughts and voices for the celebration.

    To be continued

    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • Part 1: Gathering Rites (Cont’d)

    Greeting: While the entrance hymn is sung, the priest kisses the altar, which represents Christ, as a sign of surrender and adoration. Following the hymn, the Mass begins with the sign of the Cross and greeting. This greeting is significantly for wishing well, to all present, in the name of the Triune God.

    Penitential Rite and Gloria: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy” was the instruction of Jesus to his disciples. We, as God’s children, gathered in his House to offer the Sacrifice of Christ and to receive the heavenly gifts, we need to be worthy of presenting ourselves. Hence, we pray for inner purification. Immediately after asking for pardon, we sing the “Gloria”, a traditional hymn of praise and glory to Jesus, our Redeemer.

    Opening Prayer: At the close of the gathering ritual, the priest invites the assembly to join him in the prayer, summarizing the theme of that particular day. At the end of the prayer, people respond “Amen”, which is a Hebrew word for “so be it”. Part 2: The Liturgy of the Word will be continued.

    God bless you

    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • Part Two: Liturgy of the Word

    Usually, when we gather as a family or as friends for a meal, we begin with a conversation telling our stories. Likewise, after the gathering rites during Mass, the Liturgy of the Word follows. God speaks to us in the inspired Words of the Bible and we listen to Him. Having heard him speak, we thank Him by saying “Thanks be to God”.

    On Sundays, there are three readings. The first reading, except during the Easter Season, is from the Old Testament. It relates to the Gospel and so it sounds like a background and insight to understand better what Jesus speaks to us in the Gospel. After the first reading, there is a Responsorial Psalm. The second reading is, usually, from any one of the letters of St. Paul or from one of the letters by other Apostles. The third reading is from one of the four Gospels. Just before reading the Gospel, the priest bows before the altar and prays that God may grant him the grace to proclaim the Gospel.

    We all remain standing while the Gospel is read because Jesus speaks to us and so we show our attentive reverence. The priest greets the people, then introduces the Gospel writer and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead, lips, and heart, in order to clean his mind, lips and heart and thus enable him to proclaim the Gospel in a worthy manner. Following the priest, the people also make the sign of the cross for cleansing them and to enable them to listen with faith. The Gospel is concluded with the response of the people, saying: “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”, and thus praise Him for having spoken to us.

    Homily follows the readings. Its purpose is for “breaking the Word of God” and applying it to our life situation today. Unlike a talk or speech given in a meeting, the homily is an interpretation and application of God’s Word to our personal life. Hence the assembly is expected to keep the heart and mind open and personalize God’s message.

    To be continued

    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • Before leaving for my vacation in August, I started explaining about the Holy Mass. I stopped with Part 1, “Gathering Rites”, which concludes with the Opening Prayer. This week I resume it from Part 2.

    Part 2: Liturgy of the Word
    After the Gathering Rites, we sit down and listen to the Word of God. It is proclaimed to us from the Holy Scripture, which has totally 73 Books (Old Testament 46 Books and New Testament 27 Books) written by human authors but inspired by the Holy Spirit. On Sundays, there are three readings read from the Bible. We believe that God speaks to us in the inspired Books. Hence, the reader, at the end of the reading, announces “This is the Word of God”. Having heard God speaking to us, we all respond saying “Thanks be to God.”

    The first reading is read from the Old Testament, except during the Easter Season, during which it is read from the “Acts of the Apostles” in the New Testament. This narrates the history of how God manifested His love, chose the people of Israel, made a covenant with them; at the same time, how the people were not faithful in responding to God’s love. Generally, the first reading is related to the Gospel passage chosen for the day.

    Following the first reading one of the Psalms, which is an inspired hymnal from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, is either sung or recited. The psalm is very closely connected to the theme of the first reading.

    The second reading is read usually from one of the letters of St. Paul. Sometimes it is read also from one of the letters of St. Peter or of St. John.

    The third reading is taken from one of the four Gospels. Since we believe of the unique presence of Christ, who speaks to us directly in the Gospel, it has been a long custom in the Catholic Church to stand in attentive reverence to hear the Gospel.  The Gospel is always read by the priest or the deacon, representing Christ. At the beginning of the Gospel reading, having introduced from which of the Gospel the passage is read, we all make the sign of the cross on the forehead, lips and the heart. We do so, in order that we may be cleansed in our mind to understand God’s Word, lips to proclaim His Word and heart to love Him dearly. The priest or the deacon concludes the Gospel reading saying “The Gospel of the Lord” and all the people respond “Praise to you, Lord, Jesus Christ”, proclaiming our faith in the presence of Christ in the Gospel.

    To be continued,

    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • Part Two: Liturgy of the Word:
    The second part of the Liturgy of the Word comprises of the homily, the recitation of the Creed and Prayer of the Faithful (General Intentions).

    Homily:

    Even though the priest celebrating the mass or the deacon assisting at the Mass takes the effort to prepare the homily, this part of the Mass, unfortunately, is the hardest part for some. I don’t blame them; in fact, it is difficult to listen to someone continuously for some time.

    There may be many valid reasons, why it is difficult for some to pay attention to the homily preached during the Mass: may be due to many concerns about health, jobs, sports & games, family worries etc. For some, the homily may be too long and boring and for others, it is above the head and not able to comprehend the gist of the message.

    Nevertheless, it is very important to know why one must pay attention to the homily. It is the Holy Spirit, who uses the priest or the deacon to enlighten His people with the message proclaimed through the three readings taken from the Bible. Basically, we need to keep our hearts and minds open with faith, so as to grasp and personalize what God shares with us.  Just like a large piece of bread is broken to feed individual persons, the Word of God is broken so that it could be received and digested by the People of God.

    The homily is followed by the Creed. What we recite during the Holy Mass is known as the Nicaean Creed. This is longer than the Creed we use at the beginning of reciting the Rosary, which is known as the Apostles’ Creed. Apostles’ Creed is the one, said to have been composed by the Apostles; whereas the Nicaean Creed was composed in the 4th century at the Council of Nicaea. It encompasses all that we as Catholic should believe. By reciting it during the Mass we proclaim our faith.

    The Liturgy of the Word comes to an end with the Prayer of the Faithful (General Intentions). The intercessions enable us, as the Body of Christ, to pray for the Church, the nation & the leaders, for the people in special need, the local needs and for one another. Thus, we show our fellowship and universality in the Church.

    To be continued
    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist:
    With the homily and Creed, the Liturgy of the Word comes to an end. Then begins the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the third part of the Holy Mass. After having listened to the Word of God, having reflected over them and having proclaimed our faith, we move to the Table of the Lord. At any meal in the home, there are three actions: we set the table, say grace and share the food. Just like this, we have at Mass, three rituals known as

    • The Preparation of the Gifts
    • Eucharistic Prayer and
    • The Communion Rite.

    Preparation of the Gifts:
    During the early history of Christianity, each brought from their homes bread and wine to be offered in the Church and subsequently to be distributed for the participants and the poor. Similarly, today, bread and wine, as the fruit of people’s hard work, are brought to the altar, to be offered to God. Besides, members of the parish take up a collection from the assembly and bring it to the altar, as a sign of their sacrifice, to be used for the pastoral needs and the poor. The bread and wine and the monetary offering are the symbols of our hard work, our studies, our needs, our struggles and even our own weaknesses. The priest, then, mixes a drop of water with wine, reciting a prayer, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. Having offered the bread and wine and prior to consecrating them, so that they may be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest washes the fingers, praying to God for his purification, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”. Finally, he invites the assembly to pray that the sacrifice might be acceptable to God.

    To be continued
    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist:
    Following the Presentation of the Gifts, which symbolize our heart & soul and our entire life in the form of bread and wine, we move to the next stage, which is the central and most important part of the Holy Mass.

    The Eucharistic Prayer:
    The long prayer forms the heart of our faith. There are four Forms of the Eucharistic prayer. Considering the time factor, we, generally use the second Form, which is the shortest, for the daily Mass and sometimes for the Sunday Mass. The other three Forms are a little longer and they are used for solemn and festive days. I use the 2nd Form for the 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Peter’s and 9:00 a.m. Mass at Casimir’s. Otherwise, on Sundays and on festive days, I use the 3rd Eucharistic prayer. Even though they differ in length, all have the same structure: We call upon God to remember all the wonderful saving

    Even though they differ in length, all have the same structure: We call upon God to remember all the wonderful saving

    We call upon God to remember all the wonderful saving deeds in salvation history;
    We recall the central event fulfilled by Jesus Christ and in particular the memorial he left us on the night before he died. Thus, we recall his passion, death, and resurrection; and
    After gratefully calling to mind all the wonderful saving acts, God has done for us in the past, we petition God to continue those deeds of Christ in the present: we pray that we may become one body, one spirit in Christ.

    The Eucharistic prayer begins with the Preface, with a kind of dialogue between the presiding priest and the assembly. First, the priest greets the people saying, “The Lord be with you”. He, then, asks the people to approach the table of the Lord with the invitation, “Lift up your hearts” and the people respond, “We lift them up to the Lord”. Again, the priest asks the people to give thanks to the Lord and the people respond, “it is right and just”.

    The preface introduces us into the central part of the Eucharistic prayer, concluding with the joyful and enthusiastic words, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God …” With faith and fervor we join the Angels and Saints in praising God with these words, for the marvelous gift, He is going to give us at the Eucharistic table.

    To be continued
    Fr. Arul Joseph V.

  • Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist:

    Concluding the Preface with singing “Holy, Holy, Lord God of Holiness…”, the priest begins the proper Eucharistic Prayer.

    Consecration:

    The most solemn moment of the Holy Mass is the consecration. Up to this moment, what was on the altar is merely bread and wine. Giving praise and thanks to God; the priest, then, prays imposing his hands over the gifts. He calls upon the Holy Spirit to come down and transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ by making the sign of the cross over the gifts. Following this, he recalls the events of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. From this moment, what is on the altar is the Body and Blood of Christ in the appearance of bread and wine. With this transformation, Jesus, the Son of God is truly, substantially and really present on the altar.

    One might ask, whether it is possible. Yes, it is possible, because this is done by the power of God. The priest, standing at the altar is only a minister of God, who acts visibly in the person of Jesus Christ. The ONE, who sacrificed himself on the Cross and offered his body and blood as our food has the power to transform the simple bread and wine into his Body and Blood and offer the same as the food for our spiritual life.

    After this, the priest pronounces the word of consecration “This is my Body …” and “This is the cup of my Blood…” and raises high for the people to look at the marvelous and memorable Sacrament and adore Jesus Christ. With our physical eyes we see just bread and wine, but with the eyes of faith, we can recognize Our Lord himself. While it is being raised, having recognized Him, we are expected to express our faith in the words of St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God”. I have seen many people utter repeatedly these words of faith either quietly or calmly in their mouth during the elevation.

    It is worth remembering what Jesus told St. Thomas, when he proclaimed his faith, after having seen and touched the Risen Lord: “Thomas, you believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

    As believers, the priest invites the people saying: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith” and the people reply, for example, “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”

    To be continued,

    Fr. Arul Joseph V.