Structure of Mass

Personal Preparation for Mass
A quiet time for reflection and prayer.  This time helps the worshipping member of the community to focus on the upcoming celebration and to remove distractions from one’s mind.

Introductory Rites
This introductory part of the Mass sets the tone and theme of the Mass.  It unifies the diverse members of the faithful into one community of faith.  The congregation is prepared for worship and invited to enter into the mystery of the liturgy.  The intent is that the assembled group unites as a community properly prepared to hear God’s Word and celebrate the Eucharist.

Entrance procession – The priest and liturgical ministers process from the rear of the Church to the altar.  Altar servers (acolytes) may lead the procession carrying a cross and candles.  An opening hymn may be sung or the entrance antiphon may be recited.  This procession calls the assembly to worship.
Veneration of the Altar – The priest kisses the altar as a sign of veneration.
Sign of the Cross – The Mass begins with the Sign of the Cross, by which we profess our faith in a Trinitarian God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and by which we also recall our baptism.  The Sign of the Cross is both a true blessing from God and a true commitment from us to follow the Lord.
Greeting – The priest greets the assembly with a formula from our Christian tradition. One such formula is “The Lord be with you,” to which the assembly responds, “and also with you.”
Penitential Rite – Recognizing that we are all sinners, the penitential rite calls us to pause, recall our sins, and ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy.  This is a time to remember our own sinfulness as well as the limitless love and forgiveness of God.  The Eucharist brings us healing, renewal, and reconciliation.  The act of contrition or the Sprinkling Rite may be used here.
Glory to God (on all Sundays except during Advent and Lent; on solemnities and major feast days during the week) – can be sung or recited.  This is a hymn of praise acknowledging God’s greatness.  We gather together for liturgy and are reminded of God’s goodness shown to us through all of our many blessings, graces, and gifts.  The Glory to God infuses us with an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving.
Opening Prayer – This prayer sets the theme of the Mass and is chosen to correspond to the liturgy of the day, whether special feast, saint of the day, or liturgical season.  It marks the conclusion of the Introductory Rite and gathers the people together in a spirit of prayer.  At the end of the opening prayer, the assembly responds “Amen” to affirm the prayer intoned by the priest.

Liturgy of the Word
The major part of the Mass between the Opening Prayer and the preparation of the Gifts during which the Word of God is proclaimed, responded to, explained, and accepted.  The Scriptures are God’s word spoken to us today.  Through the Liturgy of the Word, God speaks to us personally and is fully present to us.  We must have be open to God’s presence by turning a listening ear and heart to the Sacred Scripture proclaimed during the liturgy.

First Reading – This reading is read by the lector from the Lectionary at the Ambo.  It is generally taken from the Old Testament.  The First Reading and the Gospel on each Sunday have been picked in coordination with each other so that there will be thematic unity.
Responsorial Psalm (taken from one of the 150 Psalms or from an Old or New Testament Canticle) – The psalm is a response to the first reading and helps us to focus on the theme of the liturgy.  The psalm may be sung or recited.  Each psalm is a prayer which reflects the wide range of human needs and emotions.
Second Reading (only on Sundays, solemnities and special feast days) – This reading also read by the lector from the Lectionary at the Ambo is always a New Testament passage from the Acts of the Apostles, Letters of St. Paul, or Book of Revelation.
Gospel Acclamation (outside of Lent, the Alleluia is sung. During Lent, another approved acclamation is sung).  – Alleluia in Hebrew means “praise to you, Lord.”  It is sung before and after the Scripture passage that precedes the Gospel.  The alleluia is an acclamation of God’s presence in the Sacred Scriptures, particularly in the Gospel which immediately follows.
Gospel – A reading taken from one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) which portrays the life of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ life, ministry, miracles, parables, sayings, compassion, and mercy are all presented in the Gospel narrative.  Here we have a God who relates to us and heals, forgives, loves, and saves us.  The Gospel should give us much food for thought in our daily lives as we strive to live as disciples of Jesus.  As the priest introduces the Gospel, we trace the sign of the cross with our thumb on our forehead, lips, and heart.  In doing so, we ask God to be in our mind, on our lips, and in our heart as we listen to the Gospel and then strive to live it in our daily lives.
Homily – This has also been called sermon.  The word homily means “conversation with the people.”  The homily is meant to explain the scriptures (the readings and Gospel of the day) and to make practical applications and connection to daily Christian living.  The homily is preached by the priest or the deacon and challenges the faithful to be active participants in the Word of God and true witnesses to the message of Jesus.  The homily should nourish our life of faith and challenge us to grow in holiness, charity, and love.
Profession of Faith (recited or sung on all Sundays and solemnities)  – This Creed is a profession of our faith as Catholic Christians.  The Nicene Creed expresses our basic Catholic beliefs and enables the faithful to renew their faith and their baptismal commitment.
General Intercessions or Prayer of the Faithful – These intentions are introduced by the deacon or reader.  We are reminded at this time of the liturgy of our dependence on God and of God’s goodness and love for us.  The intercessions commend the needs of the world, the church, and the local community to God’s care.  We pray for the needs of others and the world.  This is also a time to pray for our own personal needs and intentions in the silence of our hearts.

Liturgy of the Eucharist
This is the major part of the Mass after the Liturgy of the Word and ending before the Concluding Rite. This part corresponds to the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper. Christ took bread and the cup, gave thanks, broke, and gave them to His disciples saying, “Take and eat; this is My Body. Take and drink; this is the cup of My Blood. Do this in memory of Me.”

Preparation of the Altar and Presentation of the Gifts – The worshipping community presents the gifts of bread and wine to the altar.  The priest then prepares the altar and the gifts, prays over the bread and wine, and helps the assembly get ready for the tremendous Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ.  An offertory song may be sung at this time.
Prayer over the Gifts – Blessing that the priest prays as he offers the bread and wine to God.  The priest then washes his hands as a symbolic gesture of purification.
Invitation to Prayer – The priest invites the faithful to pray that our offering may be worthy and acceptable before the Lord.
Preface Dialogue – The priest then asks the assembly to lift their hearts to the Lord and to give thanks and praise to God.  The preface varies with feast days and liturgical season.  The preface opens us to the awe and majesty of God.
Eucharistic Prayer – The center and high point of the Mass that makes Christ present for us in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. During it, the entire assembly joins Christ in acknowledging the works of God and in the offering of Sacrifice.   It recounts what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper.  Christ is brought into our midst through the words of consecration.  The Spirit is called down upon the gifts of bread and wine.  The host and chalice are raised for silent adoration and prayer.  The simple gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the real body and blood of Christ, not a representation or a symbol of Christ, but an actual transformation known as transubstantiation. We pray that this Eucharist may transform us as we celebrate it and receive it. The Eucharistic prayer also includes the acclamation of faith, in which we affirm Christ’s presence among us, as well as prayers remembering the saints and angels and the deceased members of the community.
Concluding Doxology – At the end of the Eucharistic prayer, the priest elevates the host and the chalice and the assembly responds with “Amen!”
The Lord’s Prayer – The principal prayer of the Church, this prayer was given by Jesus himself to his disciples.  It is a sign of our unity with Christ and one another and helps prepare us to receive Holy Communion.  In this prayer, we praise and thank God, we forgive one another, and we pray for needs in this life and in the world to come.
Sign of Peace – A sign of peace and love, we show our unity in Christ and our reconciliation with one another.
Breaking of the Bread – The priest breaks the large host as a sign that we are all one through sharing in one bread.
Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) – Jesus is the lamb who sacrificed himself for us and saved us.  In this invocation we pray for God’s mercy and peace.  During this time, the priest prepares the hosts for distribution.
Invitation to the Eucharist – The priest invites the assembly to join in a preparation prayer to receive communion.  We respond as did the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his son: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  The faithful are now ready and truly prepared to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Distribution of Holy Communion – As we receive Holy Communion, we receive Christ into our hearts and lives and we are healed and forgiven by God.  Communion may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, as long as it is received with reverence.  The faithful are encouraged to receive the Host with a bow and an “Amen,” which is a conscious act of faith.  In addition to the Host, the blood of Christ in the cup or chalice can also be received.  Christ is totally present under each form.
Sacred Silence – Silence may follow the distribution of communion or a suitable hymn may be sung.  This is a time of personal, quiet prayer and mediation on the sacred mystery which has been received.  We are closely united to God at this time.  This is a time to share your cares, concerns and prayers with God. You can ask God to strengthen you through the Eucharist and help you be a better disciple in living the Gospel daily.
Prayer after Communion – This is the final prayer of the liturgy and is based on the theme of the liturgy, the saint of the day, or the appropriate liturgical season.

Concluding Rites

Announcements (if there are any) – These should be kept brief and provide information about parish events, activities, opportunities, and programs or other important information.
Final Blessing and Dismissal – Once again the presiding priest greets the people and then blesses them using a simple form or a more solemn blessing during various seasons or on feast days.  The Sign of the Cross is once again made.  The assembly is then sent forth to go and preach the good news to love and serve the Lord.  We are called to be Christ’s presence in the world.
Recessional – The priest and liturgical ministers leave the altar and process down the main aisle to the church entrance.  A suitable closing hymn may be played.  The faithful are encouraged to take some time in reflection after Mass before exiting the Church.

Courtesy: Archdiocese of Boston; www.BostonCatholic.org

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