Chapter 5 – The Most Holy Eucharist

Return to Table of Contents

The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist. (Catechism #1322)

There are many things in this world that are truly priceless.  You cannot put a price on the beauty of the mountains or other wonders of nature.  You could never put a price on a parent’s love or on the gift of a child.  You cannot put a price on a faithful friend or a heroic act of charity.  And you cannot put a price on the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist!

The Eucharist is an incredible mystery.  It is, in fact, the mystery of all mysteries.  Saint Thomas Aquinas expressed the mystery and magnificence of the Eucharist in his famous chant, Adoro te Devote:

Prostrate I adore Thee, Deity unseen,

Who Thy glory hidest ‘neath these shadows mean;

Lo, to Thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,

Tranced as it beholds Thee, shrined within the cloud.

Taste, and touch, and vision, to discern Thee fail;

Faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.

I believe whate’er the Son of God hath told;

What the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.

The first two stanzas of that chant state that we should prostrate ourselves before the divine majesty of God who is hidden behind the veil of the Sacred Host.  Our senses are deceived, and we fail to perceive the reality present.  It is only by the inspired gift of faith that we can come to see and believe in the True Presence.  It is only by the grace of God that we can begin to comprehend the sublime mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Essence Challenges our Five Senses

The Eucharist, simply put, is God.  The Eucharist is God the Son, fully present in our world.  It is Jesus, the eternal Son of God, fully present.  The Eucharist is His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  

God is made present to us in this form through the use of signs and symbols.  But we should not fail to believe that the Eucharist is much more than signs and symbols.  It could be said that the bread is a symbol of His Body, and the wine is a symbol of His Blood.  This is true, but it is also far from complete.  We must follow up that statement by saying that the bread, a symbol of His Body, actually becomes His Body, and the wine, a symbol of His Blood, actually becomes His Blood.  We call this Transubstantiation.  That’s a big word with a lot of meaning.

“Transubstantiation” means that the substance is transformed.  It’s changed.  But it also means that the external aspects of the bread and wine remain the same.  They do not change to our sight, taste, touch or smell.  They look the same, feel the same and taste the same.  But they are not the same in their essence.  

Try to imagine two primary parts of a piece of bread and a glass of wine.  There are the external aspects and the essence.  The external aspects are all those perceptible by the senses.  But the essence is not perceptible in any way.  

By analogy, it could be like closing your eyes and smelling a rose-scented perfume.  Your nose tells you that a rose is before you; but, in reality, it is a manufactured fragrance.  Your nose is deceived as to the essence of what is before you.  It’s not an actual rose, it’s just chemicals.  The exact opposite is true with the Eucharist.  In fact, the Eucharist is even more “deceiving” in that all of our senses detect only bread and wine.  We can break the bread and hear it crack, taste it, etc.  Our senses tell us this is bread.  But, in essence, it has been transformed into God, in the Person of Jesus the Son.

In order to understand this properly, we need a sort of “sixth sense.”  We need the spiritual sense of faith.  Faith is a gift by which we come to know, with certainty, that this is no longer bread.  Rather, it is God.  It is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of God the Son. 

No amount of studying, reasoning, or arguing will convince us of this truth.  But faith will.  In fact, faith will convince us so deeply that we can come to believe with our whole being.  And this is a conviction and level of belief that we can never arrive at using only our five senses or reasoning ability.  

If this is hard to believe, then it’s a sign that God wants to deepen your faith in the Eucharist.  He wants you to meet His divine presence there in the depth of your soul.  He wants you to know Him, love Him, adore Him and surrender your life to Him in this precious gift.

If you want to fully grasp the Mass and understand the full meaning of the Holy Eucharist, then you must understand this most precious gift from three perspectives.  All three together make up the full meaning and reality of the Eucharist.  These three perspectives are as follows: Sacrifice, Sacrament, and Communion.  Let’s start with Sacrifice.

The One Eternal Sacrifice

We must begin with an understanding of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.  Jesus, the Son of God, took on our fallen human nature and died for us once and for all.  In His suffering and death, He destroyed death itself by rising victorious.  But His death was a real death, and it was the perfect sacrifice and atonement for all our sins.  

Therefore, the Mass is called, among many things, “The Holy Sacrifice.”  It is called this because that is what it is.  Look at it this way: Jesus’ death on the Cross took place almost 2,000 years ago.  We were not there.  Or were we?  The truth is that every time we participate in the Mass, we are present at Calvary.  And we are not only present, we are participants.  Every time we attend the Mass, it is as if time ceases and we enter into this timeless moment of the Sacrifice of Christ.  We are there, not so much historically; rather, we are there essentially, truly and spiritually.  Our soul is present to the Sacrifice of the Cross, and we are able to share in the fruits of that Sacrifice.  

Again, this takes faith to understand, believe and experience.  But remember that faith is not just believing.  Faith is knowing.  In this case, it’s a “knowing” that enables us to also participate in that which takes place.  Faith enables us to share in the one Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross made present to us through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Perhaps that’s a bit deep.  The Eucharist is deep!  The Sacrifice of the Mass is a profound reality like none other.  Sit and prayerfully ponder it.  God will help you understand and make sense of it.  And when you do begin to understand, you will start to appreciate the Mass like you never have before.

The Divine Sacrament Made Present

The Last Supper was the beginning act of the Sacrifice of the Cross.  At that first Mass, Jesus took bread and said, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it.  This is my Body.”  He then took the precious chalice of wine and said, “This is my Blood.”

It’s important to see that this Last Supper, the first Mass, continued from that Holy Thursday evening through Friday on the Cross and culminated in the Resurrection on Sunday.  The Mass is this entire event of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection all in one.  

The fruit of the Mass is the gift of His True Presence under the appearance of bread and wine.  This is the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.  By “Sacrament” we mean here that the same God in Heaven, the same Eternal Son, is made present to us under the form of bread and wine.  So, as we genuflect and kneel before the Holy Eucharist, we are kneeling before God Himself.  This is an amazing reality and one that should leave us in awe every time we enter a church and see the tabernacle.  It’s an amazing reality that should draw us into an adoration chapel where the Eucharist is exposed for us to pray before His presence.  God is truly with us in this precious gift.

Transforming Communion

As we said above, the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present through the celebration of the Mass.  The fruit of this Sacrifice is the Sacramental True Presence of Christ our Lord hidden under the form of bread and wine.  But these two essential aspects are not the end.  God wants to take this wondrous gift one step further.  He wants to unite Himself with us through Holy Communion.  It is a command of Christ that we attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation, but it’s an act of love that invites us to a worthy reception of Holy Communion.

Holy Communion is the ultimate goal of the Eucharist.  The reason Christ sacrificed Himself on the Cross and offered Himself in His Body and Blood is so that we can receive Him into our very soul through Holy Communion.  This is what it’s all about.  This is the pinnacle!  In fact, the Holy Eucharist is spoken of as both the source of our Christian life and also the summit.  What a grace! 

“Communion” means “union with.”  And “union” means there is a transformation of two into one.  That, of course, is what the reception of Holy Communion does.  It enables us to let Jesus unite Himself with us in our human nature.  And in this unity, we share not only in His death, we also share in His resurrection from death.  This “death to sin and resurrection to new life” now becomes part of who we are.  This is what the Christian life is all about.  We see these truths clearly revealed in John’s Gospel:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (Jn 6:53–56)

The last line, especially, reveals the unity that is established as a result of reception of the Holy Eucharist.  To have Jesus remain in us and we in Him is the ultimate fruit of the Holy Mass.

The Mass Explained

The Mass follows a set liturgical formula, which in itself is filled with meaning.  The many meanings within this ritual action of the Mass can easily be missed.  Let’s walk through the entire Mass and briefly touch on its meaning.  Understanding what we do, why we do it and what it all means will help us to celebrate the Mass with much deeper faith and devotion.

Entrance Rite: This beginning part of the Mass can be broken up into four parts: 1) Procession (with entrance antiphon); 2) Act of Penance; 3) Gloria; 4) Opening Prayer.  The ultimate purpose of this entire rite is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves to listen properly to God’s Word and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.  Let’s look at each part of this entrance rite and highlight the meaning found within.

Entrance Antiphon (song): The purpose of this chant is to begin the celebration of the Holy Mass, to foster unity among all those present, to draw their thoughts into the wondrous mystery of the particular liturgical season or celebration, and to accompany the liturgical procession of the priest celebrant and the ministers who will assist with the Mass.  This is done through the beautiful act of singing.  The many voices join together in the one melodious proclamation of faith.  The ideal is that the antiphon of the day is sung.  However, it is permissible that another appropriate song be sung.  The key here is the unity established by the song and text of that song.   

Procession: As the song is sung, the procession takes place.  It is led by the Cross, which symbolizes that our journey through this world toward Heaven is made possible only by the Cross.  The Mass servers and the ordained ministers participate in the procession.  They, together, represent all the faithful on this journey toward Heaven.

Greeting: 1) The Sign of the Cross begins the greeting.  This is a powerful gesture.  We call on God’s Name—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—which should always be the beginning of prayer.  2) The priest then says, “The Lord be with you.”  This initial greeting is a reassurance of God’s love and fidelity to be with each person who approaches the Holy Mass and offers a promise of His presence in their lives so as to fulfill the mission He is giving them as Christians.  3) The congregation then responds, “And with your spirit.”  This is not simply a friendly gesture as if to say “greetings and blessings to you, too, Father!”  Rather, the reference to the priest’s “spirit” is a reference to his ordination.  Thus, it is an acknowledgment on the part of the faithful that the priest is there in the person of Christ by virtue of his ordination.  So they are actually acknowledging Christ’s presence as the Liturgy begins.  This should also remind us that the role of the priest, at that moment, is to be a sacramental minister and instrument of Christ.  Therefore, it’s not his time to be funny or to emphasize his personality.  Rather, the priest must strive to “disappear,” so to speak, and strive to conform himself to the Person of Christ.

Act of Penance: The act of penance is all about preparation.  If you had a party at your house, you would prepare for it.  Or, if you had an important project at work, you’d prepare.  So it is with the Mass.  The best way we can prepare is to seek the mercy of God through the forgiveness of our sins.  Of course, seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness is something we must do every day, all day.  But, even if we just went to confession prior to Mass, it is appropriate to insert this immediate preparation for Mass in the opening rites.

One option for this act of penance is to pray the Confiteor (I confess to almighty God…).  In this prayer, we make a triple acknowledgment of our sins by saying, “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”  While speaking this, we are to strike our breast as a sign of our sorrow.

We also speak the Greek Kyrie at this moment.  The Greek ties us to ancient Christians, since this was the language they spoke.  It is the only Greek we use in the Liturgy in the Latin Rite. We say, Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy).  Again, we have a triple plea for mercy.  Three is the number of perfection and fullness and, therefore, is a way of saying, “Lord, please shower the perfection and fullness of your mercy upon us.”

Gloria: The Gloria is a response to the Kyrie.  Just as cooking prepares for a meal or Advent prepares for Christmas, so also begging for mercy prepares us to receive it.  Therefore, upon asking for mercy, we immediately rejoice with the Gloria as a way of acknowledging that the mercy we have asked for is given to us.

Opening Prayer: The priest then says or sings, “Let us pray.”  He takes a moment of silence and then prays the prayer called the “Collect.”  This prayer gathers all the prayers of the faithful into one and offers them to the Father.  This prayer concludes the Introductory Rites.

Liturgy of the Word: The Liturgy of the Word includes the following parts of the Mass: 1) First Reading; 2) Psalm; 3) Second Reading (on Sundays and Solemnities only); 4) Gospel; 5) Homily; 6) Creed (on Sundays and Solemnities only); 7) Prayers of the Faithful.  

God is truly present in this world in many ways.  Scripture is one of those ways that God makes Himself present to us.  When the Scriptures are proclaimed, Christ Himself is proclaimed and made present.  Therefore, the Liturgy of the Word is a true manifestation of Christ through the hearing of the Word of God.  

There is one subtle aspect of the Liturgy of the Word that reveals our understanding of the presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Scriptures.  This subtlety is that, after the readings are proclaimed, the lector says, “The Word of the Lord.”  And after the Gospel is proclaimed, the priest or deacon says, “The Gospel of the Lord.”  The wording of that conclusion acknowledges that the “Word of God” was just made present, not just the “words of God.”  In other words, the proclamation of Scripture is a manifestation of Jesus, the Eternal Word.  The Scriptures are alive.  The Word of God is living.  God is truly present as His Word is proclaimed.  He is the Word that is proclaimed.  The Word is a Person before it is spoken or written.

Contrast this to a public reading of something like the U.S. Constitution.  A public reading of this document does not literally make the founding fathers present to us; rather, it only makes present their words and ideas.  But Scripture is much different.  By being a Living Word, we understand that Jesus is very much alive, and that the hearing of Scripture is a hearing of the literal Person of Christ Himself.  He is there.  This reveals that in the Liturgy of the Word, we do not just hear about God or His ideas; rather, we hear God, meet God and are transformed by God Himself.  This also reveals the deeply personal nature of the public reading of the Word of God.  Therefore, the next time you are at Mass, try to understand that as the Scriptures are proclaimed, Jesus Himself is there speaking to you.

Let’s take a look at the various aspects of the Liturgy of the Word in more detail:

Sunday Readings: The Sunday readings are on a three-year cycle.  This means that over a three-year period, we hear the entire Bible.  We do not actually cover every single verse of the Bible during these three years, but we do cover much of it.

The First Reading and Gospel are, for the most part, tied together.  Often, we will hear in the First Reading an Old Testament verse that prefigures or points to its fulfillment in the Gospel.  So, for example, in the First Reading, we may read about the manna in the desert from the story of the Israelites wandering the desert for forty years.  Then, in the Gospel, we may hear about the new manna, the Eucharist.  Most of the time there will be a connection, so it’s good to try to listen for that connection so as to understand the unity of the Old Testament with the New Testament.  

The Psalm is a song of praise and is often read in an antiphonal way (like the refrain of a song being repeated after each verse). 

The Second Reading is from the New Testament and is often an exhortation.  It comes from a letter in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, or Revelation.  This reading stands on its own and is not intentionally tied to the Gospel or Old Testament except for special feasts.

The Gospel is the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word and stands out for its reverence.  We stand, sing the Alleluia, have a procession with the Gospel book and may use incense and candles.  It is also read only by the priest or deacon.  The Gospel is not only a sharing of the very words and actions of Christ; it is also a proclamation of the very Person of Christ, the Word of God.  This proclamation presents us with the fullness of revelation.

Homily: The homily is not simply a talk or explanation of the Scriptures.  The homily is actually part of the Liturgy itself.  Therefore, it is a prayer.  And as a prayer, it is a heart-to-heart conversation between God and His people.  Sure, not every homily is experienced that way, but if we are open, we will discover that God will speak to us.  This happens all the more when the priest or deacon is truly immersed in Christ by his personal holiness.  But it can also happen even when the homilist is not particularly holy.  God speaks regardless of the instrument, and we ought to listen.

The homily also presumes one listens in faith.  In other words, it is not necessarily an initial evangelization or teaching of the faith.  It’s spoken from the heart of Jesus to the hearts of the faithful, those who already believe.  However, even this experience will have the effect of helping to evangelize those who need it the most.

Creed: The Creed is the public profession of our faith.  It’s a tightly packed summary of all that we believe.  The Creed is summarized in Book One of this series, My Catholic Faith!.  So, if you have not had the opportunity to read that book, your weekly profession of the Creed at the Sunday Liturgy would be greatly enhanced by doing so.  

Remember that “belief,” as a response to revelation, produces the gift of faith.  This is what should take place in the profession of the Creed.  Professing the Creed should not simply be a professing of what we have chosen to believe for other reasons.  It must be the fruit of the gift of faith in our souls.  It must be the fruit of God speaking to us, revealing Himself to us, and us assenting to that revelation.

Starting in Advent, 2011, the English-speaking world began using a new translation of the Mass, and, within that new translation, there was a new translation of the Nicene Creed.  One notable change to point out is the change from “We believe” to “I believe.”  This change was made so as to be more faithful to the original Latin text, but it also points to the very personal nature of our profession of faith.  Faith must be personal.  It must by “my” faith.  Strive to make your profession of the faith just that.

Intercessions: The Intercessions conclude the Liturgy of the Word and are intended to be “general” intercessions for the entire Church and by the entire Church.  In these General Intercessions, we especially pray for: the Church, the civil authorities, the salvation of the whole world, those burdened by any sort of difficulty (suffering, sick, hurting, evil), local needs, and for those who have died.

So the Liturgy of the Word concludes and gives way to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  The ultimate goal of the Liturgy of the Word is to prepare us to participate more fully in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  It must enkindle within us a deeper faith and a strong desire to move into the celebration of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the manifestation of His Sacred Body and Blood, and our union with Him in Holy Communion.

Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the highpoint of the Mass.  It’s also the summit of our entire faith and worship.  There is no more perfect way to worship God than to enter into the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, adore His divine presence and receive Him in Holy Communion.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist involves the following parts: 1) Preparation of the Gifts; 2) Eucharistic Prayer; 3) Communion Rite.  Within each of these three parts, there are various prayers and gestures of great significance.  Let’s look at each.

Preparation of the Gifts: This part of the Mass includes the preparation of the altar, the presentation of the gifts of bread and wine, and the preparation of those gifts at the altar by the priest and deacon.  This action is also called the “offertory,” which better illustrates the sacrificial nature of the action.  

After the altar is prepared with the chalice, Missal, cloths, etc., there are the basic gifts offered: bread and wine.  Some cultures also offer: wax (for candles), flowers, fruit, wool (for vestments), honey, oil, and money.  Most often only bread and wine are brought forward, but any of these gifts may be presented.  Additionally, in some cultures there are gifts brought forward for the sustenance of the priest, such as fruit, honey and oil.  These gifts should come from the hard work of one’s hands, which represents the personal investment through the sacrifice of labor.  The priest acknowledges this fact in the prayer he prays as the gifts are initially offered to God.  He says they are “fruit of the earth and work of human hands (a joint gift from God and His people).”

Bread symbolized basic sustenance in the ancient world (not just a side dish), and wine symbolized the gift of superabundance.  God does not need our gifts. Rather, He invites us to enter into His offering because we need to give.  Additionally, in the offering, we should see our lives and our personal sacrifices presented to God.  As the gift of wine is prepared, the priest states, “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.”  As he says this, he adds a drop of water to the chalice, which symbolizes humanity being immersed in divinity.  We are that single drop, and we must become consumed by the Blood of Christ and His divinity.

The priest then washes his hands, which is symbolic of him purifying himself before entering into the “Holy of Holies.”  Afterwards, he addresses the congregation with the following: “Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours…”  This is important because it indicates that there are two sacrifices taking place, united as one.  First, there is the sacrifice the priest is offering, which is the one Sacrifice of Christ.  Second, there is the sacrifice the people offer, which is their own personal sacrifice united to the Sacrifice of Christ.  This unity of sacrifices ensures that the sacrifices we bring will be received by the Father as if they were coming from Christ the Son.

Eucharistic Prayer: The Eucharistic Prayer can be broken up into ten different parts.  Let’s briefly look at each one of these so as to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning and effect of this prayer.

The Preface begins with “The Lord be with you.”  It continues with an exchange of statements of faith, and then the priest enters into a prayer of thanksgiving.  This prayer concludes by acknowledging that we are joined by the angels and saints in their song of praise.

The song of praise we pray with the angels and saints is the SanctusSanctus means “holy” and is repeated three times to state that God is thrice holy—or the holiest of all.  We cry out, “Holy, holy, holy…”  This also shows we are joined with the Heavenly Liturgy, as seen in the Book of Revelation 4:8.  

Epiclesis: The Third Eucharistic Prayer uses the following words for the epiclesis: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your spirit upon them like the dewfall.”  This prayer is the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts so as to begin their transformation from ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.  

Words of Consecration: The priest then enters into the heart and center of the Eucharistic Prayer by repeating the very words of Jesus as He instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  He says, “This is my Body…this is my Blood.”  With the proclamation of these words, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ Jesus.  

Mysterium Fidei: The priest states, “The Mystery of Faith.”  This acknowledges the sacramental presence of Christ on the altar, the fruit of the Consecration.  It’s a statement of faith,and the people respond with an acclamation of faith, expressing profound wonder and awe at the incredible mystery before us, such as “Save us Savior of the world, for by Your Cross and Resurrection, You have set us free.”

Anamnesis: In this prayer, the priest expresses our need to tell God what we participate in—the offering of His Son to Him!  For example, “Therefore, O Lord, we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of Your Son, his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven…”  In this prayer, we recall that we now celebrate the memorial of His suffering and death so as to share in the Resurrection.  We also thank Him for the joy of being able to participate in this precious gift.  

Offering:  The priest now offers himself and the Church, uniting us all to the one Sacrifice of Christ offered to the Father.  Once united to the Sacrifice of Christ, we offer ourselves to the Father in Christ as He is offered to the Father.

Intercessions: The priest then prays for those present at the Mass, for all who are in a state of grace (the whole Church), and for all who have died and are receiving the grace from this Mass.

Doxology: “Through Him, with Him and in Him…”  This prayer, prayed by the priest as he lifts the Body and Blood of Christ, echoes the words of St. Paul in that all things are done in, with and through God for His glory (see Ephesians 1).  The doxology is then affirmed by God’s people with the great Amen!

The Rite of Holy Communion: The Rite of Holy Communion encompasses all the prayers and actions that immediately prepare us to receive this precious gift.  These include: 1) The Our Father; 2) The Sign of Peace; 3) The Fractioning; 4) The “Beholding;” 5) Holy Communion; 6) The Communion antiphon; 7) The Closing Prayer; 8) The Blessing.  Let’s look at each of these actions in more detail.

Our Father: This prayer will be covered in more detail in Chapter Eleven, but we should also say a few words about it here.  The “Our Father” prayer establishes the fact that, because of our “Communion” with Jesus, we are also children of the Father.  We are brothers and sisters of Christ and, therefore, also children of His Father.  This prayer also reveals and professes our continual entering into a deeper intimacy with the Father through Communion with Jesus.

Sign of peace: Communion not only establishes a deeper unity with God, it also establishes a deeper unity and intimacy with one another.  Thus, the Sign of Peace is a symbolic way of expressing the communion we have with one another.

Fractioning: In the fractioning, the priest breaks the Host in two and then drops a small piece in the chalice full of the Precious Blood.  There are two meanings here to point out:  1) This reveals a connection with the pope.  There was an early custom of bringing a fragment from the pope’s Mass to other churches and placing that fragment in the chalices at each church as a way of showing the unity between all of the faithful united under the Holy Father.  2) During the Eucharistic Prayer, there is a separate consecration of the Body and Blood.  The fact that they are consecrated separately points to the death of Christ (the separation of Christ’s Body and Blood by the pouring out of His blood).  But during this rite, there is a commingling of the two.  This commingling points to the Resurrection in that the Body and Blood now are joined together once again.

The “Beholding:” Next, the priest holds up the 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.”  These words include those from St. John the Baptist as Jesus came walking toward him to be baptized (see John 1:29).  The words reveal the sacrificial aspect of the Mass by calling Jesus the “Lamb of God.”  He was the Lamb who was the Sacrifice for our sins.

In response to beholding the Lamb, we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  This is an expression of humility and faith and is taken from the words of the Roman centurion when he did not feel worthy to have Jesus come to his house to heal his servant (see Matthew 8:8).

Holy Communion: Now we come to the ultimate reason Jesus offered the Sacrifice of His life and memorialized it in the Mass; namely, so that we could receive Him in Holy Communion.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux reveals the proper disposition we should have for Holy Communion in her autobiography, Story of a Soul.  She says about her first Holy Communion:

How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart—it was truly a kiss of love. I knew that I was loved and said, “I love You, and I give myself to You forever.” Jesus asked for nothing, He claimed no sacrifice. Long before that, He and little Thérèse had seen and understood one another well, but on that day it was more than a meeting—it was a complete fusion. We were no longer two, for Thérèse had disappeared like a drop of water lost in the mighty ocean. Jesus alone remained—the Master and the King.

Holy Communion must become deeply personal and deeply intimate.  It must become that divine “fusion” St. Thérèse spoke of.  In the reception of this holy Sacrament, our hearts and souls are made one with Christ if we let Him in.  And that’s the key.  We have to let Him in.

Receiving Holy Communion is not automatic.  Just because we walk up in the communion line and receive Him doesn’t mean that we have truly received Him.  We have to dispose ourselves, prepare ourselves and let Him come to us and draw us into the communion He desires with us.  Our responsibility is to respond openly and generously to His invitation to divine union. 

Communion Antiphon: The Communion Antiphon, which can also be a hymn, has the effect of uniting all those receiving Communion.  It also provides meditation on the theme of the Mass, Scripture of the day, or liturgical season.  

Closing Prayer: The Closing Prayer concludes the Rite of Communion by acknowledging what we have just received in a prayer of thanks and petition that our Communion will bear much fruit.

Blessing: The priest concludes the Mass by the blessing in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and the deacon then proclaims the dismissal.  Two of the options for the dismissal are “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” and “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”  These words of dismissal present a clear commission to bring Christ to the world.  Our communion with God must have the effect of overflowing into our daily life.  We must evangelize to the ends of the Earth! 

Hopefully this summary of the various parts of the Holy Mass will help you enter more deeply into worship in a personal and committed way each time you attend.  The Mass is the greatest act on Earth, and we should be in awe every time we attend!

Next: Chapter 6: The Sacrament of Penance

Return to Table of Contents

Also Available in eBook & Paperback – Google Play – iTunes – Barnes and Noble

Share this Page: