The Mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection
The Mass is the greatest prayer. The celebration of Mass makes present for us the Mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.
It is the source and summit of our lives in Christ. Let us take a look at the parts of the Mass and deepen our understanding of this great treasure.
The Sign of the Cross and the Greeting tells us who we are as we gather to enter into the Mystery of Our Lord’s Death and Resurrection. We are the people of God signed by the Cross of Christ and given life in Baptism by God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Penitential Rite gives us the opportunity to acknowledge our sinfulness as we approach the Sacrifice of Christ that destroys sin and brings us back into right relationship with God.
The Gloria is a hymn that leads us to praise, glorify, adore, thank, and ask our Triune God for all we, His sons and daughters, need as we beg His mercy.
The Opening Prayer or “Collect” collects the intentions of the people assembled and presents them to God by the priest who stands in persona Christi (in the person of Christ).
In the Reading from the Old Testament we hear the story of God’s covenant with His chosen people Israel and the revelation of Himself that speaks of His mercy and desire for their salvation.
The Responsorial Psalm is the faithful’s response of praise and thanksgiving to God’s Word in the first Reading. It reminds us that we are not passive listeners to the Word; we are in a relationship of love with the Word of God.
The Second Reading from the New Testament tells us of God’s New and Eternal Covenant forged in the Blood of His Son who is the Word Made flesh.
The Gospel is a proclamation of an event from the life of Our Savior. In the readings from Holy Scripture that are not taken from the Gospel, it is God who speaks to His people. But when the Gospel is proclaimed, it is specifically Christ Jesus, true God and true man, who speaks to us.
The Homily is a vital part of the liturgy of the Mass that explains the Holy Scriptures and instructs us in the Faith.
The Profession of Faith (the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) is the ancient formula of beliefs that unites the people assembled with the Universal Church of all ages in their expression of their Faith in Christ.
The General Intercessions or Prayer of the Faithful offers prayers to God for the Church, the world, and the needs of people both living and dead.
The Preparation Rite is the offering of the bread and wine brought to the altar by the priest on behalf of the people of God assembled. The people participate in the offering by virtue of their baptism into the priestly people of God.
The Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) is the prayer of praise and adoration taken from the book of Prophet Ezekiel in which the seraphim ceaselessly worship God. It tells us that the liturgy of heaven is united to the liturgy of the Church on earth.
The Eucharistic Prayer makes present the Mystery of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Christ’s Sacrifice of the Cross, His offering to the Faith of Himself for the salvation of the world is re-presented on the altar. At the words of consecration the bread and wine brought to the altar become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The baptized are called to participate in the Sacrifice of Christ that is made present through the ministry of the ordained priest.
The Our Father begins the Rite of Communion. We are faithful to Jesus’ command to pray in the words He taught us. The priest prays for deliverance from evil, peace, and freedom form anxiety as we wait for the coming of Christ Our Savior in glory.
The priest extends a greeting of Christ’s peace to all present in the assembly. It is not a peace that the world can give but one that has been won at the price of the Cross. The faithful share a sign of peace with one another.
The priest co-mingles a portion of the Sacred Host that he has broken in the chalice of the Precious Blood. The faithful sing the Agnus Dei. “Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace.” Christ is the Lamb slain for our offenses, His Body broken and His Blood spilled for us. We beg His mercy and grace.
The priest elevates the Sacred Host and Precious Blood and proclaims, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are they who are called to His supper.” We confess our unworthiness and ask for Healing that His Passion, Death, and Resurrection affords.
The moment of Communion has arrived. The faithful go forward to receive His Sacred Body and Precious Blood. This reception of the Holy Eucharist effects communion between the individual and God and among the individual members of the Body of Christ.
After the Communion Hymn a time of silence for personal prayer of thanksgiving follows. This, too, is a sign of unity among those who have received the Holy Eucharist. The Prayer after Communion is offered by the priest to bring the prayers of all into one expression.
The priest then blesses the people in the name of the Holy Trinity and dismisses all to go forth to witness to Christ in the world.
No one is a mere spectator at Mass. All of the baptized are invited to participate in the Sacred Mysteries by full, conscious, and active participation. This participation is not limited to external expression. It must also be an interior expression of faith and adoration. The Mass is an awesome treasure! It is Christ’s work of salvation active in our midst.
Prepared by – Rev. William J. Waltersheid
Diocese of Harrisburg 2005
Currently Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh PA