The Mass

What Does The Eucharist Mean?

We cannot understand the Mass unless we understand the Last Supper. We cannot understand the Last Supper unless we understand the Jewish Passover meal. We cannot understand the Passover meal unless we understand what it celebrated; namely the Exodus deliverance of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt.

Therefore, any discussion of the Mass must respect the unalterable fact that what Jesus and His disciples were doing at the Last Supper was celebrating a ritual meal. What were they ritualizing in this Passover meal? Liberation. Freedom. God stepped into Israel’s history and by his mighty power delivered the Israelites when they did not expect it. God showed them mercy and compassion when they knew they did not deserve it. Out of love God did this. Out of love he formed a covenant with them.The Exodus became for them the paradigm of all kinds of deliverance and freedom. The Passover meal celebrated what God had done, could do, would do. He would lead his people everlastingly into freedom.

What are the terms used in the past to mean The Eucharist?

One of the oldest terms for the Eucharist Celebration was the Lord’s Supper, used by Paul and other early Christian writers. It highlights the meal aspect and it is the Risen Christ who is present.

Another term was the breaking of the bread. It was used to identify the whole Eucharistic rite. Breaking of bread was the sign of recognition for the two disciples in Emmaus that the person who had joined them was Jesus and meant sharing the Body of Christ.

Then the Greek term Eucharist, meaning praise and thanksgiving, has been used since the beginning of the 2nd Century. Ignatius of Antioch used Eucharist to mean the meal ritual as a whole. Later it referred only to the prayer of thanksgiving. Augustine used the word to refer to the Consecration. We now use Eucharist to mean the whole Eucharistic Liturgy.

The word Liturgy was used to mean both the ministry of those who were to provide service to the believers and to divine worship. By the 4th Century the word has been used mainly by the Eastern Church to refer to the whole Eucharistic Celebration. The Western Church didn’t use the term until the 18th Century.The word Mass has been used mainly in the Western Church since the 4th Century. It comes from the Latin word missa meaning dismissal. Catechumens were dismissed in a solemn way by the bishop after the Liturgy of the Word. The first dismissal must have impressed the others when they saw all the people exiting together from their meeting. The terms Communion, Oblation, used in parts of the Church until the 6th Century focused on the material gifts of bread and wine, which were to be offered, and Sacrament of the Altar was used in the Middle Ages.

The Parts Of The Mass

Introductory Rites

  • Entrance Procession and Song
  • Sign of the Cross
  • Greeting
  • Opening Rite-Penitential Rite
  • Glory to God
  • Opening Prayer

Liturgy of the Word

  • First Reading
  • Responsorial Psalm
  • Second Reading
  • Gospel Acclamation
  • Gospel F. Homily
  • Creed-Profession of Faith
  • General Intercessions

Liturgy of the Eucharist

  • Preparation of the gifts-taking
  • Preparation of the Altar
  • Presentation of the Gifts Prayer over the Gifts

The Eucharistic Prayer

  • Dialogue and preface Acclamation: Holy, Holy
  • Invocation of the Holy Spirit
  • Institution narrative Memorial offering
  • Intercessions Doxology and Great Amen

Communion Rite

  • Lord’s Prayer Greeting of PeaceBreaking of Bread Lamb of God
  • Communion Procession Silent Prayer
  • Prayer after Communion

Concluding Rite

  • Announcements
  • Greeting
  • Blessing
  • Dismissal

The Order of the Eucharist Celebration

Through The Years

150 Rome

  • A reader proclaimed texts from the memoirs of the apostles and from the prophets.
  • The bishop urged everyone to put into practice the teachings of the Lord.
  • The people then stood for prayer.
  • The bread, wine and water were brought forward and the bishop offered prayers and thanksgiving (The Eucharist Prayer) and everyone said Amen.
  • The deacons gave communion to those present and brought it to those who were absent.
  • Offerings were collected from those who had the means and given to the bishop, who looked after those in need.

6th Century Rome

  • Introductory Rites
    • Psalm sung by choir as clergy enter ending with doxology
    • Litany of 18 petitions sung, with people answering in Greek: Kyrie eleison
    • Glory to God sung, in Masses by Pope on feasts, by other clergy on Easter; people join in singing this hymn
  • Liturgy of the Word
    • First Reading (clerics replaced readers in Rome in 6th Century)
    • Responsorial Chant: psalm
    • Second reading
    • Alleluia cantor alternating with people – Gospel – Homily
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist
    • Preparation of the gifts
    • Singing of the psalm by choir as people bring gifts to altar or as clergy collect their gifts
    • Presider concludes with prayer over the gifts, aloud
  • Eucharistic Prayer
    • Preface with dialogue – Sanctus
    • Rest of Canon including intercession, memento for the dead, and occasionally a blessing
    • Doxology and great Amen
  • Communion Rite
    • Break loaves for communion – Our Father
    • Singing of psalm by choir as people go to communion or as they remain in place and clergy go
  • Concluding Rite: Dismissal

1500’s to 1900’s

  • Introductory Rites
    • Singing of Entrance Antiphon called introit while priest and assistants quietly alternated the prayers at the foot of the altar
    • Response to prayers
    • Two silent prayers said by priest as he approached the altar and kissed it.
    • Priest reads the introit and the triple Kyrie and then the Gloria.
    • While priest sits down the choir then signs the Gloria.
  • Liturgy of the Word
    • Not considered a distinct part of the ceremony, but a continuation of the previous rite.
    • The epistle and the alleluia were read by the celebrating priest from the right side of the altar (the epistle side) and then the book was transferred to the left side for the reading of the gospel (the gospel side).
    • Incense was used in High or solemn Masses.
    • Sermon was not necessary, but if included was done after the gospel.
    • In North America, prayers for the sick and the dead and for other needs were added after the sermon and announcements.
    • Nicene Creed was read or sung and everyone genuflected.
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist
    • Offertory-silent prayers with incensing in High Masses and concluded with the pruest saying the “Secret” (prayer over the gifts)Amen-was placed with the preface dialogue so no distinction was evident between the Preparation of the Gifts and the Eucharistic Prayer.
    • Preface-sung or said aloud. – Sanctus
    • In High Masses the Benedictus was sung after the consecration.
    • The Canon-said in complete silence with bells, incense, elevations and genuflections.
    • Per omnia saecula saeculorum (for ever and ever) spoken aloud.
  • Communion Rite
    • Our Father-spoken or sung by priest alone with a silent Amen.
    • Agnus Dei sung or said.
    • Silent prayer for peace.
    • Two silent prayers said by the priest.
    • Priest received the Consecrated host and wine in silence.
    • Communion of the people (all kneel and receive communion on their tongue.)
    • Silent prayer. -Post-Communion Prayer.
  • Concluding Rites
    • Greeting – Dismissal – Blessing
    • Last Gospel read on gospel side (John1:1-14)
    • Priest also said the canticle of the three young men, Psalm 150 and other prayers while he left the altar.

313 – 9th Century

  • The liturgy became more solemn and the music became more and more ornate.
  • Bishop was still the presider of the prayer of the people and of the life of the people as a whole.
  • Christianity was now more widely accepted with the Edict of Toleration in 313.
  • Christians had begun to construct buildings especially for the liturgical assembly. They could not use the temple that housed a god; they needed a space that housed the people because the people were the dwelling place of the Lord. They decided to use basilicas (public building where courts and public gatherings were held.) They were rectangular and had two or four rows of columns dividing it into three or five naves (halls) and an apse (semi-circular projection) with a chair. For celebrations the ambo and one altar was added.
  • Constantine declared Sunday to be a day of rest in 321 with the markets and courts to be closed.
  • New parts were added to the Eucharist including chants, the Sanctus, and the Lord’s Prayer.A portion of Eucharistic bread consecrated by the bishop of Rome was sent to priests celebrating the Eucharist in the neighbourhood. This piece was dropped into the cup during the breaking of bread and was a sign of unity of the Church.
  • Readers, cantors and choirs all had specific roles in the liturgy.
  • People participated fully and sometimes so enthusiastically they were out of control. Deacons were to direct their participation.
  • No specific vestments were worn by the Bishop or deacons, but they often chose to wear the ceremonial court garments because the long robe was considered dignified.
  • At first only the Bible was used. Eventually prayers handed on through the oral tradition were written down and passed out in small booklets known as Libelli. Around the beginning of the 6th Century these were gathered in.

9th to 12th Century

  • The Liturgy, as it was celebrated in Rome, had spread throughout Italy, except around Milan.
  • The Gregorian Sacramentary was used, with supplementary missals to incorporate local practices.
  • Up to now the priest was at the service of the praying community. During this time period the power a priest was given gave him status that was not given to other Christians and he was the only one able to do certain parts of the Mass. This prompted priests to begin to say the most important prayers silently. During the Mass a priest began to pray over the gifts silently and in time this became known as the secret. This new focus led to clerical celibacy.
  • Priests began to say Mass with their backs to the people. Roman basilicas faced west and the presider faced the direction from which the sun rises when he stood behind the altar. When the Roman Liturgy spread into Gaul, the presider had to stand I front of the altar with his back to the people in order to face east.
  • As the priest’s role as celebrant became elevated, the celebration of a private Mass became more and more common. Private means that the Mass is celebrated at the sole initiative of the priest with no reference to a community, even if it is celebrated for an intention requested by someone else. The priest alone became the celebrant and said all the parts of the Mass that should be read or sung.The plenary missal was introduced as all the texts were collected into cone book and incorporated into the sacramentary.
  • Latin used in the celebration of the Mass only, no longer the language of the people.
  • Liturgical music had become ornate and developed with extra phrases added to the liturgical texts often became a distraction of the liturgical action of the moment.
  • Using unleavened bread became wide-spread in the 11th century. The practice of receiving the Eucharistic Bread on the tongue spread and also kneeling when they received because it was viewed as being more reverent. The Greek practice of dipping the Eucharistic Bread into the chalice was not allowed. Communion of the people is no longer mentioned. Communion was no longer an important part of the Eucharistic Celebration, and bread consecrated previously began to be used for communion.

12th to 16th Century

  • People’s participation in the Mass was minimal. The Celebration of the Eucharist had become more of a drama which they could only watch.
  • In the first millennium, Christians saw the Eucharist as an action. In the 1200’s an emphasis was placed on the Eucharist outside of Mass. Many people did not take Communion but instead were content to stare at the host. It was called the “gaze that saves.” Because of this, the Fourth Lateran Council had to legislate annual Communion.
  • The host begins to be elevated during the Eucharist Prayer. Because of a controversy over Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist bread, special attention was given to the words spoken and the words were isolated. Also some people who only rarely received communion wanted to at least see the host. The round, flat host was easiest to see. During the last part of the 1200’s the Chalice was also elevated. A bell was rung to emphasize the importance of elevation.
  • The practice of drinking the Eucharist was discontinued. In the early church the normal prayer position was for the presider and the people to stand, face the east, with their hands outstretched. Kneeling was forbidden on the Lord’s Day and throughout the Easter season. A deep bow was made during the Eucharistic Prayer. In the 13th Century, kneeling had replaced the bowing during the elevation and people knelt for most of the Eucharistic prayer, from the Sanctus to communion. For the presider, a genuflection replaced the bow during the the 15th century.
  • In many Churches, a wall separated the liturgical action and ministers from the congregation.
  • Many people believed that looking at the Eucharist host was the same as receiving it in communion so they often left church right after the elevation and would hurry from one church to another and asked that the host be elevated for longer periods. The host was placed in a reliquary and place above the altar for the whole mass. A cult of the blessed sacrament developed.
  • Understanding of who Jesus was changed. People lost sight of his role in the liturgy as mediator and focused on his presence on the consecrated host, where he could be seen but not touched.
  • Greater importance was given to the intercession of Mary and the saints. Feasts of saints in the liturgical calendar multiplied and gained importance to the people.
  • The tabernacle was moved to the main altar from a niche in the sanctuary wall or pedestal.
  • Preaching was no longer done from the chair, but from a high pulpit located in the nave. Preaching was not based on the readings but instead on moral issues and could have been given at any time.
  • Offertory procession was stopped because people’s bread and wine were no longer used for the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
  • The first missal was printed in 1474 and helped to create a more uniform practice of the Liturgy.

Leading to the Church’s Reforms And Vatican II

  • Presper Guerange, a Benedictine monk, Pope Pius X, and Lambert Beaudinin, a Benedictine from Blegium, renewed an interest in the liturgy as a source of spiritual life.
  • A series of booklets containing the translations of the Latin texts became popular and people could actually follow the liturgy. Once people were actually following the liturgical texts, they were eventually allowed to participate by saying some of the prayers in Latin.
  • Easter Vigil restored in 1951 and Holy Week restored in 1955, showed a new understanding of the relationship between the priest and the people.
  • St. Joseph added to the canon in 1962 by Pope John XXIII-first change made in the Eucharistic Prayer for centuries.
  • Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy in 1963 called for simplification of the rites, return to more ancient understanding of symbols, and full, active participation of the people, making the Eucharistic once more the center of Christian life. The reform also called for the Mass to be in the language of the people. The liturgical action was to be at the lectern and from the chair, not just the altar. There was also to be more Scripture Reading during the Mass.
  • Reform of 1964-1965: The epistle and gospel could be read by the priest in the language of the people without having to read them in Latin first. The rest of the Mass was now said in the language of the people with more of the prayers said aloud. In the concluding rite, the blessing was done before the dismissal and the final gospel was dropped.
  • Pope Paul VI published a missal in 1970 and again in 1975 introducing the new structure of the Eucharist celebration, but not the scripture readings. This document was meant to teach and stressed the fact that the assembly is considered the “celebrant.” Although private Masses are permitted, Mass with people present are now the norm.

Introductory Rites: From Supper to Sacrifice; From Sacrifice to Silence

  • The purpose of Introductory Rites is to bring us together into one body, ready to listen and to break bread together. As with any celebration, we need a chance to prepare. We enter the Church as a diverse and scattered community and we unify with our brothers and sisters to celebrate. During this Rite we also enter into a mood of quiet reflection that helps us listen and respond to the Liturgy of the Word.
  • The historical purpose of the Introductory Rites was similar to ours today. It was to help the community gather and form itself and also to prepare the community to listen attentively to the Word of God.
  • The Introductory Rites were not always a part of the order of the Eucharistic Celebration. At the middle of the second century, the presider entered and the Liturgy began immediately with the Readings.
  • By the beginning of the fifth century, most of the parts of the introductory rites appears: first the greeting, then the opening song, and the opening prayer. Over the next few centuries a variety of arrangements and rites were added, but they were not put into any formal structure, but instead were a series of independent rites that the community used to prepare themselves for the liturgy.

Entrance Procession and Song

  • 33-400 – There was not an entrance procession during this time.
  • 5th Century – Beginning of a processional antiphon read.
  • 6th Century – By the sixth century, and entrance psalm was sung in papal ceremonies.
  • 7th Century – In the seventh century the Pope began the Mass by waving his maniple (a scarf he wore on this left arm during Mass.) He would leave the sacristy and process with the choir and his attendants through the people as the song continued. When he would arrive at the altar, the choir would begin to sing the Glory Be. During Penitential Celebrations, the processional chant led to the Lord, Have Mercy. It would be sung while the Glory to God was omitted. The singing of the psalm during the procession added dignity to the action, but musical instruments were not allowed.
  • 9th Century – Antiphon, Opening verse of the Processional Psalm, Doxology, Antiphon.
  • 14th Century – Procession occurred without singing. Singing began when priest reached the foot of the altar.
  • Today – Today the entrance song is used to help us enter into the celebration and lead us into the liturgical season or feast. The song accompanies the entrance procession.

Opening Rites

  • Penitential Rite – The priest invites the people to “call to mind” their sins in silence and to ask God’s forgiveness. In the old Latin Prayer it was “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” meaning through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. The person reciting the prayer would strike his or her breast with each phrase.

Sign Of The Cross

  • The cross as a symbol of Christ’s saving death and resurrection is mentioned frequently in the New Testament.
  • 3rd Century-By the beginning of the third century it was a common Christian practice of marking one’s forehead with a small cross many times during the day in prayer and ordinary activities. We still do this today at the beginning of the Gospel.
  • 4th Century-The seal or sign of the cross made in the baptismal rite was used. This cross was considered a sign of Christ’s ownership over his flock. It was a mark of his protective care.
  • 13th Century-The priest made a sign of the cross as he began to read the opening antiphons and prayers.
  • Today-The words now used with the sign of the cross come from the baptismal command in Matthew. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 We now make the sign of the cross together with the priest after the entrance song.

Opening Rites

  • Before 1000-Penitential Prayers were parts of private rites of prayer and repentance, usually said before the Eucharistic Liturgy or during the procession.
  • 11th Century-This became the prayer said by the priest at the foot of the altar.
  • 16th Century-Prayers were simplified, but they remained the private prayers of the priest.
  • Today-This was a new element added in the 1970 Missal. The “I confess” form prepares the people for the Eucharistic Celebration by way of a confession of sin and a Prayer of Absolution.

Lord Have Mercy

  • It is based on petitions that are used frequently in gospels and psalms and is addressed to Christ.


  • The Greeting tells us that the Lord is present and that the gathering has come about not merely through human initiative but as a response to God who calls the people together.
  • Before Today-There was only one form of greeting used and was said immediately before the opening prayer. “Peace be with you” was used by bishops. This was the greeting that the Risen Lord gave to his apostles. It was used from the 4th Century.“The Lord be with you” comes from both the Old and the New Testament. It tells of Christ’s promise to remain with his people. It can be first dated to the 3rd Century.“And also with you” is our response and this is the greeting at the close of some of Paul’s letters. People also answered the bishop’s greeting with “And with your spirit.”
  • Today-We still use these same greetings, but there are many forms for the priest to us, still one for the bishop. Other greetings are: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” The grace and peace of God our Father.” At this time the priest may also acknowledge any guests or groups present in the church.

Glory to God

  • The Gloria has been a part of the Mass since about the fourth century. In our church we sing “Glory to God in the Highest.” This hymn of praise uses words found in the Gospel of Luke: On the night Jesus was born the angels said; Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors! Luke 2:14

Opening Prayer/Collect

  • At the close of the first part of the Mass the priest will ask us to join our minds in prayer, and after a few moments of silence he will collect our intentions into one prayer to which we all respond Amen, meaning So be it.
  • It is broken into three parts:
    • Invitation to prayer: The priest invites us to join him in a moment of silent prayer by a simply “Let is pray.”
    • Prayer: It is addressed to God the Father followed by an expression of praise for His works, and a petition for the needs of the church.
    • Conclusion: In its last words, these prayers remind us of our relationship of the Trinity: We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever, and ever.”

Liturgy of The Word

  • The Liturgy of the Word is divided into selected readings from the Old and New Testaments, A Responsorial Psalm from the Book of Psalms, a reading from one of the Gospels, a Homily, the Profession of Faith, and the Prayer of the Faithful or General Intercessions.
  • Many non-Catholics are surprised to see us reading from the Bible since Catholics are not well known for their Bible reading. The Truth is the Liturgy is basically biblical. The three readings and the psalm of course are from the Bible, but also the prayers such asHoly, Holy, Holy and the Lord’s Prayer come from the Bible. As well, many of the words and phrases of the prayers throughout the Liturgy are taken from the Bible.
  • The readings are divided into readings for every day of the year and are in a book call a Lectionary. This makes it easier for readers to find their assigned readings on any given day. The readings from Scripture are on a three-year cycle: A B C. There is a Lectionary for weekday Liturgies and a Lectionary for weekend Liturgies. There is also a Lectionary for Children, with more simplified Scriptural readings.
  • The Liturgy of the Word used to be celebrated separately from the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but were soon combined. By the end of the Middle Ages, the Liturgy of the Word was seen as an extension of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and was called “fore-Mass.”

First Reading

  • The First Reading is taken from the Old Testament, except during the Easter season when the Reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles so that the story of the early Church can be told. The reading from the Old Testament is often connected with the Gospel. Jesus is either fulfilling Old Testament prophecy or showing the progress made by the people of Israel toward the mystery revealed by Jesus. We end the reading with an acclamation “The Word of the Lord” while we respond “Thanks be to God.” This says we have heard and understood the Word of God.
  • History
    • The Old Testament, in the early church, was read in public and was the basis of teaching and preaching. The Old Testament Readings dropped out of the Sunday Eucharist except during Lenten weekdays, Ember days (Days appointed by the church for fasting, in each of the four seasons,) and a few other times. Vatican II called for a revision of the liturgy of the word to consist of three readings from prophet, apostle and gospel.
  • Silent Reflection
    • There is a period of silence that is to follow each reading and the homily and it is an important and required part of the celebration. It allows us to reflect on the word we have just heard. It is our chance to actively participate in the Liturgy of the Word and be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm

  • After the first reading we sing the responsorial psalm, which is a meditative response to the first reading. The refrain usually picks out an important part of the season or the day. It comes from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Psalms are filled with joy, praise, thanksgiving, lament, sorrow and many other human emotions. They are an important part of the Jewish prayer. Jesus prayed the psalms an when we pray the psalms, we are praying just as Jesus did. REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS!
  • History
    • Early Church: After the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples sand the hallel psalms: When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:26
    • The singing of the psalms was a practice in the synagogue worship that the first Christians continued. Paul encouraged people to sing psalms.
    • 325: After the Council of Nicaea in 324 the people knew and used the psalms, children learned them by memory, and preachers spoke about them.
    • 1300’s: Augustine preached on the responsorial psalm as one of the scripture readings.
    • Middle Ages: The psalm was shortened to a single verse.
    • Vatican II-Today: Restored to its current length and is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word. It is a meditative response to the First Reading. The refrain usually picks out an important part of the season or the day.

Second Reading

  • The Second Reading is from the New Testament. It is usually one of the letters of Paul or some other Biblical Christian writer. It opens the history of the early Church. It shows how the followers of Jesus dealt with their faith. The letters are filled with advice on how to implement Christianity into our daily lives.
  • About 150AD, Justin said the reader should read as long as time permitted. Because of the practice of semi-continuous reading, lists of readings were developed. Feasts and seasons began to cause frequent interruptions in the pattern. Today the readings are selected from the Book of Revelations, letters of Paul and John during the Easter season, and the letters of James and Paul during the year.
  • Because the Gospel is the good news of salvation, it has always been given a place of honour among the three readings throughout history:
  • Special Reader: It is the role of the priest to proclaim the Gospel. The role was mentioned by St. Jerome in the fourth century. During the Middle Ages there was a special pulpit for reading the Gospel.
  • Special Book: A Gospel book (evangeliary) was used and contained only the Gospel Readings. It was decorated and hand-written. It was carried in procession at the beginning and end of the liturgy. It was kept locked away because of its value.
  • Prayer of Purification: Using words from Isaiah, the deacon prayed to be worthy to proclaim the Gospel and he was blessed by the presiding priest. This was in practice by the 7th Century in Rome.
  • Lights and Incense: These were marks of respect for the emperor and high officials in Rome. They were then used as signs of honour for the presence of Christ in his Word. The custom of lighting candles was a sign of joy when the gospel was read. In the 7th Century, incense was carried before the book and by the 11th Century the book itself was incensed.
  • Standing: All in the Church have stood to hear the Gospel since the early Church.
  • Acclamations: The acclamations at the beginning and end of the Gospel have been used since the 8th Century.
  • Sign of the Cross: Between the 9th and 11th Centuries, making small signs of the cross on the book, the forehead, lips and heart were developed.
  • Kissing the Book: In Rome I the 8th Century, the book was kissed by all the clergy after the Gospel was proclaimed. The congregation kissed it until the 13th Century, but gradually disappeared until only the celebrating bishop or priest kissed the book.

Gospel Acclamation

  • We stand to sing Alleluia before the Gospel because of the presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel. Alleluia is an Easter word meaning “Praise God.” It is our way of proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. During Lent we use a different verse praising the Lord.
  • History
    • In Africa, during Augustine’s time, it was sung every Sunday.
    • 5th Century: In Rome it was sung only on Easter.
    • 6th—7th Century: Sung throughout the Easter season. Gregory the Great allowed it at other times. The final vowel was often prolonged with music as a sign of Christian joy.
    • Middle Ages: Alleluia was omitted from Setuagesima (three Sundays before Ash Wednesday) to the beginning of the Easter Vigil. It was omitted because Christians wanted to fast from the beautiful music written for the words during Lent. A series of Psalm verses replaced it during this time.
    • Today: The acclamation is our expression of joy at the presence of Christ in the proclamation of the good news as well as our faith in the Gospel.


  • The word Gospel means Good News. This reading is taken from one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Cycle A: Matthew, Cycle B: Mark, Cycle C: Luke and John. The Gospel of John is also proclaimed during Lent and the Easter season explaining the mysteries of Easter and Pentecost.
  • The priest introduces the Gospel reading while marking a small cross on his forehead, lips and heart with his thumb while praying silently saying, May these words be in my mind, on my lips and in my heart. In our church we do the same ritual. The priest then concludes the Gospel with the words “This is the Gospel of the Lord” and we respond, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” This is proclaiming our faith in the presence of Christ in the word.
  • At the conclusion of the Gospel, the priest kisses the lectionary. Just as he kissed the altar at the beginning of the Mass to remind himself of its importance, so Father kisses the Gospel to show reverence for the new covenant of Christ.


  • We sit for the homily. The homily is an interpretation of the words proclaimed in terms of life today. The homily is to shed some light on how we may use the Word of God, written centuries ago, in our everyday lives of work, family, and play. This leads us the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The homily if often followed by a few moments of silence during which we thank God for the word we have hears and apply the message of today’s readings to our daily living.
    • Early Church: During the time of Jesus, the synagogue service on the Sabbath included scripture reading and an explanation. In the early centuries of the Church, preaching was the task of the bishop.
    • 3rd Century: By the 3rd Century priests also gave homilies.
    • Middle Ages: In the Middle Ages preaching became strong and began to take place outside the liturgy.
    • Today: The homily is an important part of the liturgy of the word and must be shared on Sundays and holy days and is recommended for all celebrations of the Eucharist.

Profession of Faith

  • We stand to recite the Creed. There are two creeds to choose from: The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. It is more than a list of things, which we believe. It is a statement of our faith in the word we have heard and a profession of the faith that leads us to give our lives for one another as Christ gave his life for us.
  • History: Originally the creed was the Profession of Faith of those about to be baptized at this point in the Mass.
  • Nicene Creed: This is the main prayer used for the Profession of Faith for most of the Church and is encouraged especially at Christmas and Easter. These origins of this prayer came from Nicaea in 325. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon made a summary of the faith expressed in the first two councils. It became part of the Eucharist early in the 6th Century.
  • Apostle’s Creed: This prayer was developed from the profession of faith used during baptism in Rome. In Canada, we have permission to use the apostle’s Creed in the Liturgy.

Liturgy Of The Eucharist

  • The liturgy of the Eucharist has three parts: The preparation of the altar and the gifts, the Eucharist prayer, and the communion rite. In the liturgy of the Eucharist, there are four principle actions: taking, blessing, breaking, and giving. These are the basic actions carried out by Jesus at the Last Supper.
  • Preparation of the Gifts:
    • In the first centuries this was done without ceremony, but in the Middle Ages the rite became quite elaborate. It is again a simpler form and involves taking; taking the gifts and placing them on the altar.
  • Preparation of the Altar:
    • In the early church the deacons carried in a wooden table for the liturgy of the Eucharist. By the fourth century, as large basilicas were built, altars were made of stone. Many Christians used to celebrate the Eucharist over the tomb of a martyr. This is the reason we place relics or portions of a martyr’s body in every altar or altar stone.
    • Today, there is to be one freestanding altar, the table of the Lord, the symbol of Christ the reconciler, the place for the thanksgiving offered in the Eucharistic Prayer. It is covered with at least one cloth. At this time in our church, the altar servers prepare the altar with the placing of the Sacramentary (the red book the presider uses during the Liturgy), the corporal (the small piece of cloth that is carefully unfolded by the altar servers and the body of Christ is placed on this), and the chalice and purificator (the cloth used to wipe the chalice during communion). The altar servers also light the candles at this time.


  • Concern for the poor has always been a part of the Christian tradition. Paul reminded the believers at Corinth to set aside money every week on the Lord’s Day to help the saints. Part of Paul’s teaching is to do good to all, especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.In the early church people would give live animals to the priest for food for the poor.
  • In Rome, 150AD, Justin wrote that in the Eucharist, “…they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word, takes care of all those who are in need.”Today, the collection is taken up at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and money or gifts for the poor and for the Church are then brought forward in procession with the other gifts. At different times of the year there are special collections for the poor.

Offertory Song

  • From the 5th Century, psalms accompanied the procession with the gifts. The psalm was sung with different choirs singing different parts and then as a responsorial psalm. The chant would continue until the procession ended.
  • After 1000, the procession became less frequent and the psalm verses began to drop out. By 1570, two choirs sang the psalm with no response from the congregation. This was dropped by 1970, but the idea of singing during the procession remained.

Procession with the Gifts

  • In the early years the gifts were simply brought to the president for the Eucharist prayer. Around 200AD, deacons brought in the gifts and new Christians brought their offerings for the first time when they came for the celebration of Christian initiation during the Easter vigil.
  • By the 5th Century the procession was accompanied by a musical chant and by the 7th Century the procession had become elaborate, with the pope and his assistants collecting the offerings of bread and wine from the nobles, court officials, and clergy, placing the bread in a cloth or sack that was held by acolytes (someone who assists the priest or pope in the celebration) and the wine being poured into a chalice by a archdeacon.
  • In England and France in the 8th Century the people brought up their bread and wine to the altar, but were not used for consecration because the Church was using unleavened bread and there were few communions.  At this time other gifts besides bread and wine were being offered.
  • By the 9th and 10th Centuries the other gifts became more important than the bread and wine.  Until the 12th Century money became the first gift and the other gifts were only used during special occasions.
  • During the middle of the 20th Century, the procession with the gifts was restored, but it was considered an offering instead of a presentation of the gifts.
  • Today, the procession is in the simple form with members of the congregation bringing the gifts of bread and wine and presenting them top the presider.  This carries on the meaning of the ancient custom when the people brought bread and wine for the liturgy from their homes.  In our Church, the Eucharistic Ministers bring up the collection and gifts to the presider.

Placing the Gifts on the Altar



  • In the early Church this was a very simple act, but as the people’s procession with the gifts became less important rites and private prayer became elaborate with the placing of the gifts on the altar.
  • In the 9th Century the breads were laid on the altar in patterns, usually in the form of a cross.  By 1000, prayers of intercession were added and by the late Middle Ages many prayers had been developed.  In the middle of the 16th Century, prayers of offering were used as well as private prayers anticipating the real offering, which took place during the Eucharistic Prayer.
  • Today, the prayers are shorter and are prayers of blessing God while remembering His great and wonderful works.  The presider says these prayers quietly while the offertory song continues.

Preparation of the Gifts – Bread

  • Jesus used unleavened bread at the Last Supper.  Both leavened and unleavened bread have been used at different times.  From pre-Christian times, loaves had a cross on it to help in the breaking or Christian symbols.  Starting in the 3rd Century the bread was at times braided and formed into a circle called a corona.
  • In the 9th Century the Western Church began using unleavened bread more often because it was the bread used at the Last Supper.  By the 11th Century the West used unleavened bread and East used leavened bread.  Today, we still use unleavened bread made usually from wheat (but not always).  During the Holy Thursday Celebration in our church, baked bread is broken and shared.


  • Wine made from grapes has been the traditional drink of the Eucharist.  As was custom, wine was mixed with water so it would be less of an intoxicant.  By the middle of the 3rd Century the mixture of water and wine was explained as representing the union of Christians with Christ, and like the wine and water, Christ and his Church could not be separated.
  • Today, we use natural and pure grape wine with a little water added to it in the cup.

Incensing The Altar And Gifts

  • In the 9th Century the practice of incensing the gifts was a part of the rite in the north, but was not used in Rome until the 11th Century.  At this time the rite included prayers and
  • incensing of gifts and of those near the altar.  These prayers show incense as a dedication to God, a reminder of his burning love, and a symbol of prayer rising to God like incense.
  • In our Church, incensing of the altar and gifts are to acknowledge and honour the presence of Christ.  Those in the congregation are also incensed since they are the Body of Christ.  This is usually done during the Holy Thursday Celebration.

Washing The Hands

  • This is a symbolic washing.  In the 4th Century, the bishop and the priests around him washed their hands as a symbolic gesture.  The well or fountain at the entrance of the early Christian basilicas was used for this same purpose.  A rite of sprinkling holy water on the people at the main Sunday Mass began.
  • Washing of the hands took place at different times, sometimes before the people brought their gifts forward, sometimes after. Different prayers were added in the Middle Ages, the rite of washing hands was placed after the laying of the gifts on the altar and the incensing. Today, the presider washes his hands before the Eucharistic prayer as an act of ritual purification, a prayer is said for holiness and to be open to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer Over The Gifts

  • Invitation – Many different prayers and formulas were used through the Church’s history. Sometimes the prayers were addressed quietly to the clergy, sometimes aloud to the men and women in the congregation. Today, the presider invites the congregation to pray that the sacrifice to be offered during the Eucharistic prayer will be acceptable and pleasing to God.
  • Prayer – A prayer over the gifts was used in ancient Roman sacramentaries. It contained words like offering, gifts, sacrifice, Eucharist, mysteries. It was addressed to God. After the year 1000, a few prayers were addressed to Christ. In the 8th Century, it became the practice to say the prayer quietly and it was called the “secret”. That remained the practice in our Church until Vatican II, when this prayer was said aloud. Today, it is known again as the prayer over the gifts while keeping the ancient purpose of being the only prayer said over the gifts which have been placed in the altar. The words used in this prayer refer to the sacrifice about to be offered during the Eucharistic prayer. The congregation ends the prayer with Amen.

Liturgy of the Eucharist 

  • The liturgy of the Eucharist has three parts:  the preparation of the altar and the gifts, the Eucharistic prayer, and the communion rite.  In the liturgy of the Eucharist, there are four principle actions:  taking, blessing, breaking, and giving.  These are the basic actions carried out by Jesus at the last supper.

The Eucharistic Prayer

  • The Eucharistic prayer gives life to the action of Jesus blessing.  It is the center and summit of the celebration.  It is a prayer of praise and thanks.  We focus on blessing God for salvation of the world and for Jesusí passage to eternal life.  At the Last Supper Jesus prayed by thanking His Father and it is a model for our prayer.   The Eucharistic prayer is not a collection of individual prayers, but is one prayer based on a Jewish prayer structure of blessing.

The Opening Dialogue

The Lord be with you. / And with your spirit.
Lift up your hearts. / We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. / It is right and just.

  • The opening dialogue is one of the oldest parts of the Eucharistic Liturgy.  It is an invitation to pray that says we are all gathered in unity as the body of Christ.  It is the prayer of Jesus taken up to the Father and that our response to this call is to give thanks.  When we respond we are making a conscious decision to give thanks, to make Eucharist.

The Preface

  • The word preface does not mean introduction, but a public proclamation of praise.  This proclamation begins in the preface and continues throughout the prayer.  There are more than eighty different prefaces.  The presider praises and gives thanks to God through Christ.  We join with Christ in recounting Godís wonderful works of creation and redemption and in thanking God for what he has done in and through Christ.  We are able to express our thanks  for a particular aspect of what God has done in Christ for salvation.  The preface is often connected to a feast or a season as the preface below.  It is used during Christmas.


  • After the preface, we join the presider in a song of glory to the Father with the angels and saints.  With all the angels of heaven we sing our joyful hymn of praise:  Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.

The Invocation (Epiclesis)

  • The presider holds his outstretched hands over the bread and wine and asks God the Father to send his Spirit to sanctify (make holy) the offerings.  Through the presider, we are asking God to first transform the gifts of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and change us in the assembly so we can build up the body of Christ.
  • While the whole Eucharist  prayer is consecratory, in the Roman rite (our church), consecration takes place at the words:  Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness.  Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Institution Narrative

  • The Last Supper is a prayer addressed to God.  It is a proclamation and is a ritual remembering by the Church.  We are asking God to act according to the new covenant established through Jesus’ sacrifice.
  • Before he was given up to death, a death he freely accepted, he took bread and gave you thanks.  He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:  Take this, all of you, and eat it:  this is my body which will be given up for you.  When supper was ended, he took the cup.  Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said:  Take this, all of  you, and drink from it:  this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.  It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.  Do this in memory of me.

Memorial (Anamnesis)

  • With our singing of this acclamation is a proclamation of joy in the risen Christ.  There are several versions of this acclamation:
  • Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
  • Praise to you, Lord Jesus, firstborn from the dead!  Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.  Lord Jesus, come in glory.
  • We are faithful, Lord, to your command:  When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.
  • Christ is Lord of all ages!  Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.  You are the Saviour of the world.
  • In the memorial prayer, we recall Christ’s passion, descent among the dead, resurrection, ascension, and coming in glory.  We recall the fullness of the paschal mystery.
  • In memory of his death and resurrection, we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup.  We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you.
  • This is the offering in the Eucharist.  The offering is of Christ, ourselves in union with Christ, in union with the Father, through Christ who is the way, the truth, the life, and in union with one another.  Through the Eucharist God will give Christians his strength to be true followers of Jesus.
  • May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.


  • The Church is called to be a praying people.  We ask God to remember the Church (the Pope, bishop, and priest), for all its living members, for the dead, and for peace and salvation for the whole human race.
  • Lord, remember your Church throughout the world:  make us grow in love, together with Pope Benedict, and all the clergy.
  • Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; bring them and all the departed  into the light of your presence.
  • Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles, and with all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages.  May we praise you in union with them, and give you glory through your Son, Jesus Christ.


  • In the doxology, a prayer of glory to God, the presider raises the consecrated bread and wine  and prays.  Our Amen is the most important acclamation we sing.  We are confirming and approving what has occurred in the Eucharist prayer.  It is like putting our signature on the prayer.
  • Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Eucharist Prayer II

  • This prayer was introduced in 1968.  It is based on the model prayer given by Hippolytus in the Apostolic Tradition and used around 215AD.  It was known for being simple and short.  When introduced in 1968, the Sanctus, the intercession, the invocation were added.  The Eucharistic prayer is used mainly for weekday liturgies.

Eucharistic Prayer III

  • This prayer was introduced in 1968, but does not have a special preface, but can be used with any preface.  This form of the Eucharistic Prayer was written by Pope Paul VI.  This Eucharistic prayer is suitable for any time of the liturgical year, particularly on Sundays and Feasts.

Eucharistic Prayer IV

  • This prayer was introduced in 1968 and follows the example of Oriental prayers with a long summary of the history of salvation in the part after the preface.  It is the most theological of all the Eucharistic prayers.  It has its own preface, even on days that have a seasonal preface.  This prayer is filled with joy and celebrates redemption.

Eucharistic Prayers for Children

  • In 1974, three new prayers were written.  These prayers are not translation, but adaptations based on the structure of the prayer.

The Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation

  • These prayers are written to be used during the Holy Year 1975, which had Reconciliation as its theme.  The prayers were written to shed light on aspects of reconciliation.  The preface of each cannot be replaced by another and therefore are not used often.

The Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and Occasions

  • These prayers were first approved in 1974.  Canada approved the use of this prayer in 1995.  The preface and intercessions are changeable, depending on the need, while the remaining prayer stays the same.  This was the first time intercessions were changeable.  The four changing formulas are 1.The Church on the way to unity.  2.God guides the Church on the way of Salvation.  3.Jesus, way to the Father.  4.Jesus, the Compassion of God.

The Communion Rite

  • The word communion means “union with”.  During the Communion Rite the congregation shares the table of the kingdom.  It has two main actions: to break (breaking of bread) and to give (in communion procession).  From the beginning, celebrations always involved breaking of bread and offering thanks on the Lord’s Day.  By the year 150, communion of bread and water and wine was given out by deacons to those present on Sunday.  By the middle of the first century, when the Lord’s Prayer and the breaking of the bread were interchanged the form of the communion rite we now use was in place.  At the end of the first century, unleavened bread was used during communion.  The practice of receiving the Eucharist bread on the tongue became the norm and people began to kneel when they received as this was viewed as more reverent.  By the beginning of the second century, communion of the people was no longer an important element of the Eucharist celebration (considered important for the celebrant only).  This led to a period where people’s participation was minimal and the celebration became a drama they could only watch.  As a result, many did not receive communion.  In response to this and a controversy about Christ’s real presence in the Eucharistic bread, special attention was given to the host and it was elevated for all to see.
  • Receiving of both eating and drinking the Eucharist had been the normal form of Communion until the thirteenth century, but discontinued and was only restored Vatican II.

The Lord’s Prayer

  • The Lord’s prayer was given to us by Jesus not only as a prayer, but also a right to address God as our beloved Father. It is found in the Bible and in the Didache (an early Christian work probably written or compiled somewhere between the last part of the first century and probably the first part of the second century as a hand-book for early Christians).
  • In the early centuries, The Lord’s Prayer was not included in the Eucharistic celebration. It first appeared in the late fourth century and was said after the breaking of bread, just before communion. It was used to purify as a chance of forgiveness. At the end of the sixth century, Gregory the Great moved the Lord’s Prayer to its present place, just after the Eucharistic prayer. In Rome it was said by the priest alone, while in other places it was said by the people. Today the prayer is our prayer in presentation for communion. We are invited to join the presider in singing or saying the prayer. The Embolism (meaning insertion) is the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. It was present in the fifth century. Until 1964, breaking of the bread took place during the silent recitation of this prayer. Very early on, the Lord’s Prayer was concluded with a doxology. In the Didache, we find, “For yours are the power and the glory for ever.” The Apostolic Constitutions add to the beginning: “the kingdom.” This doxology was restored in 1969.

Invitation to Communion

  • After genuflecting, the presider holds the bread and invites the people to communion using words based on John 1:29 and Revelations 19:9. This is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world; happy are those who are called to his supper. Our response is Lord, I am not worthy to receive you , but only say the word and I shall be healed. Our response is a reminder of the humility needed to receive the body and blood of Christ. These rites were not found in the early church. The genuflection was first mentioned in the fourteenth century and our response of Lord, I am not worthy, began in the tenth century.

Communion by the Presider

  • The priest says a quiet prayer before he eats and drinks.
  • In the first centuries the priest simply consumed some of the consecrated bread and wine. Through the years many different prayer forms have been used.

Giving Communion

  • The minister of communion gives the Eucharistic bread saying, “The body of Christ”, and the cup saying “The blood of Christ”. Our answer is “Amen”. Our response is an act of Faith. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his apostles to take and eat and drink and gave them the sacred food. At 150, Justin spoke of the deacons giving out portions of the gifts over which thanks had been offered and that the people received this food as the body and blood of Jesus. By 215, there was a formula for this rite. The words spoken by the bishop at this time were: “The heavenly bread in Christ Jesus.” Another formula used in the sixteenth century was: “May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul unto life everlasting.”

Greeting of Peace

  • In the letters in the New Testament there are references to a holy kiss as a sign of Christian love.
  • Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. Romans 16:16
  • All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 1Corinthians16:20
  • This gesture was added to liturgy and in Rome it took place after the prayer of the faithful and could be exchanged only among believers.
  • During the fourth century, Rome changed the position of the kiss of peace to make it a rite of reconciliation before communion and was used only by those who would be going to communion.
  • By the tenth century it was the practice for the kiss of peace to be given by the bishop to those around the altar, and they passed it down to the people.
  • In thirteenth century England, a pax-board (a small wooden tablet, or plate of metal bearing an image of the Blessed Virgin, of the head of the church, or other saint, or more frequently of the crucifixion) was kissed and passed from one person to another. Eventually all but the clergy were excluded from the kiss until 1969.
  • The meaning of the rite was not always evident or discussed. Today the rite of peace is an exchange of the peace of Christ, not a gesture of welcome. It is introduced with an invitation for all to exchange a greeting of peace as a sign of mutual love based on John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. The emphasis of the sign of peace is a seal and pledge of the fellowship and unity of the Spirit, found in the bond of peace.

Communion Procession

  • Sharing in body and blood of Christ is the goal of the entire celebration and is the moment the congregation has been waiting for since the introductory rites.

Breaking of the Bread

  • The breaking of the bread is so important that this was earliest name given to the Eucharist. The unity of the world in Christ is symbolized by the one table, the one bread broken and shared by all, and the one cup, shared by all.
  • At the Last Supper Christ broke bread before giving it to his disciples. For the first Christians, the breaking of bread was necessary as one loaf was blessed (consecrated) and had to be broken so that all could eat of it.
  • Before the seventh century, the breaking of the bread came immediately after the Eucharistic Prayer. Gregory the Great placed the Lord’s Prayer before the breaking of the bread. During the eighth century, the rite was elaborate.
  • With the change of using unleavened bread, smaller breads for the presider was used. In the tenth century smaller breads for the people was introduced ending the symbolism of the rite of breaking bread for the next thousand years.
  • Today the rite has been restored to its original meaning: emphasizing the symbolism of the breaking of the bread.


  • is the rite of dropping a particle of the consecrated bread into the chalice. It was considered to be a sign of the Lord’s resurrection in fourth century Syria. It was brought to Rome in the eighth century. Today the gesture is used as a reminder that the body and blood of Christ are one.

Lamb of God

  • …was first introduced in the Roman rite by Pope Sergius at the end of the seventh century. It was sung during the breaking of bread for communion. The song uses phrases from the New Testament of Christ as the Lamb of God, the passover or paschal Lamb who was victorious over death.
  • Today the chant is sung while the breaking of the bread is going on.
  •  A private prayer said by the presider began in the ninth century and today the presider chooses one of two prayers to be said silently.

The Procession

  • This procession is accompanied by singing and shows our unity: a hymn which unites our voices, minds and thoughts, even as the Body and Blood of Christ unites our bodies.
  •  In the past, various practices have occurred to receive communion: going right up to the altar (4th to 8th Centuries), receiving in their places, at a side altar in front of the railing, or going to the railing.
  • After the eighth century the laity was excluded from the Sanctuary. In the early church, the people stood to receive communion, but the practice of kneeling at the railing was introduced I the eleventh century.
  • Today we stand to receive communion.
  • Receiving Communion in your hand was the Church’s practice from the beginning until the ninth century.
  • In the fourth century Cyril of Jerusalem have a detailed description of the left hand making a throne for the right to receive the Body of Christ.
  • The practice of receiving communion in the hand was restored in Canada in1970. It is the communicant who has the right to decide whether to receive the Eucharist Bread in the hand or on the tongue. Communion under both forms expresses more completely the sign of the Eucharist banquet. Some have resisted this full symbolic action. Drinking from a common cup (the action which truly responds to Christ’s command: take and drink) gives some concern for hygienic reasons. Studies indicate that the possibility of infections spread through the use of a common cup are minimal, especially when ministers of the cup take care to cleanse the vessel each time. Some see a solution to this “danger” by taking the wine by intinction (dipping the Eucharistic Bread into the wine.) This practice has never been accepted in the Church, particularly dipping by the communicant. The gesture in receiving communion is exactly that: receiving. The communicant receives the cup in order to share in the blood of Christ. The practice of intinction by passes this gesture.

Silent Prayer

  • This silent prayer is a time for presider and congregation to reflect together, thanking and praising God and asking for all that this sacrament promises. A singing a psalm or hymn of praise may be used instead.

Prayer after Communion

  • This prayer began in the second half of the fifth century and was in the form of a collect (collecting or uniting prayer). The early names were prayer after communion and prayer at the conclusion. In mid-eighth century it was called the post-communion prayer. This name stayed until modern times. Today the ancient title has been restored. A short period of silence follows the invitation, “Let us pray”. It is not a prayer of thanksgiving but one in which the church asks God to grant the effects of the Eucharist to God’s people. We respond with Amen.

Concluding Rites

  • The concluding Rites ends the celebration of the Eucharist. This rite sends us forth with God’s blessing and the mission to carry the good news of Christ to the world. In the early church, Concluding Rites were the dismissal after communion. The structure was simple, but very important. By the 12th Century, the Concluding Rites had become more involved. The priest stood at the center of the altar and greeted the people. There he said a dismissal blessing, chosen from one of three forms. Then he gave a final blessing. After this he went to the gospel side and read the “last gospel” from the altar card. As he left the altar, the priest was to say the canticle of the three young men with Psalm 150 and other prayers.
  • With the reform of Vatican II, the Concluding Rite was now spoken in the language of the people. The blessing was placed first so that the dismissal ended the Mass. The last gospel was dropped. The Concluding Rite begins immediately after the response of Amen to the prayer after Communion.
  • Announcements: Brief announcements are said before the final blessing.
  • Greeting: The greeting is connected to the final blessing. The presider says, “The Lord be with you,” and our response is, “And also with you.”

Final Blessing

  • History: In the New Testament, one account of Christ’s ascension describes him raising his hands and blessing his disciples as he was taken into heaven. In 215AD, a teacher completed a period of instruction for catechumens by placing a hand on them, praying for them, and then dismissing them. Before Charlemagne, the liturgy had a solemn blessing after the Lord’s Prayer as a dismissal of those who were not going to Communion. In the early Century, the pope blessed people silently as he was going out in procession after the solemn dismissal. The first time a final blessing by a priest appeared in the 13th century and by a bishop in the 14th century. In the 1570 missal the blessing was included, but was found after the dismissal.
  • Today: Today there are three forms for the blessing and the dismissal follows.
  • Simple Blessing: The presider blesses the congregation in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All respond Amen.
  • Solemn Blessing: The congregation is invited to bow and the Presider proclaims a blessing which changes according to season or feast. The congregation answers Amen after each prayer. The presider concludes with a simple blessing.
  • Prayer over the People: A prayer or collect is prayed, to which the congregation answers Amen. The presider concludes this form with a simple blessing.

The Dismissal

  • History: The importance of the dismissal is found in the history of the Roman liturgy. At certain times there have been three dismissals: the dismissal of catechumens, the dismissal of the penitents, and the dismissal of the faithful. These dismissals were so important that by the 4th Century the Eucharist itself came to be called “the dismissal” (the missa, the Mass). The name is still in use. By 800AD, the Franks were saying, “Let us bless the Lord.” The congregation responded with “Thanks be to God.” Both the Romans’ and the Franks’ were used during different seasons and types of celebrations. In the 12th Century a special Century a special form was used in Masses for the dead.
  • Today: The English Sacramentary has three forms. The dismissal links the congregations celebration and its mission in the world. It is the sending forth of the people to witness, evangelize, and extend god’s love to the whole world. Before leaving the altar, the presider kisses it as a sign of reverence and respect similar to the kiss at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration.


  • A closing procession has never been mentioned in the rite. It was the practice of the congregation to simply leave in an informal manner. Most churches, ours included, use a more formal ending to our celebration with a final procession with the altar servers and the presider, while the congregation sings a final hymn.