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The Mass - Understanding Its Significance
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ , or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.

No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since "no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord".

The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.

Pope Francis
Evangelii Gaudium
The Joy of the Gospel
Scroll down to watch the videos, or click here.

Lord, I trust that you are present and very much want to instruct me in your teachings.

In the same way that you demonstrate your love for me by spending this time with me, I want to express my love for you by dedicating this time to you with a spirit of faith, confidence and attention.

Here I am, Lord, to listen to you and respond with love.

Videos

Watch the videos below to know about this week's topic.


Episode Trailer

Episode Video

 

After Watching The Videos

Click on the section header below to reflect upon the topic and take action.


  1. Do I view Mass as a unique privilege to meet with Jesus personally?

  2. What difference has this personal meeting with Jesus made to my life?

  3. Do I dedicate the one hour during Mass to God, and give Him my fullest attention and participation?

  4. Which aspects of the Mass do I have difficulty understanding? How can I find out more about their significance?

  5. Do I meet Jesus with empty hands? What gifts can I offer to God at every Mass?

  6. Bring an act of charity that I have already done and promise a new one to Jesus at the next Mass.


In More Detail

Click the section headers below to read more on this week's topic.


It comes from the final words said by the priest at the end of the Liturgy. In Latin, they are ite, missa est which is roughly translated as "Go, it is the dis-missal."

The command is to go, because we have received Christ in the Mass and we must now take Him into the world. We become his face, his feet, his hands and voice.
The Mass has kept a basic structure through the centuries. It consists of two major parts which form a single act of worship - the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.

The order of a typical Sunday Mass in Ordinary Time is as follows:

The Liturgy of the Word
  • Introductory Rite
  • Opening hymn
  • Sign of the Cross
  • Greeting
  • Penitential Rite
    • "I Confess"
  • Gloria
  • Opening Prayer
  • First Reading
  • Responsorial Psalm
  • Second Reading
  • Alleluia and Gospel Reading
  • Homily
  • Creed
  • General Intercessions

The Liturgy of the Eucharist
  • Preparation of the Altar and the Gifts
  • Collection
  • Presentation of Bread and Wine
  • Prayer over the Gifts
  • Preface
  • "Holy, Holy, Holy" (or the "Sanctus" )
  • Eucharistic Prayer
  • Communion Rite
    • "Our Father"
    • The Sign of Peace
    • "Lamb of God" and Breaking of the Bread
    • Communion
  • Cleansing of Vessels
  • Closing Prayer
  • Blessing and Dismissal
To appreciate how consistently the Church has celebrated the Mass down the centuries, we can look at an account by St. Justin Martyr, written to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:

"On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.

When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves ... ..and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.

When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.'

When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent."


(See Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC 1345 - click here and scroll down to paragraph 1345)
 
(Note : The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the definitive reference text on Catholic doctrine regarding faith and morals. You can buy a copy at Catholic bookshops or refer to it free online at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM)
No event in salvation history is more important than the Paschal Mystery of Christ's passion, death and resurrection, and glorification. Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of a new creation, the promise of our eternal life. Sunday, the "Lord's Day", is the principal day for the celebration of the Eucharist because it is the day of the Resurrection.

Christians assemble on Sunday to obey his command to break bread in his name, to worship, praise, and thank God for the gift of the Son and all the divine blessings on us. By a tradition handed down from the apostles, Christians have observed the moral commandment of the old covenant by worshipping God publicly at the Eucharist on the Lord's Day.

The Mass is the foundation and heart of the Christian life. To participate in the Mass is to testify publicly that we belong to Jesus and are members of His body, the Church. It is the preeminent opportunity to worship God as Jesus mandated, to derive strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit, and spiritual life from the resurrected Lord.

By her authority, the Church requires Catholics to participate in the Sunday Mass or its vigil and all other holy days of obligation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2177) lists the following as holy days of obligation:

(1) Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
(2) Epiphany,
(3) Ascension of Christ,
(4) Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ,
(5) Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God,
(6) Her Immaculate Conception,
(7) Her Assumption,
(8) Solemnity of Saint Joseph,
(9) Solemnity of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul,
(10) Solemnity of All Saints.

With the prior approval of the Apostolic See, however, the conference of bishops can suppress some of the holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday. Thus, apart from Sunday, different countries celebrate different holy days of obligation.

For the Archdiocese of Singapore, the holy days of obligation are:

(1) Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
(2) Ascension of Christ,
(3) Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
(4) Solemnity of All Saints.
Catholic churches come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and architectural styles but they share some things in common.

The Sanctuary is an area set apart for the altar. The word "sanctuary" means "holy place". It is where all the rites of the Mass take place.

The main body of the church where the worshippers gather is called the nave, from the Latin word for ship (navis). The early Christians liked to compare the Church to a ship and they often built their churches to resemble one. Part of this imagery comes from the ark saving Noah's family during the Flood (1 Peter 3:20-21) and Jesus protecting Peter's boat and the apostles on the stormy Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41).

The Tabernacle is the holy receptacle in which the Blessed Sacrament of the altar is reserved. It is of the greatest importance because our Lord is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. The dignity, placing and security of the tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord. The Sanctuary Lamp when lit reminds us of His presence.

The altar is the focal point of the church's furnishings. It is the place where the sacrificial death and the Resurrection of Christ will be sacramentally renewed.

Near the altar is the Presider's chair where the priest sits. It symbolizes his place as the "head" of Christ's body, the Church, in the congregation gathered for worship.

A crucifix stands near the altar and it reminds us that every Mass is a representation of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Candles are placed near or on the altar. They symbolize Jesus Christ, the "light of the world", and we are called to be His light to others. A large candle, called the Pascal Candle, is blessed once a year during Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday. It is lit for Masses in the Easter season and it symbolizes the risen Jesus.

The pulpit or ambo is the lectern from which the Scriptures are proclaimed and the homily preached.

Flowers on the sanctuary show us the beauty of God's creation and our appreciation to God for His goodness.
Catholics believe in the Communion of Saints which is made up of three groups in the one Family of God: the Church on earth (the pilgrim church), the souls in Purgatory (the church suffering), and the Saints in Heaven (the church in glory).

Catholics do not adore anyone except God and Him alone. But, we understand that God has united the faithful and the Saints in a family of love that is not divided by the reality of death. Saints are our friends and we can honour them with mosaics, icons, statues and stained-glass windows to remind us of their holy lives and of their presence among us and praying for us.,

We live out this communion most especially at Mass with the church gathered around the eucharistic table of the risen Lord. In the Eucharistic Prayer (II), we pray:

Remember also our brothers and sisters
who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection,
and all who have died in your mercy:
welcome them into the light of your face.
Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with the blessed Apostles, and all the Saints
who have pleased you throughout the ages,
we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life,
and may praise and glorify you
through your Son, Jesus Christ.
On Holy Thursday morning, the bishop, joined by the priests of the diocese, gather to celebrate the Chrism Mass. This Mass manifests the unity of the priests with their bishop. Here the bishop blesses three oils: the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick,and Holy Chrism, which will be used in the administration of the Sacraments for the year.

The symbolism of oil is sanctification, healing, strengthening, beautification, dedication, consecration and sacrifice.

The Oil of Catechumens is used in connection with the sacrament of baptism. In the baptismal liturgy, the priest offers the prayer of exorcism and then anoints the person to be baptized. This anointing symbolizes the person's need for the help and strength of God to sever the bondage of the past and to overcome the opposition of the devil so that he may profess his faith and live as a child of God.

The Oil of the Sick is used in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick."Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the priests of the church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, forgiveness will be his" (Jas 5:14-15).

Holy Chrism is linked with the sanctification of individuals. It is used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders, since they impart an indelible sacramental character. In the sacrament of confirmation, for example, the bishop anoints the forehead of the candidate with chrism saying, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The priest wears liturgical vestments to signify his role in the Mass. He is not there to act on his own or speak for himself but to stand in the place of Christ.

The alb (from the Latin word "alba" which means white) is the vestment that the priest wears over his street clothes. It is a long white garment that reaches to the feet. In the Bible, a white garment is a symbol of purity (Revelation 3:4-5).

The cincture is a braided cord, which is drawn as a belt around the alb at the waist. It reminds the priest of his commitment to chastity and purity.

The stole is a long, narrow strip of cloth that hangs around the neck and down the front of the alb. It symbolizes the priest's sacramental power as he represents Jesus Christ. It is the Savior's "yoke" that the priest has accepted.

The chasuble is the outer vestment the priest wears at Mass. Some historians trace its origins to a sort of sleeveless poncho that was worn by shepherds in ancient times. It symbolizes the priest's role as a leader after the Good Shepherd.

The Stole and chasuble are coloured to match the liturgical colour of the season or feast of the Church.
The diverse colours in the liturgy demonstrate different religious meanings and mysteries of faith being celebrated.

Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent, to symbolize penance and mortification.

Red sometimes signifies blood (as on Good Friday), the burning charity of the martyrs and their sacrifice and sometimes the fire of the Holy Spirit (as on Pentecost).

Green is used in Ordinary Time to symbolize life and hope.

White vestments are worn during the Christmas and Easter seasons, feasts dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the angels, and to the saints who are not martyrs. White is a symbol of joy, purity and glory.

Gold can be used in place of white but is traditionally reserved for solemnities and very important feasts of saints. It is symbol of richness and festivity.

Rose is used for the third Sunday in Advent and the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is a symbol that the Advent or Lent is half over and soon the Church will be celebrating the joyful season of Christmas or Easter.
All these symbols point to Jesus Christ.




The Chi-Rho (pronounced "KEE-roe") is a Christian symbol consisting of the superimposition of the capital Greek letters Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ), which are the first two letters of "Christ" in Greek (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, Christos).



IHS

The IHS monogram is a shortening of Jesus' name in Greek to the first three letters. Thus ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, ("Jesus"), is shortened to ΙΗΣ (iota-eta-sigma), sometimes transliterated into Latin or English characters as IHS or ΙΗC.

This is not to be confused with another symbol INRI on the crucifix. The letters “INRI” are initials for the Latin title that Pontius Pilate had written over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross (John 19:19). The English translation of that title is "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."




Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Used in a Christian context, the symbol refers to the divinity of Christ who is the beginning and end of everything that is. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Revelation 22:13)
The Liturgical Calendar begins every year during the month of November on the First Sunday of Advent and runs through to the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Over a year, the church unfolds in its liturgy the various mysteries of our redemption - Incarnation of Jesus, his nativity, his teaching ministry, his passion, death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost, and the future anticipation of Jesus' second coming - so that we will remember God’s marvellous plan of salvation that was accomplished through Christ.

The Church calendar is outlined as follows:

Advent - 4 weeks of preparation for Christ's coming.

Christmas Season - This joyful season begins with Christmas and also celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary (1 January) and Jesus' epiphany. It ends with the feast of the Lord's baptism.

Ordinary Time I - The Latin Tempus Per Annum ("time throughout the year") is rendered into English as "Ordinary Time." It celebrates the mystery of Christ in all its aspects and is a time set aside for reflecting on and celebrating our call to follow Jesus daily.

Lenten Season - Lent comes from a Anglo-Saxon word for "spring".
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, it is a season of penance in preparation for the solemn and joyful feast of Easter. Lent lasts 6 Sundays and 40 weekdays, concluding on Holy Thursday with the celebration of the Lord's Last Supper.

Easter - Easter is at the very heart of the liturgical year and of Christian faith. The celebration consists of a Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox and is thus (unlike Christmas) a moveable feast. This dating is tied in with the traditional date given for Jesus' crucifixion on the 14th day of Nisan (the date of Passover in the year AD30 on the Jewish lunar calendar).

Easter Season - This season of joy spans 50 days from Easter to Pentecost Sunday. The last ten days of the Easter season celebrate the promise and gift of the Holy Spirit. Ascension Thursday occurs forty days after Easter.

Ordinary Time II - Ordinary time resumes and proceeds to Advent and a new church year. Trinity Sunday is celebrated one week after Pentecost and the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christi one week later. Towards the end of this period the readings turn to the end of time and Christ's second coming. The feast of Christ the King is the last Sunday of the church year.

Besides the Temporal cycle described above, the Church Liturgical year has another Sanctoral (from Latin sanctus, meaning saint)cycle. It focuses on the various holy men and women that are revered by the Church as saints. They are normally celebrated on the day of their death, which is considered their heavenly birthday. For example, St. Vincent de Paul is honored with a feast day on 27 September. He died on the same day in 1660.
At the Last Supper as narrated in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and in the letters of St. Paul, Jesus chose the Passover meal, a traditional Jewish sacrificial meal, to institute the Eucharist. The Passover was a solemn feast dedicated to the remembrance of Israel's delivery from slavery in Egypt. At every Passover, a lamb was offered as a sacrifice in place of the life of the firstborn son.

But at this new Passover, Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice. The firstborn Son of God offered himself as the definitive Paschal Lamb. "Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world". (John 1:29)

In the course of the meal, Jesus took bread and said to the Apostles, "This is my Body, which is given up for you." Then He took the cup of wine and declared: "This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood, that will be poured out for you" (Luke 22:19-20).

By this action, Jesus gave the Passover its ultimate meaning and anticipated the final Passover of the Church in the glory of His kingdom.
With the Last Supper, Jesus inaugurated what Christians call the "Pascal Mystery," the mystery of the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ. "Paschal" (Pascha in Latin and Greek) comes from the Hebrew word for Passover.

Jesus wanted to make this "mystery" a permanent reality. By giving the command "Do this in memory of me" to the Apostles, He gave them the power to do what He had done, and of communicating this power to their successors, the bishops, until the end of time. Thus was ensured the preservation of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church and the celebration of Mass every day, especially on Sunday.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC1366) teaches that the Mass "re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross.". We participate and share in Jesus' death and resurrection through the action of the Holy Spirit. It enables each of us to share in the benefits of the cross. We speak of our "dying to sin" and "rising to new life" because we participate in the Pascal mystery. All this is encapsulated in our one word - Amen - when we receive Holy Communion.
"Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord" (CCC 1411).

The Mass and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist depend in a special way on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which is of the ordained bishop and priest. For a Mass to be celebrated, a priest is needed since only they can consecrate the elements of bread and wine.

Laypeople assist in the Mass in various roles. The primary way that we assist in Mass is as members of the congregation, joining our prayers to those of the priest. While the priest (Ministerial Priesthood) will say many of the prayers during the Mass, he is saying them for all of us (Common Priesthood) who are offering this Mass to God with him. At baptism, we are made sharers in the royal priesthood of Christ. "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart" (1 Peter 2:9).

Laypeople may also serve as lectors who read the first and second readings; as cantors who sing the responsorial psalm; as commentators who serve to introduce the readings, as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who assist the priest in distributing the Eucharist; as altar servers, choirs, wardens and so on.

So all of us have a role to play in the Mass and whichever role we play, our full, conscious and active participation in the Mass is essential.

The Mass - Understanding Its Significance

 
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