1. Liturgy and the Eucharist: Communion with the Lord
a. Done for its own end…to offer worship to the Lord simply because it is good and right.
b. To be “at play” before the Lord
c. In the liturgy we are gathered, our lives are put in order and we commune with God.
2. The Gathering
a. The Mass brings together both genders, all social and economic classes as well as all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. All are members of the Mystical Body and the result of this gathering is a new Pentecost and a reversing of the divisions brought on by the building of the Tower of Babel.
b. This gathering is a subversive act because society tends to separate people into classes or even to discriminate. Before God, all are called to the equal dignity of being called “children of God”.
3. The Introductory Rite
a. Music – Our voices form harmonies as we offer up our common work
b. The Sign of the Cross – We belong to the triune God. We are called, as Christian disciples, to take up our own crosses, deny ourselves and follow Christ in sacrificial love. We call out for God’s mercy…that we too might be saved through Christ’s sacrificial offering on the cross
c. Greeting…The Lord be with you. And with your spirit. – An acknowledgement that, in this moment, the congregation recognizes that the priest is operating in the person of Christ during the liturgy.
d. The Confiteor / Calling to mind our sins. – We come before God always with proper humility within the liturgy. We acknowledge how far we have fallen short…that we are in need of a savior…that we have not made the best use of God’s grace operative in our life. In this way, we once again fight against human tendencies of our culture to take on a victim mentality and blame our sins on others or on circumstances, or to rationalize our sin away.
e. The Kurie / A Cry for mercy – By acknowledging our sins before God and our community the natural next response is to ask for God’s mercy.
f. Gloria / Offer Praise – We next give praise to God as we recount our blessings. This must always be the first movement of prayer once we have come before God with proper humility.
g. Opening Prayer
4. The Liturgy of the Word
a. By reading and hearing of God’s saving actions and words throughout salvation history, in the Old Testament and the New Testament we draw the sacred into our own time and place and ask how God may be directing us in the present age
b. The Homily – The celebrant attempts to instruct the people in the ways of holiness by connecting the ancient teachings with the concerns of our own times. This is better accomplished when the priest strives to conform his own life to that of Christ and when he strives to listen to both the Word of God and the concerns of God’s people that he encounters in daily pastoral work.
c. The Creed / A statement of our common belief. – The Church recalls its victory and the fruits of its apostolic tradition down through the centuries. At the same time the people recite their common faith, they are also rejecting all of the false teachings of the world that have ever risen against the truth of Christ.
d. The Prayers of the Faithful / Intercessions – This is, above all, a recognition that we are not a social club but an organism and when one part of the community hurts we all hurt. So we call to mind the needs of our community and ask God’s providential assistance and blessing.
5. The Liturgy of the Eucharist – Just as a social event contain both conversation and the sharing of a meal, so to with the liturgy. The Liturgy of the Word is the conversation and the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the meal. It is also a necessary sacrifice that brings about communion with God and his people.
a. Bringing forward and Offering of the gifts – Parallel to the Jewish “Baraka”, these gifts of bread, wine (and on Sundays and at special liturgies, a collection basket) represent collaboration between God and humanity. God blesses us with health, abilities and basic sustenance and we transform it into its current form with the addition of human labor and ingenuity.
b. The Eucharistic Prayer (Preface with Words of Consecration) – recounting the words of Christ at the Last Supper, thereby making the offering of the Last Supper once again present to us in the Jewish sense. To remember is to make real again…to apply that one perfect sacrifice in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago present in our faith community…in our town or city…on this day so as to renew our own personal covenant with the Lord…To say over again “Yes…I give myself to you”.
c. The Communion Rite – Just as the Jewish Passover Meal was not complete and the covenant in Moses’ time was not sealed until the meal was shared, so it is with the Eucharist. The ancient Jewish sense of covenant was only established after a sacrifice of an unblemished animal acceptable to God and a meal in which the meat of that sacrifice is shared. The Eucharist follows the same principle. Jesus is the unblemished and pleasing sacrifice and is present miraculously in the Eucharist through the miracle of transubstantiation in the words of consecration. When we “take and eat” and “take and drink” of the two species of the Eucharist and we do so in the proper spiritual state, we renew our covenant with the Lord.
d. Our Father and Sign of Peace – Before we receive we pray the words of our Savior. The most important word of the prayer is “Our” Father. We recall that we are called to form one family of faith. And we extend a sign of peace to be sure that we are not carrying any grudges but are forgiving those who have offended us. Only then, after these two important signs of unity do we receive our Lord in the communion.
6. The Concluding Rites / The Sending
a. We receive a final blessing and then we are sent out into the world to transform it and to go and share the good news with others. After the words of consecration, the words of sending may be the most important words of the Mass. This a dynamic understanding of any encounter with the living God, that like the three wise men of the birth narrative we cannot go back by the same way. The disciples on the road to Emmaus, we recognize God in the explanation of Sacred Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. Then we make a 180 and head back to Jerusalem with hearts on fire. This turning around in our hearts in known in Greek as “metanoia” or conversion of heart.