PRAYER OVER THE GIFTS - The priest offers a short prayer of petition over the gifts on our behalf, asking God to make them effective in our lives.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER - begins with an invitation to prayer in dialogue form. "Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in Heaven" (Lam: 3:41), the 'Sursum Corda'. We are asked to give our whole attention to the Lord.
PREFACE - 'before the Face of God' - on behalf of the people of God, the priest praises the Father and gives thanks to Him for the whole work of salvation or for some special aspect of it that corresponds to the day, feast, or season. The prayer ends with these or similar words: "And so we join the angels and the saints in proclaiming your glory as we say". We sense the presence of the angels and of the saints surrounding us as we sing with hearts overflowing with joy,
ACCLAMATION (SANCTUS) - "Holy, holy, holy, Lord…" (See Isaiah 6:3) - for the Hebrews: "Holy, holier, holiest", which, together with 'glory', is applied to God alone. 'Hosanna' - originally 'Help us! Rescue us!' (See Ps 118:25) - echoes the acclamations of the crowd as Jesus entered Jerusalem (Matt 21:9). In the Mass we are anticipating the presence of the Lord in the bread and wine. In this hymn of praise we are joined not only with people around the world but with all the heavenly host so that indeed the whole cosmos rings with God's praises.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER: This has traditionally been known as the Canon of the Mass. Following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's, these prayers were reformulated. Four are in common usage: Prayer I is longer and more formal, and is generally used on major feast days; Prayer II is an adaptation of the second century prayer of Hippolytus; Prayer III is a contemporary prayer founded on the Roman canon; and Prayer IV is also contemporary and has influences from Eastern Rites - it tells the story of our salvation beginning with creation. There are also Eucharistic prayers for Masses of Reconciliation and for Masses when children compose the greater part of the congregation. Although these are different prayers, they all follow a pattern: Praising God - "Father, you are holy indeed…all life, all holiness comes from you;" Epiclesis - Asking God to send down the power of the Spirit so that the bread and wine we offered may be consecrated and become the body and blood of Jesus; Institution Narrative and Consecration - "The power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's body and blood, His sacrifice offered on the cross once for all" (CCC #1353); Anamnesis (Memorial Acclamation) - Our joyful response to the gift of salvation as "the Church calls to mind the Passion, Resurrection and glorious return of Christ Jesus" (CCC#1354); Offering - That we not only offer this Victim, 'this holy and living sacrifice', but also learn to offer ourselves in surrender to an ever more complete union with the Father and with each other; Intercessions - We celebrate with, and pray for the entire Church, living and dead, who are called to share in redemption; Doxology - giving glory to the Father, through the Son by the power of the Spirit; Amen - Yes, Lord!
COMMUNION RITE: The Lord's Prayer - At the presider's invitation we pray together the prayer that was given to the disciples by Jesus. "It is the very paradigm of all prayer. All aspirations, all worship, and all petition and intercession are gathered up in this prayer." (Thomas Howard, On Being Catholic) In the final petition, said by the priest alone, "the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world". The Church prays that we would "be freed from all evils, present, past and future" and "implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ's return". (CCC #2854) Our response is another doxology, this time "in praise and adoration" (CCC #2854-2855).
Sign of Peace - The presider, in our name, asks for peace and unity for the whole human family. "The Church is a community of people joined by the Spirit in love. It needs to express, deepen, and restore its peaceful unity before eating the one body of the Lord and drinking from the one cup of salvation. We do this by a sign of peace". (Saint Joseph Sunday Missal) We express our desire in word and gesture according to local custom and culture. We are asked "to offer this peace to everybody in the persons of those immediately around us at the liturgy". (Thomas Howard).
COMMUNION RITE: Breaking of the Bread - This was the name of the whole Eucharistic Rite in apostolic times [The Emmaus disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread - Lk. 24:31]. This is a visible and audible gesture to remind us that by sharing in this bread of life, which is Christ, we become one body. We accompany this Rite by singing the 'Lamb of God' (Agnus Dei - Latin). Jesus is the pure sacrificial Lamb. John the Baptist used this title for Jesus (Jn 1:29,26). It is faith that sees in Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The presider takes a tiny piece of the host and drops it into the chalice, saying "May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it". He then prepares himself with a prayer that the body and blood of Jesus would free him from all sin and keep him faithful to His teaching. Meanwhile we pray silently that we too will receive the body and blood of the Lord with reverence and with recognition of its saving power and transforming grace. As he shows the eucharistic bread to the people, the presider again uses John's words: "Behold the Lamb of God…." And adds "Happy are those who are called to His supper" (Rev. 19:9), reminding us not only of the present but also of the banquet that will be laid out for us in Heaven. The Priest and people together pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," echoing the words and faith of the centurion at Capernaum. (Mt. 8:8) The Church changed "my soul shall be healed" to "I..", recognizing God's power over our human totality.
COMMUNION RITE: Reception of Communion - We Come to the Table of the Lord singing, expressing our unity, our joy in the mystery of Christ being really present to us in the bread and wine. Yes, we receive 'the living God'. God comes to us, makes His home in us, and sanctifies us by becoming a part of us. We are 'tabernacles', holding His Presence within us. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (5th Century) reminds us that if we were to receive gold, how carefully we would hold it; but, in Communion we receive something far more precious and so we are called to come forward reverently. "To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament the faithful [should be in the state of grace, i.e. free from mortal sin] and should observe the fast [one hour - excluding those over 65 and those with health concerns] required by their Church. Bodily demeanour (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest." (CCC #1387) The priest or minister of Communion holds up the host (Latin - Hostia - sacrifice) saying "the Body of Christ" i.e. the anointed one, the Son of God. Our response "Amen" - so be it, 'I truly believe' should be a genuine response of our entire being not just rote words. To receive on the tongue or in the hand? Either is acceptable and reverent. It is interesting to note that both our tongues and our hands are instruments of sin and virtue. When receiving in the hand we must "set the hands like a throne". (Fathers of the Church) A period of silence in thanksgiving should follow. For this sacrament to be efficacious we must be aware of what we are receiving and allow it to change us, to make us holy. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Cor. 10:16-17). PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION: We stand at the priest's invitation to prayer. After a moment of silence, the prayer asks that what we have celebrated may bear fruit in our lives and be a pledge of eternal life.
(adapted and taken with permission from Anne Perez, Dir. Religious Ed., Holy Family Parish, St. Petersburg, Fla.)