Trouble Understanding the Mass? Here’s a Simple Explanation (Part 1)

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The Mass is the sacrifice of Christ. He offered himself once and forever on the cross. It is the Center of our Christian life and the thanks offering that we present to God for His great love toward us. It is not another sacrifice. It is not a repetition. It is the same sacrifice of Jesus that is present. It is a re-presentation of Calvary, memorial,  and application of the merits of Christ.

The Mass has two parts: the liturgy of the word (after asking for forgiveness of sins) and the liturgy of the Eucharist, which is an offering to the Father by Jesus and by us, because we are also sons of God.

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To take advantage of the great spiritual fruits that God gives us through the Eucharistic Celebration, we should know it, understand the gestures and symbols, and participate in it with reverence.

Here we have the first installment of a very good explanation that will help you to better participate in this sacrifice

1.) Introductory Rites:

  • Entrance Song: 1-2

We prepare to begin the mass with the entrance procession. It is a song that unites all of us because people  come to Mass from different places, cultures, ages and together sing with one voice, as the body that we are in  Christ. We unite to celebrate one of the greatest gifts that Jesus left us: the Eucharist.

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  • Sign of the Cross: 2

The mass itself begins with the sign of the cross and will also end in the same way, when we receive the final blessing. Making the sign of the cross reminds us that we belong to Christ.  There is great power in this short prayer. We begin in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit to not only to mention the name of God, but also to put us in His holy presence.

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  • Penitential Rite: 3

In the presence of God, the Church invites us to recognize with humility that we are sinners. Because as Saint Paul says: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.(Rm 7:15).  We can all echo the words of Paul in our own lives… Therefore, at the beginning of the Eucharist we recognize humbly to all our brothers, that we are sinners. To ask for forgiveness to God, we use the words of the blind man who heard that Jesus passed by and knew that he could not be cured himself, but needed the help of God as he began to shout in the middle of the crowd: “Lord, have mercy on me”. Thus, with trust in God’s mercy, we pray also “Lord have mercy”.

  • Gloria: 4

On Sundays and solemnities we sing this hymn of praise that truly gives glory to God: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King,  almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world:  have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father:  receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One,  you alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High,  Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,  in the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

  • Collect (Opening Prayer): unnamed

The opening prayer is the moment in which the priest invites the community to pray. At the beginning of the prayer the priest says: “Let us pray” and  extends  his hands as a sign of appeal.  This is a time to gather us all in silence and ask the Lord to help us. At the end of the prayer all we join what the priest asked, saying together: Amen!  As the Lord tells us in the Gospel: “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”(Mt 18: 19-20).  The opening prayer unites us with the universal Church, reminding us that in every corner of the world in which Mass is said our brothers and sisters in Christ will be doing the same thing.

2. Liturgy of the word:

The Lord Jesus, before feeding us with his body and his blood at the table of the sacrifice, feeds us first in the Word of God. Through the readings we hear directly from God who speaks to us. 

  • Readings: 6

The first reading is taken from one of the books of the Old Testament. It is important to meditate on them, because by these words, God was preparing his people for the coming of Christ. As well as preparing us to listen to Jesus.  The first reading is always directly related to the Gospel reading.

After the first reading, we read the Psalm. The Psalms have always been very important in the history of the Church. When we pray with the Psalms, we pray with the words of God.  These are the words that he puts in our mouths so that we know how to express ourselves in prayer. With the Psalms we learn to pray, we learn to speak with God.

The second reading is taken from the New Testament: the letters of Saint Paul, or the Catholic Epistles or the book of Hebrews or the Apocalypse. They are the writings of the Apostles.  We hear the preaching and writings of the men that Jesus instructed to minister to us when He left. These men were filled with the Holy Spirit and committed to spreading the Good News.  There is much insight and wisdom to be gained from these books of the Bible.

  • Gospel: 7

In the first reading, God spoke through his prophets, in the second through his Apostles, and now in the Gospel speaks directly through his son Jesus Christ. It is the most important time of the liturgy of the word.  We hear directly from Jesus’ speaking, teaching,  and healing. The word Gospel means “good news” and this good news is not just a message, it is Jesus himself! The best news that ever existed! It is a very important moment,  which is why we stand and we sing with joy the Alleluia.  The Gospel is proclaimed by the priest. To begin, we make the sign of the cross on our the forehead, mouth and chest to symbolize that we receive the word of God in the mind, we confess it with my mouth, and we keep it in the heart.

  • And finally… The homily:

It is not enough to hear the word of God, but that we also need  to adequately understand what has been said to us. Homily comes from a Greek word that means “dialogue”, “conversation”. It is the moment in which the priest explains the proclaimed scripture readings and we able to delve into them. 

You can find Part 2 of this post by clicking here.

About Juan Jose Paniagua

Juan Jose Paniagua has written 6 post in this blog.

Father Juan Jose is a Peruvian priest that is currrently living in Lima. There, he is dedicated to working with the youth.

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