Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

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Together at Mass

Together at Mass 3

“It’s the Mass that matters”

The Mass is and always has been seen as the central act of Christian worship, the deepest expression of our faith. “It is the source and summit of the whole of the Church’s worship, and of the Christian life.” From the very beginning of Christianity, people have placed immense value on being able to share in the Mass even in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances. Even during times of shallow understanding there was still that Catholic instinct that “It’s the Mass that matters”. It matters so much that it deserves our full attention.

Last week’s leaflet outlined the basic structure of the Mass. You were invited to list the various elements contained within each part. Did you try it, or were you satisfied simply to read without taking up the challenge? No matter; you will find on the next page a complete list of the many elements that make up our Sunday Mass. Read through them; you will find that they are all familiar. But then look again at how they are grouped together; each section or part of the Mass has its own “intrinsic nature and purpose” which the renewed liturgy seeks to make “more clearly manifested”. We will explore each part in turn as we move along with our exploration.

Meanwhile, let’s look at another question in last weeks leaflet, this time about celebrating a ‘story’ and being an ‘insider’ to the story: “What do we mean by the ‘story’ we celebrate in relation to the Mass?” This may be something quite new to you and may need some thinking through, but it is well worth making the effort. On page three of this week’s note you will find a brief outline of the ‘story’ we celebrate. Read it carefully; give yourself some time to think about it; let it be a source of prayer. It is our story.

 

 

The Structure of the Mass

 

Introductory Rite                       Entrance Hymn

                                            Sign of the Cross & Greeting

                                            Penitential Rite

                                            Lord have mercy

                                            Glory to God in the highest

                                            Opening Prayer

 

Liturgy of the Word                  First Reading

                                            Responsorial Psalm

                                            Second Reading

                                            Alleluia

                                            Gospel

                                            Homily

                                            Creed

                                            Prayers of the Faithful

 

Eucharistic Liturgy

—Preparation of the gifts         Offertory hymn

                                            Collection and Procession of Gifts

                                            ‘Blessed are you Lord …’

                                            Invitation to prayer

                                            Prayer over the gifts

 

—Eucharistic Prayer               Preface ...  "give thanks and praise”

                                            Holy, holy, holy

                                            Prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit

                                            Narrative of the Institution—Consecration

                                            Acclamation of faith

                                            Prayers of remembering and of offering

                                            Prayers for the living and dead

                                            The Doxology—‘Through, with, in him ...’

                                            The Great AMEN

 

—Communion Rite                     ‘Our Father …’

                                            Prayers for protection and peace

                                            Sign of Peace

                                            Breaking the Bread & “Lamb of God”

                                            Invitation to Communion

                                            ‘Lord I am not worthy …’

                                            Communion

                                            Communion Hymn

                                            Silent prayer

                                            Prayer after Communion

 

Concluding Rite                         Blessing

                                           Dismissal

                                           Final Hymn

 

 

 

 

 

Recalling the Christian Story

“Knowing the story and cherishing the story, these are very important elements of celebrating.” That was one of the messages in last week’s paper. It leads us to ask exactly what do we mean—what is the ‘story’ we come together to celebrate?

Essentially it is the story of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who lived and died for us and for our salvation, and who was raised from the dead to open for us the way to eternal life. It is story of what he did on the night before he died when, during his last supper, he took bread and wine and said over them “Take and eat, take and drink; this is my body given for you, my blood poured out for you”. It is the story of his offering of himself in sacrifice, now celebrated in obedience to his command: “Do this in memory of me”.

It is all of that, but much more besides. It is the story of God’s original vision, God’s plan for the whole world. We read about it on every page of the Bible, but we are given an especially vivid picture of God’s intention in the opening pages of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis. There is harmony everywhere, man and woman at peace with each other, at peace with the world, and at peace with God. And God saw that it was all good, indeed very good.

It is also the story of that vision of harmony shattered by sin, and the wonderful story of salvation, as it is told to us in the Bible— the story of a People God called to be his own, with whom he made a covenant agreement to “walk in God’s ways”. It is the story of the promised Messiah who would usher in a new time, a time when God would reign over all in renewed peace and harmony.

And so we come back to the story of Jesus, the longed-for Messiah, the “Christ of God”. He proclaimed that the ‘Kingdom of God’ was at hand. He urged people to change their ways to God’s ways so as to prepare for it. And he lived what he preached, seeking always to do “the will of the Father”. He showed us how to live and “walk in God’s ways”: to liberate people from burdens of  body, mind, and spirit, to welcome outcasts, to forgive again and again, to give extravagantly, to serve one another’s needs lovingly, even to lay down one’s life.

By his own death and resurrection Jesus reconciled all things in himself and so made it possible for God’s plan to be realised. His resurrection is the promise that God’s vision, God’s plan for loving harmony, will be achieved. And so the story lives on, and we have been privileged to become part of that story, ‘insiders’ in the magnificent plan of God. We are party to the new covenant, sealed in the blood of Christ, sharers in his life, called to “walk in his ways”, glorifying God. 

This is the Christian story. This is the reality we enter ever more deeply each time we come together for the celebration of Mass.

 

For reflection

Does our participation in the Mass draw us closer to the people around us, and make us more sensitive to the needs of the world? Do you think it should, or is our attendance at Mass really as private matter?

 

 

 

 

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During each of the three Masses to be celebrated here this weekend, some of the children and young people, who have been  participating in the parish Programme of  Initiation, will share for the first time in receiving Holy Communion. It is a day of rejoicing, not just for the children and their families, but for the whole parish  community. Their sacramental initiation into the Church will now be completed.

Now that can sound rather cold, distant, formal, so let’s see what we are saying.

 

Christian Initiation is the name we give to the whole process of becoming a  member of the Church, the Family of God. For these children that process began when their parents decided to ask for baptism. This process of growing in faith and membership of the Church is celebrated in the three Sacraments of Initiation.

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In baptism, through water and the Holy Spirit, these children, as all of us, were given a share in the new life of Christ and with him became children of God, and members of the Church, the Family of God. 

Welcomed in baptism, they were bound even more closely to the Church in the sacrament of confirmation. Those who have received the Gift of the Holy Spirit have been given strength to grow in faith and into full communion with the rest of the Church.

And now, finally, they are invited to celebrate their full communion with Christ and with his Church. All those who share in the life of Christ are members of the Body of Christ, for that is what the Church truly is.

 

You see, we cannot separate communion from our living membership of the Church. In the Eucharist we receive the Body of Christ in order to become more and more perfectly the Body of Christ. We share in holy communion so that we may become a holy communion. And notice here the accent on ‘becoming’ -  for all of us the invitation is to grow ever more completely  into our life in Christ. And that need to grow will never be fully satisfied.

That is why we speak of First Communion. Baptism and Confirmation are to be celebrated only once. But with holy Communion it is different. The new life that we have received needs to be nourished continually. Our Lord feeds us with his own Body and Blood. We cannot expect to live the Christ-life we have received without the constant  refreshment offered in holy communion.

Nor can we expect to remain faithful to that new life, and to grow as members of his Body, in isolation from the rest of the Church. It is there, where people are gathered in his name, that Jesus promised to be with us. That is why it is so very important that we regularly come ‘together at Mass’.