UNDERSTANDING THE SACRAMENTS:THE EUCHARIST
The sacrament of the Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life. The Church teaches solemnly that in the Blessed Eucharist Christ Himself – His Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity – is really, truly, and substantially present under the species of bread and wine; and that the Real Presence begins the instant the consecration is completed. In this sacrament, Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father. By this sacrifice, he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body, which is the Church.
The Holy Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s Passover: the work of salvation that Christ accomplished through his life, death and resurrection; and this work of salvation is made present to us by the liturgical action of the Mass.
The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament means that it is often known by different names: The Eucharist: because it is an act of thanksgiving to God.The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament means that it is often known by different names: The Eucharist: because it is an act of thanksgiving to God.
- The Holy Sacrifice: because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Saviour completing and surpassing all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant
- Holy Communion: because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ who makes u s sharers in his Body and Blood to form His Body on earth.
- The Lord’s Supper: because of its connection with the supper which our Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion; and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.
- Holy Mass: because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished
concludes with the sending forth of the faithful, so that they may fulfil God’s will in their daily lives.
- We speak also of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments. The Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.
It is Christ himself, our eternal High Priest of the New covenant who, acting through the ministry of the priests, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. And it is the same Christ really present under the species of bread and wine, who is the actual offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
The Eucharist is:
- thanksgiving and praise to the Father
- the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body
- the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.
We are in the presence of the triune God – The Holy Trinity.
The order of Mass The Eucharist begins with the priest and members of the congregation making the sign of the cross. This great sign draws our focus of attention to the Holy Trinity and to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The priest greets the people, The Lord be with you and the people respond: And also with you. The priest may then introduce briefly the theme of the Mass.
The penitential Rite To prepare us for the celebration of the sacred mysteries, the priest invites us to acknowledge our sinfulness before the forgiving Lord. A pause for silent reflection follows after which the priest and people pray for God’s forgiveness.
The Kyrie Unless it has already been used in the penitential rite, the Kyrie is said: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. This is not only a plea for forgiveness but also a joyful acknow-ledgement of the saving presence of the risen Christ in our midst.
Gloria The congregation remain standing and together sing or say the Gloria, the triumphal hymn of praise and worship to God.
Opening Prayer After the Gloria the priest invites us to pray; a few moments of silence help us to realise we are in the presence of God our Father as the priest ‘collects’ the prayerful thoughts of those present in the Opening Prayer. We should make this, and every other prayer our own by responding: Amen.
Liturgy of the Word The people sit for the readings. Jesus is the Word of God. Through the words of scripture, God nourishes us, and speaks to us of his love and salvation. The first reading is from the Old Testament, followed by a Psalm, to which the people make a response after each verse.
The second reading generally come from one of the New Testament letters. The third reading is the Gospel, and the people stand to greet the proclamation, and make the sign of the cross on forehead, lips and heart. Christ is present among us through his saving Word; and as we stand to listen to the good news, we are acknowledging that we are a people with a mission through the sacrament of God’s word.
‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,
And I shall raise him up on the last day’
The Homily A homily sometimes follows the readings, when the priest or the deacon reflects on the readings of the day, relating them to the Eucharistic celebration and to ordinary life.
Profession of Faith The congregation stands to profess their faith in response to the word of God. As we say the creed we testify that God is our father who gives us new life through his Son, and who calls us together in the Holy Spirit as a people, a living community of his abiding love. The Creed is a concise version of the chief points of the Christian faith.
Prayer of the faithful The people remain standing and the priest invites them to pray; the Gospel and the homily can inspire in us a greater awareness of our Christian commitment. After the intercessions there is a short pause for silent prayer.
Liturgy of the Eucharist ‘Liturgy of the Eucharist’ is the term used for the second part of the mass, which celebrates and re-presents the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, and ends with the participation in the sacrificial meal at communion. The gifts of bread and wine are brought to the altar, where the priest receives them and says the prayer of offering. He then prays over the gifts.
The Eucharistic Prayer A Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer follows. At the end everyone joins in the following acclamation: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The people kneel as the priest says the Eucharistic Prayer, through which the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This change of the substances into the body and blood of Christ, whilst retaining the appearance of bread and wine, takes place through the Eucharistic words of the consecration. This change is also known as transubstantiation. After the consecration the people are invited to proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Communion Rite The people stand as everyone joins in the Lord’s Prayer, after which the priest may ask the congregation to offer one another the sign of peace; this is generally shown by shaking hands, or with a brief embrace, according to local custom. The exchange of peace is a symbol of reconciliation, acceptance and healing: we acknowledge our unity with one another in Christ, for it is he who is the peace between us.
The priest breaks the host and places a small piece in the chalice, and the people sing or say the Angus Dei: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us… Grant us peace.
The host is elevated as the priest invites us to share in the Eucharistic banquet with these words: This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper. As the priest offers the host to each person he says: The body of Christ, and the person receiving Communion replies: Amen.
After communion a period of silence may be observed, before the priest says the final prayer. The service concludes with the blessing.
These pages have been provided by Margaret Perryman-Delfanne, a catechist and professional artist living in Kent, England.