16/10/11 – “The people rise and reply”

Recently we have been looking at the postures and gestures that we engage in during Mass.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

A few years ago now, a new edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal was introduced.  When it was implemented, it required us to make two changes to our practice as a liturgical assembly during the Mass.  One of these involved our posture after the priest has prepared the gifts of bread and wine.

After the priest prepares the gifts, he invites the assembly to pray.  Although it seems to be a routine action, this invitation is not without its significance.  The priest invites us to pray.  Our affirmative response makes clear our wish that the priest continue to lead us through the Eucharistic Prayer and the rest of the Mass.

Nowadays, we are required to stand immediately after the priest says “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”    For many people, it seemed to be far more practical to do as we did previously, and stand after we responded to the priest’s invitation.

To stand immediately after the invitation, and then respond, makes our posture more consistent with other times of the Mass.  Standing is generally the posture the Church adopts when it prays.  While we also kneel at times, the Church does not pray sitting down – at least not during its liturgical celebrations.  We stand because we accept the invitation to prayer and now pray together once again as the body of Christ; this time in certain hope that Christ that is present within each of us will make himself present to us once more through the bread and wine that become his body and blood.

10/7/11 – What Happens At Mass, Part XII: The Preface

The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just a chance to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.

After the Prayer Over the Offerings, we enter into the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer.  As I touched on last week, this always begins with three-fold dialogue between the priest and the people:

            The Lord be with you.                                            And with your spirit.

            Lift up your hearts.                                                We lift them up to the Lord.

            Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.           It is right and just.

The priest greets us, and invites us to join him in the Eucharistic Prayer.  Our desire to share in the Eucharistic Prayer and sacrifice, as indicated by our response “it is right and just”, must be expressed so that the priest may continue with the Mass.  After all, the Mass is not the work of Christ and the priest, but of Christ and his Church – all of us incorporated into Christ through baptism.

Bishop Anthony Fisher leading the PrefaceWhile there are only a relatively small number of options for the Eucharistic Prayer, with some only permissible on specific occasions, there is a larger collection of prefaces.  The Preface leads us into the Eucharistic Prayer by declaring to God (and at the same time reminding ourselves) the reason we celebrate the Eucharist at this particular time.  On most days, they typically reflect the liturgical season we celebrate.  There are, however, also prefaces for particular feast days, for saints, for the dead, and for a range of other needs and occasions.

The Preface then concludes with our prayer of acclamation, the Sanctus (or Holy, Holy).  In the new translation of the Sanctus, the opening phrase has changed from “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might” to “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.”  This, like other changes, reflects a closer match with the Latin text.  It also reflects what the priest proclaims immediately before; that what we do in celebrating the Eucharist is not done alone, but in communion with the angels and saints – the entire “heavenly host”.

3/7/11 – What Happens at Mass, Part XI: Entering Into the Eucharistic Prayer

The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just a chance to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.

After the Profession of Faith, we pray for our needs and the needs of the world through the Prayer of the Faithful.  This concludes the Liturgy of the Word.

The offertory
Bishop Anthony receives the gifts of bread and wine at the Mass of installation of our parish priest, Fr Paul

The gifts of bread and wine are then brought forward and are prepared by the priest.  He then invites us to share in the Eucharistic Prayer.  The invitation to prayer has changed slightly:

Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters),
that my sacrifice and yours
may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

Like with other parts of the revised translation, this translation is now a closer match to the Latin text, which also refers to the priest’s sacrifice and ours.  The change to “my sacrifice and yours”, however, may seem strange.

In considering this change, we need to consider how each of us comes to the Eucharistic celebration with our own reasons for thanksgiving, with our own needs and concerns.  In a sense, therefore, we offer ourselves at the altar along with the offerings of bread and wine.  This newly revised translation of the Latin phrase, now rendered at “my sacrifice and yours” can hopefully serve as a reminder of our necessary part in this offering and sacrifice of the Mass.

We then enter into the Prayer Over the Offerings and the Eucharistic Prayer.  The Eucharistic Prayer also begins with a newly revised response to “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”  Our response, “It is right and just”, allows the priest to proceed with the Eucharistic Prayer and lead us into the high point of the Mass.  The priest, in beginning the preface, acknowledges our agreement and desire to share in the Eucharist by affirming that “it is right and just” that we give thanks and praise to God.

13/4/08 – Everybody Stand Up

Those of you who have been reading this column since Easter will now be aware that there are some small changes occurring in the celebration of Mass from Pentecost Sunday.  In fact, there are only two changes that will affect the entire assembly; both have to do with our posture during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

After the gifts are prepared during Mass, the priest invites us to pray by saying:

Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.

We then respond with “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands…”, and stand for the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer.

Starting from Pentecost Sunday, we will need to stand before we make this response.

Why?  We will now stand before we respond because the priest is inviting us to pray, and the Church always stands or kneels when it prays during Mass.  Our posture of standing or kneeling says something about our relationship with God.  When we stand at this time, we show our importance for the Eucharistic Prayer; the most important prayer of the Mass.

When we stand, we not only show how important the prayer is, but that we are ready, with the priest, to pray this prayer.  Our affirmative response to the priest’s invitation to pray allows him to proceed with the celebration of the Eucharist.

On the Sunday before Pentecost, we will remind you of this and the other change that will occur.  As you can see, the first change is simple; we’re just standing one sentence sooner.