Christ is finally and uniquely made present to us in the Mass through the bread and wine that become his body and blood. This makes the Liturgy of the Eucharist the high point of the Mass.
Our offerings of bread and wine are brought forward in the Offertory Procession. The priest prepares them for the Eucharistic Prayer, and invites us to join him in praying that God will accept our offering. We offer not only the bread and wine, but ourselves as well, opening ourselves completely to the will of God.
Following the Prayer Over the Offerings, the priest begins the Eucharistic Prayer. This prayer is addressed to God. It is the prayer of Christ and his Church, led by the priest who acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). It begins with a Preface which is specific to the feast, season or occasion, calling to mind a particular aspect of the mystery of salvation. It also reminds us that we pray in union with the whole Church, throughout the world and the Church eternal: the angels, saints, and the whole company of heaven. There are several options for the Eucharistic Prayer itself. Each, however, shares some essential elements:
- Remembering the presence and action of God throughout history
- Calling upon the Holy Spirit to be present; to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and to transform us, the Church, to be more like Christ
- Praying in hope that we will follow Christ along the path to eternal life.
Like the Gospel Acclamation, our acclamations in the Eucharistic Prayer – the Sanctus (Holy, Holy), Memorial Acclamation (Mystery of Faith) and Great Amen – are of great importance, allowing us to add our voice to this great prayer of praise and thanksgiving. They should be sung whenever possible. We kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer as a sign of reverence.
Once the Eucharistic Prayer is complete, we enter into the Communion Rite. This begins with the Lord’s Prayer, where we, among other things, pray that “Our Father” will “give us, this day, our daily bread”. After this is the Rite of Peace, a part of the Mass which St Justin noted in his account of the Mass in the second century. We pray that Christ’s peace may reign in our world and be with us always. We then exchange with those around us, in a way that is appropriate and customary within local culture and practice.
The Fraction then follows, with the singing or reciting of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The Eucharist is prepared for sharing with us all, and we prepare ourselves to receive it. We kneel once again in reverence. The priest then invites us to communion, and we pray that, while we are imperfect, through the will of God we will be healed and made ready to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Through Holy Communion we are brought into profound unity with Christ and with each other. Our singing of the communion song is a sign of this profound unity. We come forward in procession as one body in Christ. Before we step forward to receive communion, we bow in reverence to the Blessed Sacrament. The priest or minister says “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ”, and we acknowledge and affirm this great mystery by saying “Amen”. Although Christ is completely present in each Eucharistic element, we are encouraged to follow Christ’s command to the apostles, to eat his Body and drink his Blood, receiving communion under both kinds. After communion, we have time for silent prayer, and a hymn of thanksgiving may also be sung. Finally, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is brought to a close with the Prayer After Communion. This is one of the three Trinitarian Collect Prayers of the Mass, the other two being the Collect Prayer in the Introductory Rites, and the Prayer Over the Offerings.
Texts of the Order of Mass
- from the current edition of the Roman Missal (Universalis Publishing)