Thursday, June 28, 2018

How to Assist at the Traditional Mass, Part 2: The Mass itself

Just a friendly reminder that there is no obligation of penance or abstinence from meat tomorrow, June 29, because it is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. This is also a holy day of obligation in some countries, including England, Scotland, and Wales. It is not a holy day of obligation in the United States.

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Click here for Part 1: Preparations before Mass.

At a Low Mass, the priest is assisted by only one or two servers, and there is no music or incense. Only two candles are lit on the altar. Although it does not have some of the beautiful ceremonies of a Solemn Mass, it is the simplest form of the Mass to understand and participate in. Thus, in this article, I will walk you through a typical Low Mass. Afterwards, I will explain the parts that are different in a Sung or Solemn Mass.

The congregation stands, sits, and kneels for certain parts of the Mass. The postures and actions of the congregation are not regulated by the rubrics, only by custom. Thus, they sometimes vary from place to place or even from person to person. As a general rule, follow what other people are doing.

All rise when the server rings the bell. The priest and server go in procession to the altar. The priest approaches the altar to unfold the corporal and place the chalice. He then returns to the bottom of the altar steps to begin Mass. Kneel when the server does.

The priest and server say the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar aloud together. You can follow along in the missal and silently say the prayers with the priest. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are found in the Ordinary of the Mass in the missal. We open with Psalm 42 and then pray the Confiteor, which the server says on our behalf, asking God for mercy and grace to prepare ourselves to offer the Holy Sacrifice. Make the Sign of the Cross at the verse “Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domini,” before the Confiteor. When the server says the Confiteor, we strike our breasts three times at the words, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

At the end of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the priest goes up to the altar, kisses it, and then reads the Introit. The Introit is found in the missal in the propers of the day. Unless it is a Mass for the Dead (also known as a Requiem Mass), all make the Sign of the Cross when the priest begins the Introit. The priest then says the Kyrie alternately with the server. If the day is of a joyful nature, the priest says the Gloria at the middle of the altar. The Kyrie and Gloria are both found in the Ordinary of the Mass. The congregation remains kneeling. At the words, “Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris,” at the end of the Gloria, make the Sign of the Cross.

The priest then kisses the altar and turns to greet the people, saying, “Dominus vobiscum.” The server responds, “Et cum spiritu tuo.” In some parishes, it is customary for the people to say this and other responses with the server. Everything the server says and does is on the people's behalf. The priest prays the collects at the epistle side of the altar, which are found in the propers for the day and for whatever occasions may be commemorated. They always conclude, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum,” to which the server responds, “Amen.”

Next is the Epistle, which the priest reads while the congregation remains kneeling. It is found in the propers of the day. At the end, the server says, “Deo gratias.” The priest then reads aloud the Gradual, Alleluia verse, Tract, or whatever is appointed to be read between the Epistle and Gospel. After he has said these, the server moves the missal from the epistle side to the gospel side of the altar (right side to the left side when facing it). Meanwhile, the priest bows down in the middle of the altar and silently says the prayer Munda cor meum.

All rise for the Gospel. The priest begins with the greeting, “Dominus vobiscum.” When he says, “Sequentia (or Initium) sancti Evangelii...” make a small Sign of the Cross with your thumb on your forehead, lips, and breast, as a nonverbal way of praying that the Gospel may be on our minds, our lips, and our hearts. Remain standing while the priest reads the Gospel. At the end, the server responds, “Laus tibi, Christe,” and the priest kisses the missal at the place where the Gospel is printed, silently praying, “Per Evangelica dicta deleantur nostra delicta.”

If it is a Sunday, major holy day, or sometimes an ordinary weekday, the priest may preach a sermon. Sit down as he approaches the pulpit. First, he might read the Epistle and Gospel again in English. If he does, sit for the Epistle, stand for the Gospel, and then sit again. There are no responses by the server or congregation when the Epistle and Gospel are read in English. You do not have to make the small Signs of the Cross again when the Gospel is read, though you can if you want to. The priest may also read some announcements. The sermon, always in English, is customarily begun and concluded with the Sign of the Cross. After the sermon, the priest returns to the altar.

If it is a Sunday or major holy day, the priest will then read aloud the Credo, also called the Nicene Creed. It is found in the Ordinary of the Mass. The people stand. At the words, “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est,” genuflect on your right knee in adoration of our Lord's Incarnation. At the words, “Et vitam venturi saeculi,” at the end of the Credo, make the Sign of the Cross.

The priest will then greet the people with Dominus vobiscum and read aloud the Offertory verse, which is found in the propers. The congregation then sits. If there is a sermon but no Credo, you can remain sitting after the sermon. This is the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful. The priest now prepares the bread and wine and offers them to God. They will soon become the Body and Blood of Christ. In some parishes, the bell is rung when the priest unveils the chalice. The Offertory prayers are found in the Ordinary of the Mass and are said silently by the priest.

During the Offertory, especially on Sundays, the ushers may collect the people's monetary offerings for the support of the parish. They proceed from the front of the church to the back with the collection basket. If you are offering something, have it out and ready when the usher comes by. Visitors are not expected to contribute money, though generosity is always appreciated. Catholic parishes rely on free will offerings. Catholics are obligated to make some sort of material contribution to the support of their parish.

Toward the end of the Offertory, the priest turns toward the people and says in a soft but audible voice the two words, “Orate fratres.” As he turns back to the altar, he continues silently, “ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.” Here, the priest is inviting us to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by asking us to pray that his sacrifice and ours may be acceptable to God. The server responds by praying for this intention. The priest then silently prays the secrets, which are found in the propers of the day and of the occasions being commemorated.

The priest concludes the secrets aloud and proceeds with the Sursum corda dialogue, printed in the Ordinary of the Mass, followed by the Preface. After the Preface, the priest says the Sanctus in a soft but audible voice. At the beginning of the Sanctus, the server rings the bell, and all kneel. This is the hymn of adoration of the holy angels, so we join the angels in kneeling before God's throne. The priest bows down while saying the first part of the Sanctus, and we may bow our heads as well. At the words, “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini,” we make the Sign of the Cross.

The priest then reads the Canon of the Mass silently, with the people kneeling. It is printed in the Ordinary of the Mass. During this most important and sacred part of the Mass, there is silence in the church. The server rings the bell once at the prayer “Hanc igitur,” warning us that the bread and wine are about to become the Body and Blood of Christ.

After the priest pronounces the words of consecration of the Host, he genuflects in adoration, and the bell is rung once. He then elevates the Host, and the bell is rung three more times. Look at the Sacred Host, knowing that it is God himself under the humble appearance of bread, and say silently the words of St. Thomas the Apostle when he believed that our Lord was risen: “My Lord and my God!” You can also add one of the prayers given by Our Lady of Fatima: “Most Holy Trinity, I adore thee! My God, my God, I love thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament!” The priest genuflects again, and the bell is rung once more. This same ritual follows the consecration of the Chalice. Look up at the Chalice of our Lord's Precious Blood and say silently again, “My Lord and my God!”

Later in the Canon, the priest says the words, “Nobis quoque peccatoribus,” in a soft but audible voice and then continues silently. He strikes his breast when he says these words, but the server does not. At the end of the Canon, he says aloud, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum,” to which the server responds, “Amen.”

We remain kneeling while the priest says the Pater noster aloud. The server says the final line. The priest says the next prayer silently while he breaks the Host. He again concludes aloud, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum.” He then says aloud, “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum,” and the server responds, “Et cum spiritu tuo.” After a silent prayer, the priest says the Agnus Dei aloud. At the words, “Miserere nobis,” in each of the first two lines, and the words, “Dona nobis pacem,” in the third line, we strike our breasts. If it is a Mass for the Dead, instead of “Miserere nobis,” the priest says, “Dona eis requiem,” and instead of “Dona nobis pacem,” he says, “Dona eis requiem sempiternam.” We do not strike our breasts at Masses for the Dead.

Next, the priest bows down and silently the three prayers in preparation for Communion. After these, he takes the paten and Host and says three times in a soft but audible voice, “Domine, non sum dignus,” before continuing silently. The server rings the bell each of the three times. The priest eats the Sacred Host and drinks the Precious Blood.

Depending on local custom, the server may say the Confiteor again on behalf of the people before we receive Communion. Like before, we strike our breasts three times at the words, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.” The priest says the prayers “Misereatur...” and “Indulgentiam...” He then takes the ciborium, turns to the people, holds up a small Host, and invites us to Communion with the words, “Ecce Agnus Dei...” He then adds, “Domine, non sum dignus...” three times on our behalf. In some parishes, the people say these words with the priest.

In order to receive Communion, you must be a practicing Catholic in a state of grace and fasting for at least one hour. “State of grace” means you are not conscious of any mortal sins that have not yet been absolved through the sacrament of Penance. Children usually receive their first Holy Communion around age seven, after a period of preparation. Finally, you may not receive Communion more than twice in one day, and the second time must be at Mass. This restriction does not apply to Viaticum, or Communion given to someone in danger of death.

If you are not receiving Communion, sit down and raise the kneeler to allow others to get by. If you want, you may make an act of spiritual Communion. No one will judge you or think anything of the fact that you are not receiving Communion. If you are receiving Communion, stand up and get in line after the people in front of you have done so. You do not need to jump up as soon as the priest starts distributing Communion. Do not genuflect when you leave your pew. Since receiving Communion is a very personal experience, it is best to keep your eyes directly in front of you and avoid staring or watching people's faces during Communion. Kneel at the altar rail as close as comfortably possible to the person next to you. If you cannot kneel, you can stand. If there is a communion cloth, put your hands under it. When the priest comes to you, close your eyes, open your mouth, and stick out your tongue, and the priest will place the Host on your tongue. The server will hold a paten under your chin to catch the Host in case it falls. After you have received the Host, make the Sign of the Cross and then go back to your pew. Try not to chew the Host if you can avoid it, so that it does not get stuck in your teeth.

After receiving Communion, kneel in your pew and adore and thank God for what you have just received. Some people cover their faces with their hands while praying after Communion because of how intense and personal the experience is. For at least a little while, your body is a temple of the Blessed Sacrament. This is the closest we can possibly be to God while on earth. Meditate for a moment on Jesus's presence in your body. A popular prayer for after Communion is the Anima Christi, which is found in most missals.

After everyone has received Communion, the priest will perform the ablutions and then read the Communion verse aloud. He then greets the people and says the postcommunions, which are found in the propers. The congregation remains kneeling. The rest of the Mass is in the Ordinary of the Mass. After the priest gives the blessing, stand for the Last Gospel. All genuflect at the words, “Et verbum caro factum est,” in adoration of our Lord's Incarnation.

In many parishes, at the end of Low Mass, the priest and server kneel at the foot of the altar and say the Leonine Prayers in English. The congregation says them with the priest while kneeling. Some parishes add additional prayers after the Leonine Prayers by local custom. After these, the priest and server exit. The congregation stands as the priest and server leave the church. After Mass, make a private act of thanksgiving to God for the grace that he has given to us in the Mass. Remember the holy souls in purgatory, who always need our prayers.

When you are finished adoring and thanking God, genuflect as you leave the pew and exit the church. If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar, exit using a side aisle to avoid turning your back to the Blessed Sacrament. In this case, kneel on both knees and make a profound bow. If you want, you can bless yourself with holy water again as you exit. Keep silence until you are in the vestibule.

Assisting at Sung Mass or Solemn Mass

At a Solemn Mass, the priest is assisted by deacon and subdeacon, everything is sung, and incense is used. A Sung Mass is similar to a Solemn Mass, except that there is no deacon or subdeacon. Incense is usually used at a Sung Mass, but it is not required. Six candles are usually lit on the altar for both Sung and Solemn Mass, but four may be used for Sung Mass. They are both commonly referred to as “High Mass.” The manner of assisting at Sung or Solemn Mass is a little different from a Low Mass, so I will explain the differences here. Everything else is done as in a Low Mass.

The procession to the altar is commonly led by a large crucifix. Some people choose to bow or make the Sign of Cross when the crucifix passes them. Some people also choose to bow when the priest passes them in procession. If it is a Sunday, the Asperges will take place before Mass. Remain standing while the priest walks up and down the church, sprinkling everyone with holy water. When you are sprinkled with holy water, make the Sign of the Cross. Meanwhile, the choir will sing the antiphon Asperges me or, in Eastertide, the antiphon Vidi aquam. You can sing with the choir if you feel comfortable doing so. At the end, the priest and ministers will kneel in front of the altar to sing a prayer. The congregation remains standing.

Sit for a moment while the priest changes from cope to chasuble. The choir will begin singing the Introit. Kneel as the priest and ministers approach the altar. While the choir is singing, the priest and ministers say the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. Afterwards, the priest incenses the altar. When the choir finishes the Introit, they begin singing the Kyrie. You can always sing with the choir on any part of the Mass that you feel comfortable singing.

The priest sings the first few words of the Gloria, and the choir continues. Stand when the priest begins the Gloria. When the priest finishes reading the Gloria to himself, he and the ministers go to sit down. The congregation sits down after the priest sits down and then stands when the priest does after the Gloria. Make the Sign of the Cross when the choir sings, “Cum Sancto Spiritu,” at the end of the Gloria. If there is no Gloria, stand when the priest sings, “Dominus vobiscum,” before the collects.

Next, the priest at a Sung Mass or the subdeacon at a Solemn Mass sings the Epistle. The congregation sits. After the Epistle, the choir sings the Gradual, Alleluia verse, Tract, or whatever is appointed. Stand when the priest or deacon sings the Gospel. Sit for the sermon if there is one.

Like the Gloria, the priest sings the first few words of the Credo, and the choir continues, with the congregation standing. Kneel while the choir sings, “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est,” and then stand again. At a Sung Mass, sit after the priest sits down. At a Solemn Mass, remain standing while the deacon unfolds the corporal on the altar, and then sit when the deacon and subdeacon sit. Stand when the priest stands at the end of the Credo. Make the Sign of the Cross when the choir sings, “Et vitam venturi saeculi.” The priest then goes to the altar to begin the Offertory.

During the Offertory, the choir sings the Offertory verse. They may also sing other pieces, or the organ may be played. The congregation stands when they are incensed and then remains standing. The priest sings the Preface, and then the choir sings the Sanctus while the priest begins saying the Canon silently. If the choir is singing a polyphonic setting of the Sanctus, they pause after the first “Hosanna in excelsis” and then resume after the consecration of the Host and Chalice. The priest ends the Canon singing aloud, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum.” Stand while the priest sings the Our Father. After the priest sings, “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum,” and the choir responds, the congregation kneels. At a Sung Mass, the servers may say the Confiteor before Communion. At a Solemn Mass, the deacon sings the Confiteor. The choir sings the Communion verse during Communion, and they may also sing other pieces, like at the Offertory.

After Communion, stand when the priest sings, “Dominus vobiscum.” The priest then sings the postcommunions. Kneel for the blessing, and then stand again for the Last Gospel. The Leonine Prayers are not said after Sung or Solemn Mass. A hymn may be sung as the priest and ministers exit.

As a final note, I acknowledge again that the traditional Latin Mass can be confusing and intimidating if you are unfamiliar with it. Don't worry about doing everything right or following all of the rules. This article is intended to be a general guide rather than a strict set of rules. The most important thing is to go to Mass, worship God, and receive his grace.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

How to Assist at the Traditional Mass, Part 1: Preparations before Mass

Over the last twelve posts, I have described the liturgy of the traditional Latin Mass. I went into detail on all of its text, ceremony, symbolism, beauty, and antiquity. Hopefully I have helped people to understand the Mass more fully and better unite themselves to the Holy Sacrifice.

However, I would now like to offer some more practical information on how to assist at the traditional Latin Mass. This is intended especially for anyone who is going to the traditional Mass for the first time. I recognize that the traditional Mass can be confusing and intimidating. The website Fisheaters, linked in the sidebar, has a lot of great information as well. Keep in mind that a lot of things are dependent on local custom, but hopefully this gives you a better idea of what to expect.

Before you go to the traditional Latin Mass, realize that you will be participating in something truly extraordinary. We speak of “assisting” in the Mass rather than merely “attending” Mass because, when we unite ourselves to the Mass, we offer the sacrifice with the priest and offer ourselves to God along with the bread and wine (Romans 12:1). Thus, we are not mere observers, but are actually assisting in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice.

There seems to be a movement lately in a lot of Protestant churches (and sadly even in some Catholic churches) of making worship too casual. They want to make people feel completely comfortable at church and make it as casual and ordinary as meeting with friends for coffee. Similar are the efforts by well-intentioned but severely misguided individuals to make worship more relevant for young people by including vulgar, happy-clappy music at the expense of traditional ceremonies. These ideas essentially come down to making worship a reflection of the world instead of a reflection of God.

The traditional Latin Mass, on the other hand, is far from casual. When we assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in its traditional form, we step out of the busy world and into a glimpse of eternity. We participate in the perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant. We come into the very real presence of God. We receive God's indescribable grace. We participate in a divine tradition that has its origins at the beginning of time. We worship God the way that Catholics have for more than one thousand years. We participate in the same Mass that nourished the faith of countless saints, thousands of whom willingly died as holy martyrs to defend this Mass. We participate in the Mass that, from its inception, Satan and his army of demons have tried persistently and unsuccessfully to destroy.

Finally, we receive the gift that God promised to Simeon before his death, to see our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:25-26). The traditional Latin Mass – the Mass of All Ages and the most beautiful thing this side of heaven – is not a reflection of the world (John 17:16). Rather, it the closest that we can get to almighty God while still on earth. We must strive to present ourselves to God in his Church as a pure offering, just as Jesus himself was presented in the Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2:22). Before we go to Mass, we should be sure to spiritually prepare ourselves for what we are about to do.

If you are a practicing Catholic and you plan to receive Holy Communion, canon law requires that you fast from food or drink for at least one hour before receiving Holy Communion. Water and necessary medicine do not break the fast. The traditional practice is to fast from midnight, so that our Lord Jesus Christ is our first food of the day. The requirement was changed to three hours in the 1950s and then later to just one hour. However, if you are able to fast for three hours or from midnight, it is an excellent personal devotion. Fasting is commanded by God throughout the Old and New Testaments (Exodus 34:28, Joel 2:12-13, Acts 13:2). Our Lord himself fasted for forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2). By fasting, we become closer to God by denying ourselves physical pleasures, and by fasting before Communion, we are able to be truly hungry for our Lord. If, due to some medical condition, you are unable to fast even one hour, then the obligation is dispensed.


Because the Mass is not a casual event, one should not dress casually. If you were going to the White House to meet the President of the United States, you would probably dress nicely. At Mass, you are going to meet God, who is infinitely greater than any human. Thus, one should dress nicely and modestly for Mass. As a general rule, men should wear slacks, a dress shirt, and perhaps a suit or tie. Women should wear a modest skirt or dress that covers the knees when standing or sitting. Shoulders and cleavage should also be covered. It is very important for everyone that clothing be modest. Shorts, short skirts, tank tops, yoga pants, flip flops, etc. are not appropriate.

Please do not construe this to mean that one must have fancy or expensive clothes in order to go to Mass! God welcomes everyone, and Jesus especially focused on welcoming the poor. Simply dress as nicely as you can. Give God your best, and that will be enough. If all you have is jeans, then wear jeans. People will not think any less of you because of it.

It is customary for women and girls to cover their heads with a veil, scarf or appropriate hat. Men and boys, on the other hand, must always have their heads uncovered in the church. St. Paul commanded this in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:1-17). Although men and women are both created in the image and likeness of God and both have crucial roles in God's plan for mankind, this does not imply that their roles are the same. The theology of the different roles of men and women is a story for another time, but it is because of these roles that men have their heads uncovered and women have their heads covered at church.

As another perspective, veiling is a sign of sanctity. In the Mass, the chalice is veiled until the Offertory. The tabernacle, which contains our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, is veiled. Under the Old Covenant, the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant, was veiled (Hebrews 9:3). Finally, every time the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed in art, she is always veiled. Thus, the Church calls upon women to cover their heads at Mass. This used to be required by canon law, but now it is simply preserved by custom. If you have no suitable head covering, there is no need to worry. Some parishes have veils for women to borrow, or you can go without one.

Arriving at the church

Aim to arrive at the church a little early, maybe 10-15 minutes before Mass is scheduled to start, so that you have time to pray and collect yourself before Mass. If you do not have a traditional missal, many parishes have missals or booklets for people to borrow. Alternatively, the website Divinum Officium, linked in the sidebar, has the full text of the Mass of each day, which you can print out and bring with you. If you are using a missal, before Mass, you should locate the Ordinary of the Mass, the propers for the day, and the Preface for the day, and place ribbons in these places.

Children of any age are welcome at Mass! Jesus himself said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14). Catholics love children. If your children are old enough to understand what is going on, explain to them before Mass what is going to happen, and maybe sit near the front so that they can see what is happening. If you have infants or toddlers, you might want to sit near the back so that you can leave discreetly if necessary. In any case, please make sure that your kids behave themselves and are not disruptive to other people at Mass.

Turn off your cell phone before you enter the church. If you are a police officer or medical professional who must be on call, you can have your phone on vibrate. Otherwise, turn it off. Nothing is more annoying and disruptive than a cell phone ringing during Mass. Texting or checking Facebook during Mass is not appropriate. Similarly, food, drink, and chewing gum are not appropriate in the church.

When you enter the church, dip your finger in the font of holy water, always located near the entrance, and bless yourself with the Sign of the Cross. You may genuflect on your right knee toward the altar as you do so. Blessing ourselves with holy water is a reminder of our baptism and helps us direct our minds and hearts to God as we enter his sacred place. Find a pew to sit in, and genuflect toward the altar before sitting down. If for some reason the tabernacle is not located behind the main altar, genuflect first toward the tabernacle and then again toward the altar. Any time we enter or exit our pew (except to receive Communion) and any time we pass before the altar, we genuflect as a sign of reverence to God. If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, kneel on both knees and make a profound bow.

Sacred silence should be maintained in the church at all times. Always remember that God is present in the tabernacle. In addition, the church is solemnly consecrated to be a sacred space where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered. Take some time to pray silently and spiritually prepare yourself to assist in the Mass. In some parishes, devotions such as the Rosary may be led publicly before Mass. If it is necessary to talk to someone, keep it to a soft whisper. Personal conversations are not appropriate in the church.

Look up at the crucifix and see our Lord, suffering and dying on the Cross for our redemption. Meditate on the sacrifice that you are about to assist in. Tell God sincerely that you are sorry for ever having offended him and that you will strive to never sin again. At many parishes, confessions are heard before Mass. Finally, greet our Blessed Mother, Mary, and ask for her intercession as you prepare to assist in the Holy Sacrifice. A server will ring a bell to signal the beginning of Mass.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 12: Final thoughts

This is the final installment of the series on the traditional Latin Mass.

Previous parts in this series:
Part 6: The Offertory
Part 7: The Preface, Sanctus, and beginning of the Canon
Part 8: The rest of the Canon
Part 9: The Our Father, the breaking of the Host, and the Agnus Dei
Part 10: Communion
Part 11: The postcommunions and the end of the Mass

According to the missal, the priest should begin reciting the Canticle of the Three Children (Daniel 3:57-88) as a private devotion while he leaves the altar. This is the hymn of praise of the three children whom God delivered from the furnace. In the Divine Office, it is said or sung at Lauds, or morning prayer, on Sundays and major feasts. In any case, it is crucial for all of us who have assisted in and received the graces of the Mass to make a private act of thanksgiving to God and to make a resolution to unite ourselves with God's will. When we go out into the world, we should continue to live out the grace and good works that have been cultivated in the Mass. The Byzantine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom instructs, “Having adored and thanked God for everything, he goes away.”

As I mentioned in the first part of this series, the ceremonies I described are those of a Solemn Mass, which is the full and ideal form of the Mass. Unfortunately, outside of Rome, there are usually not enough clergy to offer a Solemn Mass on a regular basis. Thus, while the Solemn Mass is the ideal, in practice it has become the exception rather than the rule. Most daily Masses, or even Sunday Masses in smaller parishes, are Low Masses, in which the priest is assisted only by one or two servers, there is no incense, and nothing is sung. The ceremonies of a Low Mass try as much as possible to imitate a Solemn Mass, but they are much simpler.

At many parishes, the Mass on Sundays and major holy days is a Sung Mass, or missa cantata, in which everything is sung like in a Solemn Mass, but there is no deacon or subdeacon. Incense is frequently used at a Sung Mass, but it is not required. Like a Low Mass, the ceremonies of a Sung Mass imitate a Solemn Mass as much as possible. The Sung Mass is frequently referred to as “High Mass,” even though the term “High Mass” properly refers to a Solemn Mass. If you see “High Mass” on a parish's Mass schedule, it probably means Sung Mass.

At a Low Mass, after the Last Gospel, the priest and server kneel before the altar and say a few more prayers in the vernacular, known as the “Leonine Prayers.” These prayers have no antiquity and, like the Asperges, are not part of the Mass. They begin with three Hail Marys.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. (three times)

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee to we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with mercy upon the people who cry to thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of Saint Joseph her spouse, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, mercifully and graciously hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners and for the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ Our Lord.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Have mercy on us.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Have mercy on us.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Have mercy on us.

Pope Leo XIII ordered in 1884, while he was a prisoner in the Vatican due to the invasion by the Kingdom of Italy, that these prayers be said after Low Masses throughout the world to pray for defense of the pope's sovereignty over the Papal States. People had prayed them after Low Masses in the Papal States since 1859. After the Lateran Treaty granted the pope sovereignty over Vatican City in 1929, the Leonine Prayers continued to be said for the restoration of religious freedom in Russia. Thus, these prayers said after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are very powerful and have brought about great miracles in the world. They were suppressed in 1965, but they are still often said after traditional Latin Masses today. After the Leonine Prayers, the priest and servers exit, and the priest makes his thanksgiving.

Thus are the ceremonies of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the cornerstone of the Catholic religion, the perfect sacrifice of atonement for our sins, our true participation in our Lord Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, the most perfect act of worship that we offer to God, and the occasion of the greatest, most indescribable grace that God gives to us. The ceremonies of the Mass direct all five of our senses to God. We see the beautiful church, the vestments, the altar, the crucifix, and ultimately our Lord himself under the appearance of bread and wine. We hear the sacred music and Gregorian chant. We smell the aroma of incense. We feel the discomfort from standing and kneeling for an extended period of time, which occupies our bodies so that our minds can focus on God and gives us a glimpse, however miniscule, of our Lord's suffering on the Cross. Finally, if we are well prepared, we can taste God himself. God knows our human weakness and needs, so, through Divine Providence and Sacred Tradition, he has given us this perfect and beautiful ceremony with which to worship him, offer sacrifice, and receive his indescribable grace.

Some have wondered if such formal liturgy and ceremonies are pleasing to God, or if they are at odds with our spiritual experience of him. Not only is the liturgy not opposed to the Word of God or our spiritual experience, but it is even commanded by God and necessary to unite ourselves to him in his Church. In this series, I have made it clear that the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated and offered up as the Church has done for nearly two thousand years, is the proper act of worship and sacrifice of the New Covenant. By nature, true religion must have sacrifice as a public, external act for men to demonstrate their worship to God. In addition, it is clear from Sacred Scripture that God commands us to partake of his actual Body and Blood. This public sacrifice and partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ could not be anything less than this great and noble rite of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Throughout this series, I have provided justification from both Scripture and writings of Church Fathers. The two sources of the Church's doctrine and the two pillars of the Word of God, Scripture and Tradition, both unequivocally uphold the Mass as the most perfect act of worship to God. Those who supposed that the Mass is in opposition to the Word of God were likely taken aback by the direct scriptural support of everything in the Mass, with some texts even coming straight out of the Bible, e.g. the Psalms. A quick scan of the Bible clearly shows that God is very concerned with the fine details of ceremonies carried out in his honor, as seen by the great detail he gives in prescribing them (Exodus 12 onward, entire book of Leviticus). As far as the "spiritual experience" and "things unseen," there can be no doubt that the Mass, being the same Sacrifice as offered at Calvary, fulfills both of those very well. In fact, it fulfills them far more than any Protestant service because, in the Mass, God is truly present.

Thus, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most pleasing act of worship to God, and the traditional Latin Mass is certainly a great and beautiful liturgy worthy of fulfilling such a role.

New terms
  • Sung Mass – A Mass with music but without deacon or subdeacon. Incense may or may not be used.
  • Leonine Prayers – Prayers said in the vernacular after Low Mass, ordered by Pope Leo XIII in 1884.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 11: The postcommunions and the end of the Mass

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray.

Every time these words are sung, the priest goes to the middle of the altar to kiss the relics of saints. Once again, the Mass involves, not just the priest and those physically present, but the whole Church. By this kiss, he extends the greeting to the Church Triumphant. The choir responds, “Et cum spiritu tuo,” the way St. Paul ended some of his epistles (Galatians 6:18, Philippians 4:23, 2 Timothy 4:22). The priest returns to the Epistle side of the altar and invites them to pray, singing, “Oremus.”

In each of the three major actions of the Mass, the Church has prayers proper to the occasions being observed and to her other intentions. Toward the beginning of the Mass, when we were preparing to offer the sacrifice, the collects were sung. At the Offertory, when we were making our initial offering to God and entering into the true sacrifice, the secrets were said. Now that we have received Communion, the priest sings the postcommunions to give thanks to God for all he has given us in the Mass and to ask for his grace as we go back out to the world. Postcommunions follow the same format as collects and secrets, concluding with a short doxology and mention of the Trinity. Then, the missal is closed. Like the veiling of the chalice, our exit from the solemn liturgy is marked by closing and covering things, in reverse of when we entered.

The priest once again returns to the center, kisses the altar, and greets the people. In all this, the three ministers move together, with the priest at the top of the steps, the deacon in the middle, and the subdeacon on the ground. How they are standing shows precedence. The priest is superior to the deacon, who is superior to the subdeacon. The way they move together also represents the Trinity and its three equal persons. Though unequal, the ministers are in a category separate from others present. After the priest has greeted the people, the deacon turns and sings the dismissal. It is usually sung to an elaborate melody.

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Ite, Missa est.
Deo gratias.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Go, the Mass is ended.
Thanks be to God.

This is one of the most difficult texts in the Mass to translate and interpret. Often, it is simply rendered, “Go, the Mass is ended,” but there is far more meaning than that. There is also considerable debate as to the origins and meaning of this phrase. It has its earliest origins in the dismissals of meetings of the Roman Forum and has been part of the Mass from the earliest centuries. It literally means, “Go, it is the dismissal.” The Latin word “missa,” here meaning “dismissal,” is also the word for “Mass,” and some believe that the word for “Mass” originates from the phrase, “Ite Missa est.” There is a popular theory that the word “missa” came to imply a mission. After devoutly assisting in the Mass, the faithful are sent forth into the world to carry on Christ's mission (Mark 16:15-20). Although this probably is not the actual historical origin of this phrase, it is still a good reminder of what we are sent to do as we are dismissed from the Mass. Illustrated below are the priest, deacon, and subdeacon in a semicircle. The priest and deacon are both turned to the people while the deacon sings, “Ite Missa est.” The subdeacon remains facing the altar. A server holds the book containing the chant melody for the deacon.

Image credit: Lumen roma

Until 1962, whenever the Gloria was not sung, such as in Advent and Lent, “Ite Missa est” was not sung. During these times, we do not wish to be dismissed, but rather to remain keeping watch with Christ. The Church desires, then, not a grand sending forth, but rather a more subdued dismissal, which the deacon sings facing the altar.

Benedicamus Domino.
Deo gratias.
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

We ought to bless the Lord always in our lives, but Holy Mother Church sings this because she wishes to remain with her spouse, the Lord, and keep watch until all is accomplished at Christmas or at Easter, when “Ite Missa est” is sung again. This beautiful tradition was discontinued in the 1962 Missal, which directed that “Ite Missa est” always be used unless some other liturgy immediately follows the Mass.

Whether the deacon sings “Ite Missa est” or the lesser “Benedicamus Domino,” the choir responds to the same melody, “Deo gratias.” Indeed, thanks be to God for all he has done for us, for the immeasurable grace given us in the Mass! What other remark could we make at the thought of exiting the Mass, after the amazing things that have just happened? Thanks be to God for the perfect sacrifice that we have offered and the most Blessed Sacrament that we have consumed. As we go out, we will still give thanks to God with our lives, doing his will. At Easter, the most glorious feast of the year, the Church further exclaims her jubilation by adding “alleluia, alleluia” to both the dismissal and its response.

At Masses for the Dead, neither “Ite Missa est” nor “Benedicamus Domino” are sung. In their place, the Church makes one final prayer for her suffering members. Thus the deacon sings to a simple tone.

Requiescant in pace.
May they rest in peace.

This is the origin of the acronym “R.I.P.” and is always sung in the plural, for just as every Mass involves the whole Church, a Mass for the Dead always remembers all the Church Suffering, perhaps with special emphasis on a particular person. Because it is a sorrowful prayer, the response is not, “Deo gratias,” but rather, “Amen.”

Even when we are dismissed with “Ite Missa est,” the Mass does not end quite yet. The following ceremonies appeared as private devotions during the Middle Ages and were not prescribed in the missal until 1570. The priest turns back to the altar and bows down to whisper one final prayer.

Pláceat tibi, sancta Trínitas, obséquium servitútis meæ: et præsta; ut sacrifícium, quod óculis tuæ maiestátis indígnus óbtuli, tibi sit acceptábile, mihíque et ómnibus, pro quibus illud óbtuli, sit, te miseránte, propitiábile. Per Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.
May the performance of my homage be pleasing to thee, O holy Trinity: and grant that the sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered up in the sight of thy majesty, may be acceptable to thee, and through thy mercy, be a propitiation for me, and for all those for whom I have offered it. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Just as the Mass began with an invocation of the Trinity, so it ends in this prayer addressing the whole Trinity together. Here, the priest makes his last supplication for acceptance of his worship and sacrifice. Once again, he prays for reception of the graces attached to Holy Communion. Nothing new is introduced in this prayer; it a sort of epitome to close the Mass. As with every prayer, it ends, “Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.”

As the faithful are sent out, the priest blesses them on their journey. A blessing is the dedication of something or someone to a sacred purpose. When confered on a person, it has the effect of assisting personal devotion and giving actual graces. God blessed the human race at the beginning of time, and he did the same with Noah and Abraham (Genesis 1:22, 9:1, 12:1-2). Priests of the Old Covenant blessed the Israelites (Numbers 6:23-27). In the New Covenant, one of the purposes for which priests are ordained is to give blessings.

Benedícat vos omnípotens Deus, Pater, et Fílius, ☩ et Spíritus Sanctus.
May almighty God bless you, Father, Son, ☩ and Holy Ghost.

The priest first raises his eyes to God, whose blessing is being given, and says the first part, “Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus.” The priest then turns to the people and blesses them with the Sign of the Cross, saying, “Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus.” Thus, we are blessed in the name of the whole Trinity.

Because a bishop has the fullness of the Holy Orders and full apostolic authority, he gives a more solemn blessing than a simple priest. A bishop sings the blessing, whereas a simple priest says it aloud. In addition, a bishop makes three Signs of the Cross.

Finally, throughout the Middle Ages and earlier, the faithful had great devotion to the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John, which beautifully describes the Nativity and the Incarnation of Jesus as the Word made flesh. Often times, as a private devotion, priests would bless people with this passage from the Gospel. It also became part of the private prayers said by the priests after Mass: a fact still seen in a Pontifical Mass, when it is recited as the bishop leaves the altar. From this devotion grew the custom of reading this Gospel passage at the end of Mass as the “Last Gospel.” The origins of the Last Gospel as a private devotion are evident in the lack of any real ceremony to it. It is said, not sung, and no incense is used.

Dominus vobiscum.
Et cum spiritu tuo.
Initium ✠ sancti Evangélii secúndum Ioánnem.
Gloria tibi, Domine.

In princípio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in princípio apud Deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est: in ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hóminum: et lux in ténebris lucet, et ténebræ eam non comprehendérunt.

Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Ioánnes. Hic venit in testimónium, ut testimónium perhibéret de lúmine, ut omnes créderent per illum. Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimónium perhibéret de lúmine.

Erat lux vera, quæ illúminat omnem hóminem veniéntem in hunc mundum. In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non cognóvit. In própria venit, et sui eum non recepérunt. Quotquot autem recepérunt eum, dedit eis potestátem fílios Dei fíeri, his, qui credunt in nómine eius: qui non ex sanguínibus, neque ex voluntáte carnis, neque ex voluntáte viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt.

Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitávit in nobis: et vídimus glóriam eius, glóriam quasi Unigéniti a Patre, plenum grátiæ et veritatis.
Deo gratias.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
The beginning ✠ of the holy Gospel according to John.
Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made: in him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to testify concerning the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he was to testify concerning the light.

That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man, that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become sons of God, to them that believe in his name, who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Thanks be to God.

All genuflect at the words, “Et Verbum caro factum est,” when the Incarnation is mentioned, just as all genuflect at the words, “Et homo factus est,” in the Credo. The Last Gospel being completed, Holy Mother Church's greatest act of worship to God, the Holy Mass, is now finished. The sacred minsters descend the steps of the altar, cover their heads with the birettas, and exit with the servers.

New terms
  • postcommunion – A prayer proper to the day sung after Communion, related to the collect and secret.
  • Last Gospel – A passage from the Gospel, nearly always the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John, read as the final act of the Mass.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 10: Communion

Previous parts in this series:
Part 6: The Offertory
Part 7: The Preface, Sanctus, and beginning of the Canon
Part 8: The rest of the Canon
Part 9: The Our Father, the breaking of the Host, and the Agnus Dei

Before consuming the Blessed Sacrament, the priest bows and whispers three beautiful and profound prayers that are at least a thousand years old. The first is the prayer for peace, which begins with a quote of John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”

Dómine Jesu Christe, qui dixísti Apóstolis tuis: Pacem relínquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis: ne respícias peccáta mea, sed fidem Ecclésiæ tuæ; eámque secúndum voluntátem tuam pacificáre et coadunáre dignéris: Qui vivis et regnas Deus per ómnia sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
O Lord, Jesus Christ, who didst say to thine apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you: look not upon my sins, but upon the faith of thy Church; and deign to give her that peace and unity which is agreeable to thy will: God who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

This is not earthly peace, which is unstable and often sought after through violence and warfare, but rather the divine peace that we are repeatedly praying for throughout the Mass, which Christ left for us in the Church and her sacraments after achieving it for us through the Cross.

The prayer continues, “Look not upon my sins, but upon the faith of thy Church.” In the words of King David, “If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?" (Psalm 129:3). Judged by our sins, we are unworthy to partake of any divine peace or favor. Only by God's great mercy can we do so. We pray that he may judge us by our faith, love, and devotion for him, so that we may have share in these good things (Romans 5:1). This does not, however, support the Protestant heresy that faith alone is sufficient for justification, because that would be a paradox. An important part of faith and devotion is sincere desire to do God's will and contrition for sin, as St. James wrote in his Epistle (2:24). Nevertheless, here in the Mass, we pray that, by the merits of our faith, we may obtain divine peace and unity. This prayer only has a short conclusion; the Trinity is not mentioned.

After this, in obedience of Christ's mandate to first make peace with our brothers (Matthew 5:23‑24), the priest, after kissing the altar, turns and embraces the deacon, offering him the Kiss of Peace. The practice of actually kissing each other ended in the Middle Ages, possibly because of the plague.

Pax tecum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Peace be with thee.
And with thy spirit.

The deacon then gives the Kiss of Peace to the subdeacon, who gives it to the choir. When our Lord is crucified, however, we have little peace, so throughout Passiontide and also at Masses for the Dead, the prayer for peace is not said and the Kiss of Peace is not given. Particularly, during Passiontide, the Kiss of Peace is omitted to spite Judas, who gave a kiss, not to express peace and unity, but to betray our Lord (Luke 22:48).

After giving the deacon the Kiss of Peace, the priest resumes his earlier bowed position and proceeds with the next of the three prayers, the prayer for holiness.

Dómine Jesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi, qui ex voluntáte Patris, cooperánte Spíritu Sancto, per mortem tuam mundum vivificásti: líbera me per hoc sacrosánctum Corpus et Sánguinem tuum ab ómnibus iniquitátibus meis, et univérsis malis: et fac me tuis semper inhærére mandátis, et a te numquam separári permíttas: Qui cum eódem Deo Patre, et Spíritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the co-operation of the Holy Ghost, hast by thy death given life to the world: deliver me by this, thy most sacred Body and Blood, from all my iniquities and from every evil; make me cling always to thy commandments, and permit me never to be separated from thee. Who with the same God, the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

“O Lord Jesus Christ,” it begins, acknowledging Jesus as Lord of Heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18), “Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Ghost, has by thy death given life to the world.” We are dead to the sin that all of mankind has fallen into, but the Father, the living God, through his Holy Spirit, the giver of life, has sent Jesus to die that we may have everlasting life (Romans 6:3-11). In all the sacraments, we share in the death of Christ. In baptism, our sinful self died with Christ, and we resurrected with Christ. In the Mass, we partake of the direct fruits of his Passion: that is, his most holy Body and Blood, by which we pray to be delivered from evil. Thus, the priest, bowed down before the Victim, recalls this Sacrifice, created once more in the Mass every day, and prays yet again for deliverance from the evil that was overcome by the Cross.

The Sacrifice of the Mass is a very intimate participation in the Sacrifice of Calvary, as is reflected especially in this prayer. In addition to sanctifying grace, many actual graces flow from being able to participate this closely. By assisting in the Mass, we are in the same position as our Blessed Mother, so named by our Lord himself as he suffered (John 19:27), weeping at the foot of Calvary. Here in this prayer, we ask for the graces of adherence to God's commandments and persistence in God's good favor. The usual conclusion is said here with mention of the Trinity, who all work together in the Mass and in the life-giving Sacrifice of Calvary.

One further prayer is said, this one for grace. The priest prays against the possibility of judgment against him for receiving the Eucharist, bearing in mind St. Paul's warning given in 1 Corinthians 11:29.

Percéptio Córporis tui, Dómine Jesu Christe, quod ego indígnus súmere præsúmo, non mihi provéniat in judícium et condemnatiónem: sed pro tua pietáte prosit mihi ad tutaméntum mentis et córporis, et ad medélam percipiéndam: Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
Let not the partaking of thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, though unworthy, presume to receive, turn to my judgment and condemnation; but through thy mercy may it be unto me a safeguard and a healing remedy both of soul and body. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

To receive Communion worthily, one must be a practicing Catholic in a state of sanctifying grace and have been fasting for at least one hour. The traditional rule, and a commendable devotion, is to fast from midnight. Of course, the priest knows that he meets these requirements and that the Mass is pleasing to God, but we must always be humble and contrite before God, never presumptuous. In addition, this is the only of these three prayers said on Good Friday. On this day, the Sacrifice of the Mass is not offered. The priest only receives the Host that was consecrated the previous day. He does not receive our Lord under the appearance (or “species”) of wine. Whereas the two preceding prayers mention both the Body and Blood of Christ, this prayer only mentions his Body.

The purpose of this prayer is to acknowledge yet again our unworthiness before God. By his mercy, we pray that the sacrament may be efficacious, not for judgment, but for healing, and for the increase of sanctifying grace in our soul. As always, the Church also petitions to God for actual graces. Here, we pray for our reception of Holy Communion to be a safeguard against all manner of evil and to heal both soul and body. Healing of the body here does not refer to the cure of diseases, but rather to the protection from temptation to sins of the flesh.

When Jesus was called upon to perform his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana, he told his mother, “My hour is not yet come,” (John 2:4), but when he was nearing his Crucifixion, he said, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (John 12:23). Likewise, everything in the Mass has led up to this point. Now, the time has come for the priest to consume the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is what the Blessed Sacrament truly is, though it appears as mere bread and wine.

As with so many great parts of the Mass, the liturgy is in the words of a psalm. The Book of Psalms is the great book of poetry inspired by God for the liturgies of both testaments, and so many things in the psalms directly foreshadow the events of the New Testament. In this case, the Church avails of Psalm 115:4, adapting it to her own use.

Panem cæléstem accípiam, et nomen Dómini invocábo.
I will take the Bread of Heaven, and will call upon the name of the Lord.

The priest says this, taking the two halves of the Host and the paten into his hand. Through this whole liturgy, we have called upon the name of the Lord. He repeats three times the prayer of the centurion in Matthew 8:8, praying not for his servant, but for his soul.

Dómine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanábitur ánima mea. (three times)
Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed. (three times)

“Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof:” not the roof of our mouth, but of our being, which will be made a living temple of the Blessed Sacrament. “But only say the word, and my soul shall be healed,” a testament to the omnipotence of God and the tremendous grace that reception of Communion confects. He says this three times, to ensure absolute sincerity, for the first time he may be simply speaking from memory with little attention. Each time, he says the first few words, “Domine, non sum dignus,” a little louder than others, which are said silently, so as to make a public act of contrition. The bells are rung here to alert the faithful to what is happening, that they may prepare to receive Communion themselves.

Making the Sign of the Cross with the Host and expressing one last time the unity between Calvary and the Mass, he consumes the Host. The deacon and subdeacon make a profound bow, because the reception of Holy Communion is indeed the climax of the whole Mass. The torchbearers are still kneeling and holding their candlesticks at the foot of the altar. As he receives the Host, the priest says a short prayer.

Corpus Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam meam in vitam ætérnam. Amen.
May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto life everlasting. Amen.

Not only his soul, but his whole body will be resurrected and saved by the sanctifying grace received by Holy Communion. Receiving Communion only once could lead the soul into paradise, as evinced by the experience of St. Mary of Egypt, who lived for decades as a hermit in the desert, and then died in AD 421 the night after she received Holy Communion on Holy Thursday. Her body was found incorrupt. Thus, one reception of Holy Communion gives ineffable grace, but as Catholics, we ought to receive Communion frequently to increase sanctifying grace in our souls, receive the actual grace necessary to do God's will, and repair the damage done by sin.

The priest then gathers up any crumbs of the Host and puts them in the Chalice (which the deacon has uncovered), as every particle of the Host is the whole Body of the Christ. It is for this reason that the priest has kept his thumbs and forefingers joined since the consecration of the Host. Here, the priest prays Psalm 115:3-4.

Quid retríbuam Dómino pro ómnibus quæ retríbuit mihi? Cálicem salutáris accípiam, et nomen Dómini invocábo. Laudans invocábo Dóminum, et ab inimícis meis salvus ero.
What return shall I make to the Lord for all the things that he hath given unto me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will call upon the Lord and give praise: and I shall be saved from mine enemies.

Indeed, Christ has given himself completely for us in a way that we can never repay, so what return can we make to him? King David provides the only possible response: to take the gift he has given us and call upon his name in adoration. The Church even elaborates a little on the psalm: “I will call upon the Lord and give praise: and I shall be saved from my enemies.” The enemies, of course, are the demons who desire only to lead souls away from God, who they, however, can never defeat, and whose grace and power helps us to fight them ourselves. Yet again, the priest is praying for deliverance from evil: clearly a very important grace to have, so that our souls may be saved from the fires of hell and enjoy perpetual happiness.

The priest echoes the words he said when he received the Host and then drinks the Precious Blood.

Sanguis Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam meam in vitam ætérnam. Amen.
May the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto life everlasting. Amen.

The priest and the congregation are in very different positions with regards to the Sacrifice, so it is fitting that they receive Communion separately. Just as the priest said the three prayers before Communion, the congregation has their own Communion prayer: the deacon sings the Confiteor on behalf of the people.

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Joanni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, ómnibus Sanctis, et tibi, Pater: quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et ópere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Joánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et te, Pater, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.

Misereátur vestri omnípotens Deus, et dimíssis peccátis vestris, perdúcat vos ad vitam ætérnam.
Indulgéntiam, + absolutiónem et remissiónem peccatórum vestrórum tríbuat vobis omnípotens, et miséricors Dóminus.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word and deed: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, Father, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
May almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting.
May the almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon, + absolution, and remission of your sins.

This is the “second Confiteor,” as it was already said in the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. Turning toward the people, off to the side so as to not turn his back to the Blessed Sacrament, the priest says aloud but does not sing the prayers “Misereatur” and “Indulgentiam” as before.

The deacon then uncovers the ciborium, and both he and the priest genuflect. The priest takes one of the small Hosts from the ciborium, shows it to the congregation, and, again speaking aloud and not singing, repeats the words of St. John the Baptist hailing the coming of the Messiah (John 1:29). The priest also says the centurion's prayer three times on behalf of the faithful, or the faithful may say it with the priest.

Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccáta mundi.
Dómine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanábitur ánima mea. (three times)
Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sins of the world.
Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed. (three times)

The people who intend to receive Communion come forward and kneel at the altar rail. The priest places a Host on the tongue of each person, first blessing them making the Sign of the Cross with the Host, echoing the words he said when he himself received Communion.

Corpus Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam tuam in vitam æternam. Amen.
May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.

The faithful never touch the Host with their fingers, for only the annointed hands of the priest can touch the Host, and even his fingers are purified afterwards to avoid profaning any small particle that may adhere to the hands. The deacon, subdeacon, or some other server holds a paten under each person's chin to catch the Host should it fall. The congregation does not receive under the species of wine to prevent abuses. The priest has been offering the Mass on behalf of the congregation and of the entire Church Militant, and likewise when he receives Communion, always under both species, he does so on behalf of the people. Communion of the priest, not the people, is the central act of the Mass, because that is when the person who offered the sacrifice receives the sacrament. Since Christ is sacramentally present equally in both the Host and the Chalice, the congregation need not receive both, and it would be practically very difficult to give the Chalice to all the faithful without profaning the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. Whenever the priest passes before the altar while distributing Communion, he makes no bow, as all reverence is to be directed toward the Blessed Sacrament that he is carrying.

When all have received Communion, the priest returns to the altar and begins the ablutions: the purifying of the sacred vessels and the priest's fingers. The torchbearers go away. The subdeacon first pours wine into the chalice, the cruets having been presented to him by the acolyte. Whereas pouring wine into the chalice at the Offertory, when it was to be consecrated, was a greater task done by the deacon; here, it is a lesser task performed by the subdeacon. The priest collects with the wine any particles of the Host or drops of the Precious Blood that may have adhered to the chalice, pours it into the ciborium, similarly purifies the ciborium, and then pours it back into the Chalice and drinks it. Notice how special care is taken to account for every possible particle and drop of the Blessed Sacrament. While doing this, the priest prays a very ancient prayer that the Holy Communion, received temporally and physically, may transcend to our spiritual being.

Quod ore súmpsimus, Dómine, pura mente capiámus: et de múnere temporáli fiat nobis remédium sempitérnum.
Grant, O Lord, that what we have taken with our mouth, we may receive with a pure mind; and that from a temporal gift it may become for us an everlasting remedy.

He prays that what our flesh has received may also be received by our soul and that it may become “an everlasting remedy,” a remedy from sin and evil. Essentially, he is praying that we may receive God, who is naturally spiritual and eternal, unlike the accidental qualities of the Blessed Sacrament.

The subdeacon then pours the remaining wine and water into the chalice over the priest's fingers to purify them. Since the consecrations, they have remained joined to account for any particles of the Host adhering to them. The ciborium and chalice are purified once more. This time, the priest says a prayer, also ancient, that the Sacrament may cleave to his inmost parts—his soul, which he wishes to be filled with divine grace. Continuing, he prays that, by the Blessed Sacrament, which is here described as having refreshed him, no stain of sin may remain in him.

Corpus tuum, Dómine, quod sumpsi, et Sanguis, quem potávi, adhæreat viscéribus meis: et præsta; ut in me non remáneat scélerum mácula, quem pura et sancta refecérunt sacraménta: Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
May thy Body, O Lord, which I have received and thy Blood which I have drunk, cleave to my inmost parts, and grant that no stain of sin remain in me; whom these pure and holy sacraments have refreshed. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Certainly, reception of the Communion conveys sanctifying grace, which takes away sin: refreshing him, as the prayer says. He says these two prayers during the ablutions for both himself and the congregation. With this twofold ablution, he has guarded against the possibility of the most insignificant particle of the Host to be profaned. In the first, wine only is used, in order to better preserve the dignity of the Precious Blood that may still be present. In the second, both wine and water are used. The priest wipes the ciborium and chalice with the purificator, a small linen cloth. Finally, the subdeacon covers the chalice with the purificator, paten, pall, and veil, as it was at the beginning of Mass. He folds up the corporal, places it in the burse, and takes the whole stack away. At the beginning of Mass, things were opened and uncovered as we entered into the sacred liturgy. Now, as we begin to bring the liturgy to a close, these things are closed and covered, just as they were at the beginning.

While the subdeacon is doing this, the deacon takes the missal and moves it back to the epistle side, where it was at the beginning of the Mass. At a most basic level, this seems to fit in with the theme of closing and covering things, returning them to the way they were when we entered. More deeply, this symbolizes the great apostasy prophesized to take place in the end times and the truth being taken away from the Gentiles (Matthew 24:5-11, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). The priest goes over to the missal, with the ministers in a semicircle behind him, and reads for himself the Communion verse, which the choir sang during the distribution of Communion. This consists of a few verses from a psalm that relate to the Introit, Gradual, and Offertory verse. Its reading by the priest marks the end of the Communion rite. Whereas so much in the Mass at the beginning was preparation, what remains in the Mass is a closing rite.

New terms

  • Kiss of Peace – The embrace and wish of peace that the ministers offer to each other.
  • Communion – The consumption of the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • ablutions – Purifying the paten, chalice, cimborium, and priest's fingers with wine and water after Communion.
  • Communion verse – A few verses from a psalm sung by the choir during Communion.