Questions & Answers: The Mass
by Ann Ball & Fr. J. Michael Miller, CSB
This article appeared in the September-October, 1995 edition of Catholic Heritage magazine, formerly published by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
The magazine is no longer being published.
The Mass is, above all a saving action during which Christ's offering on the cross becomes present through the transformation of bread and wine into His Body and Blood.
From earliest times, Catholics have believed that Jesus Christ is present during this eucharistic ritual: in the gathered assembly, in the Biblical word proclaimed, in the person of the priest, and especially in the Consecrated Species.
With the passage of time, the Sacred Meal of the early Christians came to be surrounded with an impressive ritual of special gestures and words.
The Eucharist is the act of worship which is "the source and summit of the Christian Life" [Lumen gentium, no.11].
What do you know about this greatest of all sacraments of our faith?
- What does the word "Mass" mean?
The word comes from the closing admonition of the Latin Mass Ite missa est "Go, it's over"; bring the Christ you have received into the world!
The celebration came to be called Missa in Latin, or the "Mass" in English.
- What are the two principal parts of the Mass?
The Liturgy of the Word, which includes the readings from Scripture, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which includes the Offertory, Canon and Communion.
- What did the early Christians use as their eucharistic table or altar?
The first altars were ordinary wooden family tables in the "house churches" where believers gathered.
- When was the first Mass celebrated?
At the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated His saving death on the cross and His glorious resurrection by changing bread and wine into His own Body and Blood and distributing it to His disciples.
- When did daily Mass first become common?
By the end the the fourth century, it had become common to celebrate Mass on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent.
Later, the practice spread to the other days of the week.
But daily Mass did not become a customary practice until the Middle Ages.
- The Passover Meal provided the context for the celebration of the first Mass.
Which statement about that meal at the time of Jesus is false?
- It included a narration of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
- It was always celebrated on the Sabbath.
- It included the eating of the lamb slaughtered in the Temple.
- The guests ate bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
(b) The Passover could fall on any day of the week.
The Sabbath was the seventh day, or Saturday.
Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover, or Last Supper, on Thursday evening.
- Although votive Masses — those said for special occasions or in honor of aspects of the mystery of God or the saints — are not as popular as in previous centuries, certain traditional themes for these became, and still are, associated with the days of the week.
Can you match the themes below to their traditional days?
- a. Saint Joseph, Saints Peter & and Saint Paul, the Apostles
- b. Our Lady
- c. the Trinity
- d. Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Precious Blood
- e. the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist, and Christ's priesthood
- f. the angels
1. c 2. f 3. a 4. e 5. d 6. b
- The central part of the Mass is called the Eucharistic Prayer.
It is also referred to as the:
- a. Liturgy of the Word
- b. Canon
- c. Rite of Communion
- d. Offertory
(b) Until recently, the more common name for that part of the Mass from the Preface to the Great Amen was the "canon" — from the Latin term meaning "rule" or "standard."
- Mark the following as true or false:
- a. ____ The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist ceases after the Mass is over.
- b. ____ At each Mass the sacrifice of Calvary is repeated for us.
- c. ____ Jesus is the true Priest and Victim at the Eucharist.
- d. ____ The consecrated Host is, at one and the same time, truly bread and truly the Body of Christ.
The Real Presence continues as long as the accidents of bread and wine remain.
That is why Catholics, even after Mass, worship the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle.
The Mass makes present Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrificial offering.
Contrary to the accusations of the Protestant reformers, it does not repeat it.
Jesus is the true Priest who offers the sacrifice through the ordained priest.
He is also the Victim, the Lamb of God, who is offered to the Father.
After the priest has said the words of consecration, the bread and wine are only the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Church calls this supernatural event "transubstantiation": the accidents (taste, shape, color) of bread and wine remain, but their substance or reality is now Jesus Christ in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
- Why is the first Mass of Christmas usually said at midnight?
This practice stems from the traditional belief that Christ was born at this hour, although there is no evidence to uphold this pious belief.
In the liturgy, midnight is not assigned as the official time for this first Mass; it is merely prescribed that it be said "during the night."
From 400 to 1200, Roman regulations prescribed that the first Mass was to be celebrated ad galli cantum, when the cock crows, which was about three o'clock in the morning.
A relic of this custom is still found among Spanish-speaking people who refer to Midnight Mass as Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the Cock.
- What is the Tridentine Mass?
This is the name given to the manner of celebrating the Mass determined by Saint Pius V in 1570.
With very few exceptions, it remained unchanged until 1969.
The rite promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 is the ordinary way of celebrating Mass in the universal Church today, although the Holy See allows bishops, who see the pastoral need, to give permission for the celebration of this venerable form of the Mass [the Tridentine Mass].
- Which sequence of various parts of the Mass is in correct chronological order?
- Gospel, Offertory, Eucharistic Prayer, Lamb of God, Lord's Prayer
- Creed, Homily, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist
- Opening Prayer, Gospel, Creed, Offertory, Eucharistic Prayer
- Consecration, Offertory, Lord's Prayer, Holy Communion
- Match the following words to the correct explanation:
- Pius X
- Corpus Christi
- Two or more priests saying Mass at the same time
- the offering made to the priest to celebrate Mass for a particular intention
- (encouraged) practice of frequent Holy Communion
- great feast commemorating the Eucharist
1. c 2. a 3. d 4. e 5. b