The Liturgy of the Eucharist
Catechism of the Catholic Church – 1324
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”
“The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist, or “the breaking of bread” is the highlight of our week. It is a most reverent time, and we pay it the utmost respect. After the Liturgy of the Word, an offering is collected and brought to the front with the bread and wine.
The priest receives and says a prayer over the offerings, then takes the bread and says: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life”. The congregation responds: ” Blessed be God for ever”.
“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink. Blessed be God for ever. The priest then follows a tradition from the first church and adds a drop of water to the wine to symbolize the union of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and of Christ with His Church. At this time, the priest washes his hands and says; “Lord, wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.”
We stand as the priest says: Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice
may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father. And we respond: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his holy Church”.
The priest now says a Eucharistic prayer, then addresses the congregation for dialogue:
Priest: The Lord be with you. Congregation responds: And with your spirit.
Priest: Lift up your hearts. Congregation responds: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God. Congregation responds: It is right and just
Together we all say: 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.
Then we kneel and sing the Memorial: When we eat this bread, and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Oh Lord, until you come again.
The Priest then gives the “doxology” which is: “Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. And the congregation sings the “Amen”
After the Doxology, everyone prays the Lord’s prayer together. It is beautiful to follow the instructions for how to pray, by our Lord, and to hear and participate in it together. Another example of the unity that Jesus prayed his followers would have with Him and one another.
Following the Lord’s prayer, we are encouraged to give one another the sign of peace. Couples hug or kiss, and say “peace be with you”, parishioners shake hands with those around, or wave to one another while saying “peace be with you”. I love that we offer one another peace, before we sing “Lamb of God”. It’s a beautiful show of unity prior to partaking together.
“Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world. Have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world. Receive our prayer.”
Now row by row is dismissed to receive the Eucharist, or “Communion”. We walk forward while a hymn is being sung, and we receive the body and blood of our Lord. If you are not in communion with the Catholic Church, you can still go forward for a blessing, but you may not receive the Eucharist. Cross your arms in front of your chest, and the priest will know that you are not Catholic, that you do not receive the Eucharist, and he will instead give you a word of blessing with the sign of the cross on your forehead. If you don’t wish to receive that blessing, it is an option for you to just remain quietly seated until the Eucharist has been distributed. At that time, the priest says a prayer, makes announcements, and offers a blessing over the congregation before dismissal. I love how the priest in my parish does this. He says “bow for the blessing”, and while heads are bowed, he offers some of the sweetest most encouraging words to see us through our week.
When he is finished, the Deacon says “This Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” and everyone says “Thanks be to God” and exits their seats. Again, bowing to the altar/tabernacle as a sign of reverence, and crossing ourselves. When we exit the building, we again remind ourselves of our baptism by dipping our finger in the holy water and crossing ourselves, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.