Jesus with the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Juan de Juanes, Mid-Late 16th Century
To be a contagious Catholic, it is imperative to understand the Mass. If understood, the Mass is transformative. Your life will never be the same. Your family will be a beacon of light in a society that is broken and without hope.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit in his recent pastoral letter Unleash the Gospel, offered the following vision for families:
Families who, having embraced their role as the domestic church and in connection with other families and single persons, actively seek the spiritual and social renewal of their neighborhoods, schools and places of work. Such families…would display a strikingly counter-cultural way of living: grounded in prayer, Sacraments and attention to Scripture; unusually gracious hospitality; a capacity to include those on the margins of society; and joyful confidence in the providence of God even in difficult and stressful times. Unleash the Gospel, p. 32
To this end, we offer you the second blog post in a series based on the Parish Mission at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, Michigan given by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, “The Mass: Supreme Encounter with God in Jesus.”
Bringing Gifts and the Transformation of the Gifts: Encounter with God as a Marvelous Exchange
Last week, we looked at the first part of the Mass, The Liturgy of the Word. These not merely words but ultimately God’s action, what He has done for us. God’s words are His deeds. He is enacting His words in the assembly at Mass.
The whole rest of the Mass is our response to the Word. God is now acting more deeply in the Mass: God is speaking, God is acting, and God is conforming us to His Body by what Jesus has done on the cross.
The baptized bring forth the bread and wine to the priest. Why do the faithful bring the gifts in a procession? The gifts of bread and wine, and money, are symbolizing something about us. It is our work with gifts from God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the significance of the gifts:
The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the “work of human hands,” but above all as “fruit of the earth” and “of the vine” – gifts of the Creator. CCC, 1333
With these gifts we are asking God to do something with our lives, we are asking Him to transform us. The priest receives the gifts and with a prayer places them on the altar. They are there for the action of God.
The prayer begins with the priest saying “The Lord be with you.” This has now been said three times in the Mass. Every time it is said, it signifies that a new part in the Mass is beginning. Prayer has a trinitarian format to it. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) says this:
Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins: namely, the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The priest invites the people to lift up their hearts to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving; he unites the congregation with himself in the prayer that he addresses in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the meaning of the Prayer is that the entire congregation of the faithful should join itself with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice. The Eucharistic Prayer demands that all listen to it with reverence and in silence. GIRM, 78
There are eight parts of the Eucharistic Prayer (GIRM, 79):
Thanksgiving: Preface (There are 90 different ones.)
Acclamation: “Holy, Holy, Holy” is said with all of heaven.
Epiclesis: Calling down of the Holy Spirit to transform the gifts from bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Institution and Consecration: God is acting in “effecting” the sacrifice; this can only happen because Jesus is risen. His dying and rising is a forever event in which we participate. He is now present; it is a mystery. God is hidden in concrete matter.
Anamnesis: The Memorial (Ps 111:4). It is remembering what God did in the past; He is still doing it now. Here is also a second epiclesis where the Holy Spirit is being called to transform us into one body in Christ.
Oblation: Offering of the sacrifice. We offer Christ and ourselves to God, holy and unblemished. The whole cosmos is being drawn into Christ as an offering to God.
Intercessions: All those living and dead are part of this prayer.
Concluding Doxology: Giving glory! The whole world transformed by Christ is offered to God. The priest says “Through Him, with Him, and in Him”…every direction in which Christ is working. The congregation confirms this with their “Amen.”
The Church lives to do this! How can we not share this with others? We need to bring others to share in this magnificent banquet. “Do it all for the sake of the gospel, that [they] may share in its blessings” (1 Cor 9:23).
We have provided highlights from Abbot Jeremy’s second talk. To more fully grasp what happens at Mass, we strongly encourage you to watch the second talk here. If you want to know how to drive an abbot crazy, be sure to watch!
Next week, we will reflect on the third part of the Mass, the Communion and Concluding rites.